Saturday, October 24, 2015

Review: Harlot by Victoria Dahl

A new book by Victoria Dahl is always cause for excitement as far as I'm concerned. This one being labeled as an erotic historical western, I was a little bit apprehensive. I do like historicals, but am not usually a fan of westerns, though I did enjoy the cowboys in her contemporary novels. And sometimes I find myself a little put off by books labeled erotica - I need a good story and some real romance in order to enjoy the steamy sex. But my worries were absolutely and completely unnecessary.

This book is so good. The story, the romance, the tough heroine who refuses to be a victim. Very good stuff.

The title and the description of the book are a little misleading. I mention this only because it almost scared me off. I was picturing some sassy, tough as nails whore, a Miss Kitty sort of character who was now an expert in all things sex-related. I'm not saying that would be a bad thing, but maybe not the type of story I would want to read.

Jessica isn't running a whore house nor is she a working whore. She had to do something in order to survive - but it isn't like she took it on as a profession. I don't think I'm giving anything away by mentioning that. While Jessica's former boyfriend thinks this is the case, it's pretty clear from the beginning that it isn't.

But nonetheless, Jessica feels guilty about what she did. She feels like nothing more than a whore. She can't show her face in town and everyone talks about her. And when Caleb, the only man she's ever loved returns, he's disgusted by the stories about her and furious that she didn't wait for him. He shows up at her home, angry with her, and in an attempt to punish her, offers her money in exchange for sex.

Because she's desperate and in need of money, and knows that she at least doesn't have to be afraid of Caleb, she takes him up on the offer. Also, there's part of her that wants to know what it would be like to be with him. She spent so much of her life imagining that someday she'd share a bed with him as his wife, but now she believes that chance is gone, so she may as well take what she can get.

What makes this story stand out as something much more than erotica, and makes it something I love, is the way Dahl handles the emotions and thoughts facing Jessica. She's conflicted because in a way she enjoys the sex she's having with Caleb, even if he did pay for it. On the other hand, she's furious with him for treating her as a whore when all she did was survive when placed in a position in which she felt she had no alternative.

Even better than the dirty/hot sex happening in this book is Jessica confronting Caleb about his opinions of her. While, sure, this is erotica and the sex is wow, for me, this is more importantly a story about a woman who is tired of people - especially people she thought she could trust - treating her like she's worthless and finally having the courage to demand that she get the respect she deserves.

Really good story. Liked it a lot. Highly recommend.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

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