By Private Invitation
Series: Salon Games, #1
Author: Stephanie Julian
Published: December 31, 2012
Genre: Erotic Romance
Source: Publisher (Berkley Trade)
Reviewed by: Dawn
Favorite quote: “Annabelle wrapped her arms and legs around him as he started to thrust with little of his usual finesse. It was wild and passionate and she knew it couldn’t last.
But it did. Jared rode her hard, hips pistoning as he drove her closer to her peak. Their joining wasn’t only physical. The emotions between them elevated the act to a work of art. And as she came apart in his arms, she knew her life had become complete.”
summary from Goodreads
Some invitations don’t need to be sent…only accepted.
Antiques dealer Annabelle Elder’s life is nowhere near as passionate as the erotic art she collects. A cheating ex-boyfriend and her business have seen to that. So when she attends a New Year’s Eve party at Haven Hotel, she sees a chance to blow off some steam. But she never expected to meet anyone like Jared—or to experience such passion in his arms…
Handsome, rich, and charming as hell, Jared Golden brought his Midas touch to Haven Hotel—and created an anything-goes pleasure palace on one floor to cater to his special friends and their very special desires. After falling in lust with Annabelle at first sight, seducing her was easier than he expected. What he didn’t expect was to be seduced in turn…
But unrestrained passion in the bedroom is not the only spark between Annabelle and Jared. Their mutual attraction is confounded by their separate pasts. Caught in an ever-growing web of painful secrets and sensual fantasy, will they be able to face the truth about themselves and trust in true love?
Annabelle Elder is preparing to attend a gala party at an exclusive club with her best friend, Kate. Kate is determined to lighten Annabelle’s mood. Annabelle recently caught her boyfriend, Gary, cheating on her with another woman. Kate helps Annabelle doll up for the party, encouraging Annabelle to wear provocative clothing that Kate has designed particularly for her that showcases Annabelle’s lush curves. Annabelle is determined to have a good time and to find someone at the party to have sex with, something totally outside of her usual realm.
At the party, Annabelle meets Jared and they share a mutual attraction. Jared and his brother Tyler are the owners of the Haven Hotel. The hotel is not what it seems, a luxurious hotel with many amenities. Jared and Tyler hold secret invitation only parties after hours.
Although Annabelle seems plain and unassuming, she has a lurid past that she wishes to keep secret. She is living under an assumed name. Upon meeting Annabelle, Jarod notices a beautiful brooch that she is wearing, piquing his interest further. Jared believes that the pin is part of a set belonging to his grandmother that was stolen decades earlier. The jewelry has a history of helping the owner find true and lasting love. The loss of the jewelry is the reason that Jared’s parents have had such a turbulent marriage, according to Jared’s grandmother, Beatrice.
After dancing together and meeting in the garden, Annabelle and Jared’s attraction overwhelms them and they make love. Later that night, Jared invites her to the after hours private party where Annabelle explores her secret fantasies. Jared and Annabelle spend the rest of the night together. Unfortunately, Annabelle overhears a private conversation between Jared and his brother, Tyler, wherein they discuss the brooch Annabelle was wearing and Jared’s belief that the brooch is part of the missing jewelry that his grandmother told him about.
Annabelle is crushed and believes that Jared is interested only in the brooch and considers their interlude as a one night stand. She throws the brooch at Jared and storms out, broken-hearted and believing that Jared seduced her only to obtain the pin.
Annabelle returns home to lick her wounds, unaware that Jared is trying to find her. When Jared does find her, he is determined to become involved with her again.
I found the story of the missing jewels intriguing. The thought that items of jewelry could draw two people together and then keep their love alive was interesting. Annabelle and Jared had complicated backstories. They are both scarred. Annabelle was impacted as a teenager by her parent’s murder. The resulting media attention drove her grandfather to change Annabelle’s name and take her away to Europe. Jared is scarred by his parents’ troubled marriage and his father’s infidelity. Jared is unable to commit himself to anyone beyond a brief sexual interlude.
As for the sexual tension between Annabelle and Jared, I felt that something was lacking. This book was billed as an erotic romance and there certainly were lots of sexual scenes contained within the book. I had no problem with that, I like smut. My problem was that the smut, and there was a LOT of it, was NOT hot. I liked the characters, thought that their angst was plausible, but their sex scenes, meh! That is the problem, I thought of those interludes as sex scenes, not love scenes.
Also, Annabelle grew up in an unusual living arrangement. I would have liked to know more about what it was like for Annabelle growing up. Alas, that is not explored very much in the book. I felt that I would have understood Annabelle a bit better and her motivations for many of her reactions.
I must admit that I was quite intrigued by two secondary characters, which would be Annabelle’s friend, Kate, and Jared’s brother, Tyler. These two had an instant attraction despite Kate’s engagement to another man. During the course of the book, Kate and Annabelle find the ring that is part of the jewelry that was missing. Ms. Julian gives clues that the next book will center on Tyler and Kate, and the effect of the ring on their relationship.
In conclusion, interesting storyline, intriguing secondary characters, but the sex just didn’t do it for me. I do have some interest in the second entry in this series, which will focus on Tyler and Kate.
Just a note, there are two scenes in which a second man joins Jared and Annabelle in their sexual escapades. Just a warning in case you may not care for menages. Ms. Julian crafted an interesting tale, I just couldn’t connect with Jared and Annabelle as I would have wished.