After all the upset of book #1 in the Sexy as Hell Trilogy, The Virgin, having to be renamed The Novice due to a dispute with Amazon last week, Natalie and I are now thoroughly cheered with the most amazing set of reviews from massive romance/erotica ebook review site Long and Short Reviews.
This reviewer totally 'got' what we were trying to do with the characters and the plot. She, or perhaps he, understood that Victor was sinking into a world he was both repelled and fascinated by and how he struggled to first feel his own sexuality, then accept it and finally embrace it. Plus the dynamics between him and Zara and the complex web they weave around themselves and their friends and family has really been articulately and enthusiastically written about in this review...
I'll let you read the three reviews for yourselves
Winter is on its way – with long, cold nights ahead – and Zara Watson has unconsciously been looking for a project. Searching the coffee shops and picking up a number of one night stands, it’s not until she lets Victor Partridge take her home that she finally understands what she’s been seeking. A man to teach exactly what she likes and how she wants it done. A man to shag silly, going hard until they’re both wrung dry. Someone to guide through the shocking, thrilling aspects of her far-from-ordinary life. Initially at least, Victor thinks he’s the one in control – and Zara is about to show him how very wrong he can be. A naughty bet and exotic night opens both their eyes to the tasty possibilities.
Wow. Holy freaking wow. This book blew away all my expectations in the best way imaginable. Be warned, this isn’t some prissy little story where the hero makes “violent” love to his woman while holding her tenderly, or stroking her hair and whispering sweet nothings in her ear. Nor is this book about a skittish woman needing to be seduced, tutored in the art of sex while love blossoms and develops at a staid pace between them. This book explodes in your face from the very first sentence and takes you on an emotional and sexual roller coaster from those titillating starting words all the way to the very end.
The authors have managed in the space of one book to shock me, tempt me, seduce me and absolutely open my eyes. Let me be clear though – this in no way is for the faint of heart and I can completely believe it won’t be every reader’s cup of tea. But I loved it. The Virgin (now The Novice) managed to do everything Fifty Shades didn’t for me. It was real, honest, up front and in your face but without being offensive or over the top. The authors walked that deliciously fine line between being outrageous without crossing into putting me off. Neither did they err on the side of caution and end up being so soft as to invite ridicule (like so many other novels).
At times I did wonder whether I liked Zara Watson, and I could well believe others won’t find her at all comfortable. But that was one of the things that kept me turning the pages well past my bedtime. Zara pushes the boundaries, indeed some she smashed right through and doesn’t even pause to apologise. She is not a comfortable, or even easily understood, character. While at a first glance Victor is in comparison quite normal. But I saw these hints of more in him. And toward the end I wonder if Victor didn’t see his own depths as well. The longer I read the more I came to appreciate not just both their differences, but how they truly learned from each other – although Zara might never have admitted so.
While Victor was (understandably) reticent in places – Zara truly can be so forward as to be considered a force of nature – nowhere was any action non-consensual. This was an odyssey for both Victor and Zara. An exploration through the world of BDSM and most particularly themselves. I can’t be too much more specific or I might spoil it for some, but let me say this: if you want to be taken on a ride that steals your breath, makes you think outside the box and leaves you squirming in your seat both with sexy naughty feelings and discomfort at your boundaries being pushed, this is the book for you. Like anything that makes you feel strongly it’s both wonderful and shocking, breathtaking and uneasy all rolled up into a glorious, far-too-brief ride. I’m very glad I have the second book – The Player – right here ready to start as soon as I can finish typing. Because I need the next book about as much as my next breath. The ending isn’t on a cliff hanger as such – but the story is clearly far from over, and the teasing hint of “continue the story in book 2” is an offer I just can’t refuse.
Victor Partridge is dating Catherine, the sweet, wholesome niece of his long-serving secretary. They have a normal, outwardly happy relationship. But deep inside his soul, Victor wants more. More passion, more freedom to indulge in just a few of his dirty little desires – but he doesn’t want to ruin things with Catherine. Add in a healthy dose of pride standing in his way from admitting just how much his previous paramour, Zara, is still on his mind and Victor has a lot on his plate right now. Zara Watson has opened her new dungeon, but is struggling to truly enjoy it. When Ollie – Victor’s cousin – comes by one night insisting he wants her to be his Mistress at first she refuses, but a few choice words from Ollie soon has her changing her mind.
This is a raunchy, wickedly naughty book full of so much heat you’ll need safety gloves to handle it. The second book in a trilogy, I believe it could be read as a stand alone – but the depth and intricacies of what’s happening (and simultaneously *not* happening) between Victor and Zara really needs the first book, The Virgin/The Novice, to be read before this. Still, anyone who just happens to pick this book up should be able to read and thoroughly enjoy it just by itself.
I must admit I felt a lot warmer towards Zara this time around. For the first quarter or so of the book, Zara is floundering, not in her usual position of control and power and I enjoyed seeing that. She knew she needed to stay away from Victor but she still cares very deeply for him, even loving him – though she seems uncomfortable admitting it to herself. With her not in control I felt she was less severe, less able (or willing) to stir the pot just for kicks. I have to admit I liked her all the more for this other side to her that we catch fleeting glimpses of. Of course this didn’t last long, soon Zara had mastered the situation and her clever, manipulative brain sorts out how all four of them come together in Tuscany.
Although the much-loved Zara, Domme extraordinaire and sexy, naughty woman who knows exactly how to get what she wants is firm and present, there are now a few chinks in her armour. I must be honest, as a reader I appreciated this and became deeply curious about what else lay beneath that surface. I finally managed to see a little of the even more complex woman behind her blasé, forceful façade, and that enriched this read for me more than I thought possible. Far from resting on their laurels, Harlem Dae have made already complex, intriguing characters even deeper in this book, and I commend them on the excellence of their plotting, pacing, imaginations and writing.
Victor made me laugh in certain places. He seems so normal and utterly relatable. Here is a man who has been thrown in the deep end of a BDSM lifestyle, simultaneously loved and hated it and managed to claw his way back to the safety of the shore. He still wants to dip his toe in, but is determined to retain some semblance of peace and what he thinks his life should be. His deep attachment to Zara is clear, as is his struggle and desire to grow those feelings for Catherine. This is a wonderfully complex book, with rich, vibrant characters and a convoluted plot that kept me eagerly turning the pages – no rest for the wicked, honestly!
I felt joy, sympathy, annoyance, pleasure and a host of other emotions all throughout the entire book. This is not a simple story, easily summarized in a review. The whole trilogy – but this book in particular in my opinion – is about life. About moving on and knowing when to look back, learning when to give up and when to hold on, and most importantly learning when we should knuckle down and push for what we truly want and when to let it all go.
In some respects I found this book to be a bit of a breather. After the intensity and roller coaster ride of the first novel, this book solidifies so much. It’s a chance for Zara and Victor to both take a breath, sort out themselves and what they desire, to explore their own boundaries and get their heads on straight. In that sense this book isn’t as soul baring or emotionally pummeling as the first – but to be honest I don’t think my heart could have taken another wild ride so swiftly after reading Book 1.
I enjoyed getting to know the characters better, seeing them in a slightly less wild situation (please note the *slightly*) and hope they can both learn and grow from what they’ve experienced. I am eagerly, desperately craving to start Book 3, The Vixen, immediately.
A beautiful, extraordinary read and highly recommended.
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Victor Partridge and Zara Watson are together once again and doing a test run of their new, ever-changing relationship with a weekend in Venice. Victor thought they could try to explore the more loving side of their relationship, to see if there could be a balance, but he didn’t expect for Zara to start opening herself so fully to him. Zara has never been anything other than a handful, a changeable, marvelous force of nature, and now is no different. The roller coaster continues, a beautiful hue of colors that defy description. Both Victor and Zara are determined to see if they can come together and make something perfect out of what has held such promise and potential.
Once again I’m blown away, not just be the plot and writing but with how amazing all the facets of this book come together. Victor and Zara are just as complex and multi-layered as ever, but finally we’re under all those exterior layers people naturally have and I’m seeing their true hearts and souls. Zara begins to open herself to Victor, to really tell him about herself. I found this helped me see how she ticks and what I read was amazing and devastating at the same time. This is no ordinary romance novel and I’d not have it any other way. This book makes you gasp for breath, ignore real life going on around you and devour every page to see what happens next. Zara has been incredibly hurt in her past, and with Victor’s gentle support together they face some of her demons. This makes for some heart-rendering scenes – both tender and provocative, and some of these experiences will not be for everyone.
This is not a traditional book or even like others I’ve read which push some boundaries. One scene in particular includes play-acting, collaring and pretending to be an animal and might shock some readers. Throughout the entire trilogy however, I’ve found every envelope-pushing scene to be written with excruciating care and taste. Never once have I felt revolted or as if the characters were being derogatory or abused – but others might not feel the same and there are a number of taboos breeched throughout this book: particularly fisting and body fluid scenes. Personally, I found the whole book (taboos and all) wonderfully written and even when I wanted to look away, or take a break, I simultaneously needed to read further, the strength of that being more than my desire to step back. And *that* is skillful writing to my mind. As a reader our questions about Zara are answered, the authors have laid her bare and so much of her is left still wonderfully complex, but now understandable as well. Victor is a sweetheart, and while I’ve adored his character from the start, his strength, his inner emotional power and his deep love for Zara just makes him even more amazing in my eyes. This book is not the ending (or solidifying) of Zara and Victor, but the first steps of what I know will be a life-long wild ride for them both together. While I’d always want more, I can’t imagine other readers not being satisfied with the way Harlem Dae have wrapped this series up.
Much like Book 2 – The Player – I believe if you picked this up not knowing it was the final in a trilogy you could still thoroughly enjoy Zara and Victor’s story and follow along as they solidify their relationship. However the story is far richer from being there from their beginning and I feel to truly enjoy it as it’s meant, reading this trilogy in order is needed. The complexities of their characters, the million strong threads binding them and creating who and what they are can only (in my opinion) be fully understood and appreciated having read these books in order. This story, The Vixen, is complete in itself though and stands perfectly well alone, but I would strongly recommend starting at the start and working through these in order.
A brilliant end to an amazing trilogy, I’d recommend this series for anyone wanting a deeply complex, incredibly intense read that pushes the envelope further and with more taste than many others. I’d suggest readers – particularly those wanting to expand their literary horizons – try this, but read the various warnings carefully, as there are many scenes that are not commonly touched upon.
In the end though, these authors write everything with style, care and such talent I’m pleased to have these additions on my shelves and know I’ll read them again in the future. Not a comfortable book (or series), this nevertheless balances perfectly between too much and not quite enough. I can’t imagine anyone reading it and not wanting more, so amazing is the mix of characters, plot, kink and emotion. A marvelous read that took me to dizzying highs and terrifying lows and a series I can strongly recommend to everyone willing to step on board for the ride of a lifetime.
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Find out more about Sexy as Hell on the Harlem Dae website, check out the FREE Harlem Dae magazine and the three secondary character spin-off stories that are hot, hot, hot!