Author: Stephanie Julian
Release Date: Dec. 31, 2012
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Salon Games #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Erotic
Format(s): Paperback (320 pgs), e-book
Book Source: Publisher
About the book:
Antiques dealer Annabelle Elder’s life is nowhere near as passionate as the erotic art she collects. A cheating ex-boyfriend and her business have seen to that. So when she attends a New Year’s Eve party at Haven Hotel, she sees a chance to blow off some steam. But she never expected to meet anyone like Jared—or to experience such passion in his arms…
Handsome, rich, and charming as hell, Jared Golden brought his Midas touch to Haven Hotel—and created an anything-goes pleasure palace on one floor to cater to his special friends and their very special desires. After falling in lust with Annabelle at first sight, seducing her was easier than he expected. What he didn’t expect was to be seduced in turn…
But unrestrained passion in the bedroom is not the only spark between Annabelle and Jared. Their mutual attraction is confounded by their separate pasts. Caught in an ever-growing web of painful secrets and sensual fantasy, will they be able to face the truth about themselves and trust in true love?
What I’m talking about:
I have been a big fan of Stephanie Julian’s paranormal stories for several years, so I was excited to have the opportunity to review her latest release, By Private Invitation. Starting this book I had no idea what it was about, but knowing Ms. Julian, it would be sexy!
The first chapter not only sets the stage for the reader, but it grabs ahold and doesn’t let the reader go. Right up front, we learn that our hero, Jared, is a pleasure seeker and part owner of a hedonistic pleasure hotel. He clearly enjoys sexual exploits outside of the norm. He has a private room known as the Salon, where friends can experience their inner most sexual fantasies, by invitation only. In addition, we learn that his family has been “cursed in love” when a ring and pin were stolen. And… hmmmm… Is that the missing pin that our heroine Annabelle is wearing?! Annabelle is ready for a night of pleasure after having a lousy year in the romance department.
There is just something special about By Private Invitation that captured my imagination and warmed my heart. The book is first and foremost a delightful romance. It’s a refreshing change to enjoy an erotic contemporary romance where the main characters are generally both mentally and emotionally healthy! Both Jared and Annabelle have a robust sexual appetite and make no excuses for wanting a “no strings attached” relationship. However, once they spend time with each other, they realize that there is more between them than just hot sex (and *fans self* it is HOT!)
Although they come from different backgrounds, Annabelle and Jared have much in common. I love that Jared wanted Annabelle to talk about her work and art just as much as he wanted her sexually. As the couple get to know one another, we learn that Annabelle has a pretty big secret… and I admit it took me by surprise! However, all of the clues were there, and I’m a little embarrassed that I didn’t piece it together before the reveal. All I can say is that I was so wrapped up in what was happening between Jared and Annabelle, I just didn’t see anything else. The reveal happens fairly early on, and the twist adds an additional layer of complexity to an already interesting tale. The balance of Annabelle’s perceived need to keep her secret and her desire to be accepted by Jared creates tension between the two that was realistic and didn’t come across contrived. I enjoyed watching them help each other grow–they made the other a better, more complete individual.
Despite the fact that Annabelle’s secret plays a fairly significant roll in the story, much of the interactions between the different characters is fairly open and honest. Once of my favorite scenes is a frank discussion between Jared and his parents. In addition, both main characters are sincere with themselves as they evaluate their own feelings and the situation.
I don’t have really anything negative to say about By Private Invitation. However, I felt that the continual self-introspection grew to be tiresome near the end of the book — both characters were constantly reminding themselves it’s only for sex, etc. In addition, although the sex was off the charts hot, other than a fairly vanilla ménage and voyeurism, it wasn’t overly kinky or naughty. And my only real criticism is that after the nth time, it started to feel a little repetitive, but not in a way that turns the reader off.
In the end, I was totally choked up during the climatic scene between Jared and Annabelle. The display of raw emotion was touching and just plain awesome. Overall, By Private Invitation is a hot, sensual story, full of great heart and a pleasure to read. I cannot wait to read the next book!
Loved it – enthusiastically recommend (A)
and has also earned the title of one of…
By Private Invitation