Haunted Dreams is an absolute scorcher of a vintage age-gap romance, with 20-year-old virgin heroine Emilie and 40-year-old ultra-alpha man-of-the-world business tycoon/banker Ambrose Kerr. First published in 1995, it feels much more like a 1970s/early 1980s romance novel.
There’s insta-lust/attraction between the pair, rather poetically described on the hero’s side.
He felt a strange stirring inside his chest, as if he had swallowed a bird that was trying to escape; wings fluttering against his ribs.
Ambrose spends most of the novel stressing about the age gap while lusting after Emilie. Emilie is one of those very sensible, well-bred heroines – she’s done a Cordon Bleu course, but being a 1990s girl, also has a job – who is 20 going on 40. I always imagine vicars’ wives to be like this, born not made.
Because this is a 1990s novel, we get some HOT action (or hot for a Mills & Boon anyway). We get a pre-marital defloration scene, which I guessed was coming because Emilie’s “white Victorian nightie” gets a whole paragraph of description. Here’s a taste of the action:
He breathed thickly as her hands moved downwards, following the hard, flat planes of his body; they tangled in the rough bush of hair between his thighs. He gave a sharp moan. “Emilie. God, you’re driving me crazy. Emilie … I want you, God knows, but you’re so young.”
She begs him to stay, so he does, while also proposing marriage. Emilie in a “trembling” voice accepts.
He bent his head and kissed her deeply. “Now you belong to me,” he told her. “I’l make you happy, Emilie, I’l take great care of you. But I hope you’re absolutely sure about this, because once we are married I’ll never let you go. I’m a very possessive man—never make me jealous, or you’ll wish you had never been born.”
So things progress, and it’s quite a realistic scene in some respects. No multi-orgasmic completion for Emilie, at any rate. Ambrose doesn’t seem to do much to take care of her needs:
He began to move, slowly, softly; each movement hurt. Emilie felt faint, but the pain was nothing compared with the fact that Ambrose was inside her, they were part of each other. She closed her eyes and clung to him, abandoning herself, her body totally submissive.
Ambrose slowly lost control. He groaned; his thrusts grew deeper, deeper, until he was driving fiercely into her, his hot face between her breasts, his cries of pleasure and satisfaction so loud that he was unaware that she was silent.
Afterwards he fell forward on her and lay there, breathing hoarsely, roughly.
Not the most considerate lover. Anyway, Emilie falls asleep and starts dreaming:
…over and over again he took her, and in her dream she experienced the quivering, shuddering pleasure she had not felt when she was awake, her body clamouring and moist, open to him as a sea-anemone, drawing him in and keeping him.
Unfortunately we are soon back to our 1970s mores of insane, Othello-level jealousy, and a scene in which Ambrose nearly strangles Emilie. Modern readers may struggle with this. Regardless, they get back together and she puts her £100,000 30-carat sapphire ring back on. I had a bit of a google, and a 30-carat sapphire is probably going to set you back a good couple of million today. So assuming Emilie survives Ambrose’s murderous jealousy, she won’t be destitute.