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I so wanted to adore this: Anne Mather, age-gap (19/39), innocent heroine/alpha older man.

But I was left… bewildered.

According to the blurb, Abby comes up with some sort of weird plot to seduce Luke, her bitch-of-an-aunt’s supposed boyfriend. Bitch-aunt went off with Abby’s father some years ago, splitting up her parents’ marriage. Only I don’t recall Abby formulating this plot, or consciously attempting to seduce Luke.

Instead he comes to stay at her dreary little Scottish(?) cottage owned by a priest, and gets all sort of angry/sexual-assaulty with her all the time, and keeps blaming her. Even though she’s so innocent that there’s a scene when he orders her to “open her mouth” when he kisses her. Shades of Temptation by Charlotte Lamb there.

Unknowingly provocative, her tongue appeared to wet her upper lip, and with a muffled oath he dropped the cheroot on the floor, his hands sliding possessively over her shoulders, compelling her towards him. His mouth on hers moved back and forward insistently, warm and probing, and disruptively sensual. Did he know she had never been kissed before? she fretted anxiously. Did he realise all the knowledge she possessed came from books like his own?

“Stop fighting me, Abby,” he spoke against the corner of her mouth, and she moved her head confusedly.

“I’m not fighting you,” she protested, the words dying on a gulp when his hand slid beneath her sweater to grip her bare midriff.

“Come on,” he breathed, his tongue tracing the curve of her lips. “Open your mouth …”

“Open—oh!”

Her puzzled objection was stifled by the pressure of his mouth, forcing her lips apart to admit the searching penetration of his.

There’s an awful lot of this: he keeps getting all handsy and then suddenly freezes up and blames her and stomps off. At some point he’s about to get all handsy with her in bed, then the priest comes in, so he has to marry her. (Luke – not the priest. The priest would have been a much juicier plot).

So then they enter some unconsummated marriage which he initially refuses to consummate while also refusing to let her go. I got more and more confused. Then they had sex, and it goes like this:

“Dear God, Abby,” he groaned, swinging her up into his arms and carrying her out of the shower and into his room again, “I told you not to come to my bedroom again unless you were prepared to face the consequences …”

Someone was knocking at the door, the sound harsh and imperative, dragging Abby back from the edge of oblivion, arousing her to an awareness of the world around her.

Spot it? No? You’re not alone. I had to go back and read the scene about three times to figure out what, if anything, had happened. No chapter break, no scene break or section break. But yes, they did it. It was also impossible to work out the level of rapiness. I think it ended up being “forced seduction” (because she “didn’t fight him all the way”, according to him) but she certainly comes across as fairly rape victimy after the event, and doesn’t seem to want a second round.

Anyway it bumbles on, Aunt Ella keeps showing up but these scenes never got interesting, and then later on they have great sex again and Luke goes all cold and martyry and vanishes to Wales or something. Eventually Abby, who is up the duff by this point, manages to find him, and there’s a suitably sickly and creepy ending. It seems that Luke wanted to marry her as soon as he saw her (which makes no sense, because the first chapter his from his perspective and we never see this) and used the priest thing as his excuse, and after having a good ol’ bit of rape of his teenage virgin bride, got the guilts that she should “choose” him.

Given the fades-to-black, this one isn’t even worth it for the titillation value.

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