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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Shadows of Ecstasy by Shauna Hart

Shadows of Ecstasy by Shauna Hart
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Torrid
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (265 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/F, Anal Play, Toys, Voyeurism
Rating: 5 cherries
Reviewed by Violet

Cal Rutledge never expected to see Emma Lake again after she walked away from him fifteen years ago. She was the daughter of his father’s worst adversary, and getting involved with her had been a mistake, a mistake he couldn’t make again. But when she walks into Club X, a club he secretly owns, logic and reason seem to disappear.

Emma Lake has lived a lie for the past fifteen years. Ever since she walked away from the only man she ever loved to marry someone else. But now the only thing she wants is to get her life back together.

Fifteen years ago, they kept their affair a secret. But someone else knows the truth. Someone who is watching them.

Someone who will do anything to keep them apart.

“The desire to give into anything he wanted was so strong she wasn’t sure she could resist…The apple was in her hand—and she was dying to take a bite.”

Like Eve and the apple, Emma Lake finds it very hard to resist Cal Rutledge. She did once to meet family approval, and wound up married to Mr. Wrong. Divorced, she’s back in New Orleans and her friend Shelby takes her to the infamous “Club X” thinking she needs to blow off some steam. The moment she walks into Club X, the only man she’s ever loved sees her on the security cameras. Cal, owner of Club X, can’t believe his eyes when he sees her. And there’s no way he’s going to let another man get to Emma first in his club where anything goes between consenting adults. When Cal and Emma meet again their connection is absolutely electric and they immediately combust.

As Cal and Emma’s fathers are warring political opponents, their match wouldn’t make either of their families happy. Emma has always tried to do the right thing, and walking away from Cal was the hardest thing she ever did. Then she compounded her mistake by marrying her parent’s perfect man, who she winds up divorcing for serial cheating.

Emma is strong and gutsy. It’s intriguing watching as Emma grows into her own person. She doesn’t just come home and say the heck with my family. She slowly, step by step takes control of her life, and reuniting with Cal helps her recall who she used to be. She starts by getting her own apartment, and then she rediscovers her love of painting with Cal as inspiration. And of course the whole time she’s having a blazing relationship with Cal.

Cal tells himself he likes his life just as it is, running Club X and enjoying the occasional dalliance. He’s watched his best friend settle down and be happy, but he tells himself that’s not for him. Then he sees Emma again and his feelings start to change. Yet as much as he feels for Emma, he wonders if he’ll be able to survive her leaving him again. Because people don’t change, right?

Then his mother faces a health crisis, and the only person he can think to go to is Emma. And something fundamentally beautiful changes for both of them. Cal is fascinating to watch as he grapples with trusting Emma and his mother’s health crisis. He’s a complicated character facing very real issues. He truly touched my heart.

The supporting characters in Shadows of Ecstasy really help make the story. From Cal’s brother, who’s gotten a girl pregnant and can’t tell their father, to Emma’s sister who’s partying out of control. Both Emma and Cal’s fathers are strong and formidable. I guess the real difference between Cal and Emma is their relationship with their mothers. Emma’s mother constantly criticizes her, while Cal’s mother offers unconditional love. Then there are their friends. You’re truly left up in the air as to who is truly Emma’s friend, whereas Cal’s friends are loyal beyond question. Finally there’s Emma’s louse of an ex-husband who you are so glad she divorced.

Shadows of Ecstasy accelerates when Emma and Cal’s affair is revealed. It’s here that Cal and Emma have it out. Although it looks like Emma is giving in to her family, her ultimate decision takes trust and true courage. I was rather stunned. Not to mention the stalker twist that totally shocked me. The end was utterly romantic.

Shadows of Ecstasy is one of those rare books that sucks you in from the first page and keeps you riveted to the last. The sex was sensuously detailed and really hot! Although Club X does cater to anything, Cal and Emma’s relationship is not hard BDSM. There is some light bondage, but that only turned me on more. I loved that the person in control of their sex games switched occasionly. Their sex was part of their romance, which was just beautiful. Emma and Cal are two people overcoming stiff family expectations to find love. Ms. Hart’s writing style was engrossing and beautiful. In my reviews I try to point out something that could be improved, but honestly the only thing I could think of is that I didn’t want it to end!

If you’re looking for a book with star-crossed lovers, warring families, a crazed stalker, and really hot sex don’t miss Shadows of Ecstasy.

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