I enjoy Regency romances and have wanted to read a Sharon Page novel for some time. This one intrigued me as it has a gentleman’s club at the centre of the plot and promised to be a sensuous read!
In The Club Widow Jane Beaumont, Lady Sherringham enters a notorious private club, posing as a patron, in search of her friend Delphinia. Del disappeared after she was seen attending the club with her debauched husband. Jane, intent on finding out what happened to her friend, immediately encounters Christian Sutcliffe, Lord Wickham, Del’s brother, a well-known libertine. Christian went into self-imposed exile abroad after he killed a man in a duel over a woman, but has returned to search for his sister, who had written to him telling him how unhappy she was, prior to her disappearance. Neither Jane nor Christian believes the claim made by Del’s husband, that Del has ran off with a lover to the Continent.
Christian warns Jane to stay out of the club before she compromises her safety. However, Jane and ignores his wishes and they spend more time together in and out of the club, as they try and find out what has happened to Del. Jane, abused by her deceased husband, is skittish around men and it takes all of her courage to venture into the club, posing as Christian’s lover.
Mrs Broughton’s club is a place where married couples of the ton go in search of sexual fulfilment and adventure – not always with each other! The author describes a number of consensual scenes, between a range of partners, which include bondage and the use of other paraphernalia one would expect in a sex club. It becomes clear that some women, including Del were not wholly willing participants in the activities there. Whilst investigating the club, Jane and Christian also uncover some other nefarious activities taking place at an establishment linked to it.
Christian and Jane knew each other when they were younger and often clashed. Christian found Jane to be rather serious and forthright, always willing to criticise him, whereas Jane believed Christian to be a wastrel and a womaniser. Jane fears male contact and is adamant that she will not marry again and put herself at the mercy of another man. However, she slowly finds herself drawn to Christian romantically. She is torn between what she knows of Christian’s past behaviour and the actions he takes now, where she sees him care deeply for those around him and act with honour. Indeed, she thinks his considerate behaviour towards her is prompted by his desire to rescue her and not out of love. All this is at odds with the rumours about his sexual conquests and liking for violent sex. She also fears that he will face trial for his sin of shooting the man in the duel.
I immediately liked Christian. He was reckless in his youth and got up to all sorts of adventures abroad, although Jane learns that his actions were not just about self-gratification but also about rescuing those less fortunate than himself. He is not afraid of using violence or the threat of violence against those who threaten those he loves. He recognises Jane’s fear of men early in the novel and it is to his credit that he strives to protect her from the sexual advances of a number of debauched men in and out of the club. When they eventually become lovers he is patient and attentive, realising that she has never known physical pleasure only abuse. There are nevertheless a number of sensual lovemaking scenes between them in some inventive locations!
There a number of secondary characters who naturally resent the couple investigating Del’s disappearance and other matters that come to light in their search for her. The plot develops swiftly and involves scenes at the club, blackmail, violence and murder. There are also a number of unexpected plot twists. With all of these obstacles, we are left wondering whether Jane and Christian can ever find their happy ever after.
I recommend this novel if you enjoy Regency romances with added spice. I liked the fact that the plot revolved around the club and the underbelly of London and I enjoyed the interaction between the hero and heroine. The plot was complex and engaging and acted as an excellent counterpoint to the sex scenes. Due to the lovemaking scenes, I would class the novel as sensual in content and therefore suitable for those aged 18 and above.
Author’s website www.sharonpage.com
Published by Ebury Publishing, part of the Random House Group www.randomhouse.co.uk