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….
From the moment I read this book's synopsis I knew I was in for something unexpected. As a fan of Jane Austen and the Regency era I'm accustomed to books featuring this time period to be sensual but not blatantly sexual. Hidden Paradise is in your face hot, steamy, and sexually adventurous. This book would make Jane Austen blush!
Louisa Connelly is visiting friends in England to get over the grief of her husband's death by immersing herself in the fantasy Regency world created for the paying public. At first she's surprised by the openly sexual assignations going on around her but soon finds herself drawn to journalist Mac Salazar. After a few steamy encounters she backs off over guilt for putting the past behind her. She just wanted fun but got serious declarations from him that she was unprepared for. Instead she goes for the naive Rob who's got family issues but is drawn to the older and teacher-like Lou. Her time with him is clearly for fun. After an out of the blue revelation about her dead husband she runs back home to completely purge herself of the past and it's then that she opens her heart to the possibilities Mac offers, if only she can decide what to do with Rob who's come home with her. Louisa's personality fluctuated from prim schoolteacher to naughty seductress so I never felt like I had a true understanding of her character. It seemed like men to her were merely a substitute for her dead husband. Even after the revelation and her admission to Mac of her true feelings I still didn't feel that she could love anyone. Her and Mac's relationship (as well as her and Rob's) relationship felt superficial and based only on sex. I applaud her reawakening but never felt a connection to her.
Mac came off as being a hound dog. His first introduction involved him and another female and he spent time with almost every female character or at least watching them in compromising positions. He's a journalist but we see him doing his job only once or twice. He'd much rather spend the time chasing after Lou. It seemed unrealistic for him to have such strong feelings for Lou so early on considering that they spent so little time alone together outside the bedroom. Him chasing Lou all the way across the ocean was a romantic gesture that I hope bodes well for their feature.
Rob was a character that stood out in that we saw the difficult family life that he was desperate to overcome. I applaud his loyalty to his family and the seriousness by which he treats the sexual encounters. He's actually looking for love and knows that sex doesn't always lead to something long-lasting. I wish the story had revolved around him more since he was the most likable and fully fleshed-out character of the whole story.
This was a story full of erotic encounters taking place in the setting of a sensual Regency manor. Seeing the primly dressed guests in such erotic encounters certainly grabs the reader's attention and sets a heart pounding pace. At times it felt that the sexual encounters overwhelmed the story which didn't leave much room for character development. Fans of erotica will definitely be drawn to this book and others wanting an escape into a steamy fantasy world will also want to pick this up and add Janet Mullany to their list of go-to authors for escapism.
My rating for this is a C.
*I received this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.