October 12, 2012

Review: Hidden Paradise by Janet Mullany

Series: Stand-alone
Format: ARC (NetGalley)
Excerpt here
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository 

Louisa Connelly, a recently widowed Jane Austen scholar, needs some relief from her stifling world. When a friend calls to offer her a temporary escape from her Montana ranch, she is whisked into a dizzying world of sumptuous food, flowing wine…and endless temptation.She's an honored guest at Paradise Hall, an English resort boasting the full experience of an authentic Georgian country-house weekend. Liveried servants tend to every need of houseguests clad in meticulous period costume: snug breeches, low-cut silken gowns and negligible undergarments.

It's Mac Salazar, a journalist immersing himself fully, deeply, lustily in the naughty pleasures of upstairs-downstairs dalliances, who piques Louisa's curiosity—and libido—most. He's a dilettante straight out of a novel: uninhibited, unapologetic and nearly insatiable. But Lou's not romantic about this much, at least: Paradise Hall is a gorgeous fantasy, nothing more. A lover like Mac is pure fiction. And the real world beckons….
This book is recommended for readers 18 years-old and up.

HIDDEN PARADISE by Janet Mullany is an escape of sorts where people dress-up and play out their sexual fantasies underneath all the pomp and circumstance of the Gregorian period complete with costumes, footmen and all the accouterments associated with Jane Austen's era.
I'm tired of crying. Tired of grieving. Tired of feeling like I'm only half-alive and drifting. - Lou
Front and center is Louisa Connelly, a professor and widow who is still grieving the death of her beloved husband, Julian. Paradise Hall provided a much needed distraction for her broken heart and the lusty Mac Salazar is fast becoming a very good past time for Lou. I didn't connect much with these lovers or any of the characters for that matter but I sure found their little retreat and trysts enjoyable enough. HIDDEN PARADISE was written in alternating POV's between Lou, Mac and other characters that I felt JMullany spread the plot too thin for it to really flesh out and develop in terms of character and plot growth. She also tackled several issues not just pertaining to sexual awakening but relationship problems such as fidelity, marriage and partnership. However if I were to play favorites, I say mine was Viv, the ballsy costume designer whom I wish we get to read more of instead of the other bland characters JMullany focused on. 

JMullany's attempt at humor sounded promising at first but it seem to me like the funny died a slow death as the story moved forward. It still remained light but I wish there were more snappy remarks and funny anecdotes from Lou. Her monologue at the start of the book were good but the humor died out eventually. Lou's grief was heartfelt and relatable regardless if one experiences loss through death or a break-up, her feeling of lonliness is universal. My heart went out to her when she discovered that Julian cheated on her and every sacred memory she has about her marriage crumbled along with the pedestal she set Julian on. This was the highlight of the book and JMullany's execution was good and spot-on. I only wish the sequence of events got rearranged a little with the intention of adding more emotional depth to the story and not just a bunch of senseless humping.
I still miss you, but you know what? I'm beginning to forget bits of you. I forgot what your penis looks like, so I had to go online and find some. don't think I enjoyed it. Some of them were quite grotesque. You'd think if they were that butt ugly the owner would edit them into something better. - Lou
Aside from the setting, there's still much to be desired about the story, I think JMullany focused more on  the sexual part of the story and lacked emotional reinforcements to make it all encompassing. She added spikes that didn't get a good follow through resulting to plot holes like the Jane Austen time-capsule or Rob's magical relationship with Di. 

HIDDEN PARADISE is a great book to pass the time with. It doesn't come with intense psychological baggage and emotions that I usually seek out when reading erotica but I still managed to enjoy it nonetheless. I was more interested in Paradise Hall than the characters, outside the sexual freedom this English retreat provides, I love the idea of playing dress up and pretending that it's the 18th century where people are more social and find entertainment in the simplest of things. I find it exciting and truly romantic I wish such a place exists. 

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