Okay, so I admit I wasn't expecting much out of this anthology. Based upon quick perusals at the book store for a couple of weeks, I almost judged it too dramatic and corny. Well, I guess I learned my lesson - this book was an absolute pleasure to read. Fast paced, yet very involved storylines, made for a spectacular weekend treat.
"Stolen Pleasures" is the high seas adventure of Captain Phoenix, aka Sebastian, Lord Merrick and his bride-by-proxy Olivia. The scandalous pirate takes her father's merchant vessal hostage, and her feelings and desires in the process. When she discovers the same man is her new husband, both are shocked and not a little dismayed. Having no use for a wife, he intends to return her to London. However, neither is prepared for the feelings that each evokes in the other and soon their new found passions will not be denied. The mystery surrounding the proxy marriage is a great backdrop for Sebastian and Olivia's attraction. Villianous family members add to the story and Olivia and Sebastian develop into two very likable characters. Sebastian is surprised by Olivia's determined defense of him to his horrid father and she comes out an admirable heroine because of it.
"Lucian's Gamble" is the story of Lucian Remington, ruthless gaming club owner and angelic debutante Julienne La Coeur. From across a crowded ball room, their passions flared and from the first look, both were instantly drawn to one another. Julienne's brother, Hugh, owes Lucian a scandalous amount of money and it's up to her to save the family yet again. When she confronts Lucian in his own club he will use this opportunity to his advantage - or will he? Knowing he'll never be good enough for the beautiful Julienne, he instead intends to help her in obtaining a titled husband. Torn between his heart's desire and the determination to do the right thing, Lucian will be up against the biggest gamble of his life - love. This was by far my most favorite of the three. I absolutely loved Lucian's rakish facade! There was such a wonderful, emotional and honest man lurking under his carefully disdainful attitude. Julienne was marvelous for him, a true lady that was capable of seeing the real man underneath. Truly a wonderful story that I wanted much more of. Would have been great to see these two characters in a full length book. Marvelous character interactions and breathtaking emotions packed into such a short format made it a great read.
"Her Mad Grace" tells the complicated love story of Hugh La Couer and the reclusive Charlotte. Stranded by an unfortunate mishap in the country, with bad weather threatening, Hugh takes shelter at the only nearby residence. Rumored to be inhabited by a mad duchess, he's ready to believe it with the misfit servants in residence. What he's not expecting is the bold and fiery Charlotte, who completely and utterly fascinates him and livens his enforced rustication as only a beautiful woman can. Add in the mystery surrounding the "mad" duchess and the story makes for a very entertaining read. Hugh was not what I was expecting, as he's portrayed as a dissolute and irresponsible rake in the previous short, one that gambles his family into near poverty. This story takes place several years later, and thankfully we get a very different, better version of Hugh. Charlotte was an interesting woman, one forced to make some difficult decisions in some very complicated circumstances.
All in all, a wonderful first experience by Sylvia Day! I can't wait to see what she puts to paper next. While I was expecting to get nothing but lively and raunchy tales of lusty pirates (The title implies we're getting pirate tales, but only one has anything to do with pirates), I wasn't disappointed in the least. They were all lively, all full of dashing and sexy heros and very, very good plots for such short reads. Excellent and very highly recommended.
Official Reviewer for The Mystic Castle