Passion. Seduction. Pleasure. These are the qualities of any courtesan worth her salt. As owner of The Starling Club, London’s most notorious house of ill-repute, Madame Philomena McGrattan has seen it all, heard it all, done it all. There is little that surprises her anymore, and even less that excites her. So when she is presented a chance at an irresistible seduction, she can’t help but rise to the challenge.
A Dangerous Game
Studiousness. Practicality. Discipline. Such are the attributes of a good scholar, and such are the principles Lord Spencer Hornsby has built his life around. Alone in the Welsh countryside, with only his wolfhounds for company, Spencer has thrown himself into his work. There is little time for the pleasures of society, not even to think of the joys of the fairer sex. But when an unexpected guest arrives at his isolated hunting lodge, Spencer cannot help but be baffled by the presence of this dangerously beautiful woman. And when he discovers the reason for her arrival, and the pleasures she promises, he cannot help but find himself irresistibly intrigued.
Karyn Gerrard, born and raised in the Maritime Provinces of Eastern Canada, now makes her home in a small town in Northwestern Ontario. When she’s not cheering on the Red Sox or travelling in the summer with her teacher husband, she writes, reads romance, and drinks copious amounts of Earl Grey tea.
Even at a young age Karyn’s storytelling skills were apparent, thrilling her fellow Girl Guides with off-the-cuff horror stories around the campfire. A multi-published author, she loves to write sensual historicals and contemporaries. Tortured heroes are an absolute must.
As long as she can avoid being hit by a runaway moose in her wilderness paradise she assumes everything is golden. Karyn’s been happily married for a long time to her own hero. His encouragement and loving support keeps her moving forward.
We're going to be completely honest about why we read this book: 1. It features a virgin hero (Meg's catnip) 2. It happened to be a "free book" feature on BookBub We were not expecting anything more than a good time, but this ended up being one of our favorite March reads. Philomena, the heroine, is the madam of a brothel, who is hired as a "birthday present" for the hero's 30th birthday. Spencer is the 3rd son of a duke who lives as a reclusive classics professor. He's still a virgin at 30 because he is on the autism spectrum and hasn't had much luck making friends, much less finding a lover. We often have issues with the way sex work is presented in historical romance. We felt that this novel had one of the more nuanced and interesting perspectives on it. Philomena is not only a sympathetic character, she is unapologetic about her profession and her business decisions. Spence is a great pairing for her, as someone who has had to face judgment from his own peers. There are some minor editing issues (and Spence's courtesy title is misused a few times), but you know the relationship and the characters were compelling if we were willing to overlook that! We definitely recommend this one if anything about "virgin hero on the autism spectrum hooks up with brothel madam" sounds good to you!
My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book... for more, visit Punya Reviews...
It’s been a while I’ve a Karryn Gerrard book so I had to remedy this immediately. Her latest offering is a historical romance, book 1 of the Hornsby Brothers series, Bold Seduction. It’s a short story between a Madame of a brothel and (OMG hear me scream) a virgin hero! If you know me, much like those hunky Highlanders, virgin heroes are also my favorites, as are the gigolos. Don’t ask me why, I’m just weird that way.
Philomena, or Phil as she goes by, is the Madame of a posh brothel. One day, she’s approached by two of her regular patrons about an assignment, more of a birthday gift for a recluse friend, she can’t help but wonder. Who remains a virgin at 30? A member of the nobility nonetheless! In Philomena’s 10+ yrs in this profession, she has yet to come by a virgin peer, so the whole thing snags her attention right away. These two young men wanted to send one her girls as a ‘birthday gift’ to his castle, situated in a remote area. It was as much a good-natured joke as it was their intention to help their friend, hoping he’d finally join the rank (if you know what I mean). The price they offered is quite good, so Philomena herself becomes tempted to take up on the job.
Though she hasn’t been with a man for the past couple of years since she’s started her own brothel, being weary of it all, Philomena has been eagerly waiting to retire and finally settle down as soon as she can manage to gather a good enough nest egg to see through her purpose. At 32, she can’t hope for more. Now, this new development will definitely add to that venture of hers! Besides, this is such unique a situation that Phil thought she herself better handle the young man’s initiation into the carnal activities. With that in mind, Philomena starts her journey, hoping to be done with the whole business 2 days at best.
If only she knew that her life was about to change and for good.
Spenser Hornsby is the third son of a Duke; the queer one that no one seems to get at all. He’s a scholar to boots, very intelligent and his days are spent in studies and research. From a young age, Spencer was different than his two elder brothers, Harrison and Tremaine. We aren’t introduced to anyone of Spencer’s family in this story, but only as mentioned by Spencer himself. His family loves him and he returns the feelings, however Spencer prefers to live alone. He doesn’t want any disruptions to his routine-d, familiar lifestyle. More precisely, he can’t stand the disruption which causes him to lose his temper. In his childhood, he had these crying bouts because of which, once, his father was advised to send him to an asylum. The Duke was incensed at the very suggestions of it. However, the damage was done to Spencer’s own reputation. He became known as not only queer, but also the mad son of the Duke. Years of such sh!t was another reason why he preferred to stay hidden away in this remote castle that was given to him by his father, buried in the pile of old, dusty tomes and research.
Of course, Spencer knows about sex. If anything, his brothers’ bragging about their conquests has livened up quite a few drunken nights when Spencer spend time with them. He also had some ideas about the goings on since both Harrison and Tremaine would try and give him lessons on what to do to a lady to make her moan and scream. Both brothers though never mocked him, only wanted to help. And though they didn’t understand Spencer all that much, they loved him and had always been protective of him and his ‘odd’ ways. I loved that there was no pressure from them on Spencer to prove his ‘manliness’ in the sack.
It goes without saying that Spencer’s social skill is atrocious. I did wonder when had he become such friends with those two guys who went to Philomena about the whole thing because Spencer rarely ever ventured out of his familiar, known surrounding, which is why he was a virgin probably, as was due to the fact that people(or women) thought him ‘odd’. Either way, he always thought he’d rather research on the notion of carnal activities rather than taking part in it. He thought was that type of man who’d never know love or that sort of affection from a woman because of how he was. Because he’d been told he’s not good looking or charming enough. But Philomena was on her way to change it all, which would inevitably disrupt Spencer’s world in the most pleasurable way.
The starting of the story was rather fun. When Phil finally arrived at the blasted castle bumping on a wooden cart that set her a$$ hurting, she finds the castle in shambles. There were no servants to speak of but a drunken old biddy who up and leaves the moment she spies on Philomena, all righteous that she won’t ‘wait on a prossie’. Not that Philomena cared a whit! The farmer, owner of said cart, brings up (it’s that remote an area) food and other supplies for Spencer once a week. Even the temptation of a bribe won’t work on this guy, so Philomena gathers she’s stuck here for a week instead of 2 days that she’d initially planned.
Then there was her introduction to the man of the house, whom she finds in his man-cave of every activity; his library. She rather hears his deep and beautiful voice first and it strikes somewhere deep within (among other things ;)) that Philomena thinks if his voice can get that type of reaction out of her, it can’t be all bad. With that she finds that a bit of her earlier doubts melting away. But wait a min., if he’s all alone, who the hell is he talking to? Turns out, the man not only talks to himself while he’s working on his research, but also to his dogs, Theodora and Justinian. Upon viewing him though, Philomena begins to have second thoughts. He looked unkempt, without shave as if he doesn’t wanna waste his time on grooming himself when he can do more research! Like it or not, some things were going to change in that household if ‘Phil’ was going to spend a week there and take charge, since it was obvious that the master of the house had no interest in it.
Philomena not only starts taking care of the kitchen and the food, both cleaning and making, she also makes a point of Spencer needing to bathe and shave. Once he’s cleaned up though she’s quite happy with her handiwork. It seems underneath all that facial hair, there lives quite a handsome man with a pair of gorgeous blue eyes. Oh, Philomena can barely wait to go on ahead with her ‘assignment’ now! Even though sex had always been a chore, indeed this may yet prove to be a very interesting improvement.
Even though Spencer was rather dumbfounded at first to find the exact cause of Philomena’s presence in his home, he recovers swiftly. Then, he’s reluctant due to his own vulnerabilities not knowing where it’d lead. Even then he can’t deny her certain womanly charms that he’d failed to notice in any female species before now. Or maybe it’s just her that’s causing all that lusty thoughts in his head! Spence can’t say what is it exactly but it’s obvious his body knows what it wants. And it wants Philomena.
From that point, there starts a comfortable little friendship between them, surprising yet not at all unwanted. I was glad that they didn’t jump into bed right away. It took a few days for both Philomena and Spencer to get acquainted with each-other in trying to find footing and a balance in their budding relationship. It becomes obvious then, that even though they have differences in their opinions, they get along quite nicely. Together. As if they’re already a couple! There was no question that they liked each-other very much. That realization brings forth another dilemma, especially for Philomena. She’s here on a ‘job’ to see through. She’s supposed to be leaving soon after that. Most important of all, he’s the son of a Duke so she can’t be having secret hopes that there might be something like an attachment forming between them, as there’s no way that can lead to anything special however much they like each-other’s company!
Spencer, on the other hand, had different outlook on it all. As their relationship deepens and he’s finally, a ‘man’ (if you can say that), thanks to Philomena, things undoubtedly begin to change in his world. It’s as if the center of it has been shifted to make room for someone new; a woman no less. He’s surprised to find how comfortable he is with her on such a short acquaintance that Spencer simply can’t let go of her. How important was the fact that Philomena didn’t threaten his comfort zone. Being with her also made Spencer realize just how lonely he’d been all these years. This also made me realize just how important a change this was to him. Spencer didn’t have the harsh reality marring his thoughts so he was instantly in love with Philomena despite her background. Now, all he had to do is to convince her that his feelings are real.
Easier said than done because Philomena’s reality was much different than Spencer’s own. Though she was from a good family, she became an orphan early in her life which changed her circumstances forever. The story of her becoming a prostitute was rather sad because that wasn’t supposed to be her fate if things didn’t go bad. Though she had maintained a standard in her profession always, no matter what, Philomena knew none of these would matter to the society. So when Spencer finally acknowledges his feelings, all she wants is to run far away from here. Yet in her heart she knew she had fallen too. She didn’t want to hurt Spencer, yet saw no viable options either. Her reluctance would cause quite a bit of rift between them as she was quite convinced it was a very bad idea. I couldn’t blame her for her thoughts, really.
Somehow they must overcome it all to give love a chance...
Honestly, the only complaint in the story I had was the rush in the romance. I enjoyed the idea behind the story so much, it would’ve made me happier if this was longer and had a few more chapters portraying Philomena and Spencer weathering the glares of the society. It seemed too easy in the end, though I’m glad that they acknowledged it wouldn’t be easy for them but they still wanted to be together nonetheless.
Now I’m quite eagerly waiting for Spencer’s brothers’ stories, which I’m sure would be the next installments. 3.5 stars and recommended if you’re looking for something steamy and quick (no innuendo intended... no, seriously! ;p).
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Ms. Gerrard is starting a new historical series and I'm loving it!
Here are the reasons I'm sure you'd love it too.
How many stories are out there with the virgin hero?! Not many, I'm sure, but every one of those that I've read, I've loved. I believe the reason for it is their vulnerability despite their obvious strength.
The heroine was someone you may have doubts at first, but just give a chance and you'll love her spunk and complex background.
As for the chemistry between the two?! Off the charts! Ms. Gerrard can always put a well written and plausible plot, and her prose is wonderful, but it's the chemistry between her characters that keep me glued to her books. Highly recommended!
Madame Philomena agrees to an assignment to seduce a 30 year old virgin for his birthday. Taking on the task herself, she never expected her own feelings for the reclusive man. Spencer is content with his life alone, then Phil comes along. But can anything come from this, can there be happiness for a lord and a madame? Historical Romance, emotions and smutty fluff in a great combo. Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.
In short, the book was nice, but I didn't believe in this love story. Also, heroine's name was a constant struggle for me. I often forgot the hero's name and thought that "Phil" was him, not the heroine.
What a pleasant steamy surprise! New author for me, and I am glad to have found her. I was very hesitant to start this story as I normally do not like courtesan heroines, at all. But this story came across as believable enough, sweet and tender, and did not drag on forever. The only thing that slightly irritated me was that the heroine's name was shortened to be called Phil. Every single time I read that word, I would read it as a male name and keep getting confused that I was reading about the heroine, and not the hero. The book was not super long, some might think the ending was rushed... but I was actually happy enough with how it ended and used my imagination to fill in the blanks for their future. On to the second book....
I didn't want the book to end, I loved Phil and her scholarly virgin. Wow....just wow....this book reminds me SLIGHTLY of pretty woman in a way. Phil is a courtesan, her backstory is heartbreaking, (but you need to read it to find it out)but even as a young girl Phil was going to be the author of her story, despite what was done to her..she would make the best of it...
Spence is tall and wolly when Phil comes to his home...his backstory is also heartbreaking... a bullied nerd would be the words now....he is no longer than child..but he carries that childs scars. He is alone, he is lost in a world of scholarly pursuits and has no time nor enough self esteem to have a relationship with a woman. 2 friends of his purchase a woman from Phil's brothel to help him lose his virginity...he is about to celebrate his 30th birthday and he has only ever been kissed once (also not a nice memory).
These two meet and it is shocking..their connection... their unorthodox courtship(as she is trapped here for a week..not a day/2 days as expected) begins with her removing his scraggly hair and monsterous beard, to discover wonderous cheekbones, sexy lips and amazing eyes....
The relationship between them is NOT hurried and immediately becomes no longer a "job" for her nor a "gift" for him, the love between these two damaged yet wonderful characters is a heartbeat of it's own... I loved this book and I pray there will be a sequel of these characters or a revisit in stories perhaps of his parents or brothers... ***** stars +
Bold Seduction ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Written by Karyn Gerrard (The Hornsby Brothers)
This is an unusual story about two most unlikely people crossing paths and finding love. Philomena McGrattan is the owner of an infamous house of ill-repute. When Phil is asked to travel to Wales to deliver a sexual birthday gift, she finds herself intrigued by the idea. Phil has not entertained men personally for three years and wants to get away for a day or two.
Her assignment is to have sex with Lord Spence Hornsby also known as the Professor. The Professor will be thirty years old and has never engaged in sex. Hornsby lives in a very isolated area and is very annoyed when his unexpected guest arrives. The heavy snowfall makes it impossible for Philomena to leave his estate for a week.
During this times of isolation, these two confide in each other and begin somewhat of a friendship along with a physical attraction for one another. The sexual scenes are quite explicit but based on this story I thought were seemly true to the situation.
Hats off to Ms Gerrard for a great first book in her new series.
************Copy from NetGalley in return for an honest review****
I'm quite conflicted about this book. I like the premise (Virgin heros are totally my catnip) and bits of the book did work for me. But I didn't feel that there was enough resolution to all the minor plot details which had been raised - Spence's anger management issues, Phil's relatives - and I thought the end of the book was rushed - there was no real explanation as to how the two of them would make it work. But then in this scenario it's hard to come up with a satisfactory solution for how it would all be ok. Reformed prostitutes/brothel keepers are tricky to marry off to members of the nobility.
Perhaps it came too soon after Sarah MacLean's rule of Scoundrel's series (can't really say more without dropping a big old spoiler) for me. Hey ho. Not dreadful, just not as captivating (for me) as others have found it.
A courtesan heroine seducing and then falling in love with her virginal, yet sexy client? Count me in. However, for a romance about seduction I thought it needed more passion and emotion. The story could have been fleshed out more too as I wasn't completely convinced by Philomena's change of heart. I also would have liked an epilogue showing how Spence and Phil handled the ostracism they would certainly face. Maybe this is addressed in the other books featuring the two brothers?
With this said, the appealing plot and characters still mildly entertained me. I look forward to reading at least the second book in the series.
Historical English romance with a younger son of a Duke that finds love with a semi-retired Madame of a famous high end prostitution house in London. This story is set in the rural Welsh countryside at Lord Spencer Hornsby's country estate where he is busy researching a historical work when Madame Philomena McGrattan shows up to his isolated home as a birthday present from his school friends because he is a famous virgin. So Phil and Spencer become friends and then more as they share their lives and pasts with each other. I doubt that they would have been married in the real world, but they do fit together for life partners. Cute sexy story, but it was weirdly void of any servants, friends or family. All dialogue is between the couple and they and their new relationship are never tested with society so I'm not convinced in a enduring HEA for this couple. 121 pages and kindle freebie 2 stars
I find the autistic spectrum fascinating and though many ridicule and are put off, I am in awe of their courage and greatly appreciate their honesty. That being said, I did not love this book, as that would have been too wimpy a description; I absolutely adored it!!! These two broken people were brought together with a heartrending and erotic sensuality that was only enhanced by their innocence (and yes, Phil was an innocent as well). Having to celebrate my 70th b-day in covid seclusion, reading Karyn's book was one of my sweetest gifts of the day!!!! I'm ashamed to admit that as an avid reader I rarely take the time to write a review, but on rare occasions I am compelled to do so. Thank you so much for the joy you bring from reading a great book!
Have to admit this was a very unique plot for a Victorian romance. Lord Spencer-third son of a Duke, who is a recluse (probably with an unknown diagnosis of Asperger's at the time) secluded himself in a Wales run-down hunting lodge with his dogs to do his research. For his 30th birthday, friends of the family (as a joke) pay plenty to provide a prostitute to show him what he has been missing. Philomena, who was kidnapped as a child, and worked her way up to now run her own service business, needed a break and the money, and decided to make the trip herself. Finding herself secluded there for a week, she draws Spence out of his singular world towards a new experience. Unsurprisingly steamy, lovely cover with a predictable ending.
Never judge a book by its cover (or title). I absolutely loved this book and the main characters. The story shows how people are shaped by what they experienced in their youth and that what we see on the outside may hide tender feelings, emotions, just waiting for the right key to open the lock to what lies deep inside. Well written, really nice read. Get it!
3.5 stars. I enjoyed the story and it was entertaining (and short) enough for me to read it in one sitting. I did think it finished abruptly though; I would have a liked a bit more at the end to round off the story. My only negative was that there were a few typos in the Kindle edition. Nothing that detracted from the story or my enjoyment of the flow of the book.
I really enjoyed this book. I just wish the story has not been so rushed. I think Spencer and Philomena had great chemistry. I think that their love story could have been fleshed out a bit more. I love that Gerrard made the hero autistic. I think she did a great job of describing the many struggles involved with having Autism.
I enjoyed this well executed, shortish story. Not your usual Victorian romance, though I have read others wherein a prostitute is sent to "heal". Both Philomena and Spence are very unable characters; their interaction and how they fall in love did not seem too far fetched. There are explicit sex scenes, but none are vulgar.