Coral Smythe is the Madame of the most famous brothel in London, Aphrodite’s Grotto, but because of some financial difficulties it is actually the cruel Jimmy Hyde who owns most of the business and in effect controls Coral. Captain Isaac Wargate is not a fan of Aphrodite or her business and every time his ship docks in London he is forced to go and rescue his men. He and Aphrodite have a bit of an interesting relationship where every meeting leads to a war of words. But one day Jimmy decides to auction off a week of Coral’s favors and she has no way to refuse. Sensing her dilemma Isaac throws himself into the fray and through luck or fate he ends up winning. Neither Coral nor Isaac are certain how this week should play out and Coral is determined to maintain business like and not become the scared little girl she was when she first entered the business. But Isaac throws her for a loop by spending the entire week going slowly, getting to know her and winning her trust and eventually her heart. Coral is terrified of love and it is up to Isaac to prove to her that their pasts don’t matter and they can have a future together.
This was a short story and I will admit that I have recently really started liking short stories because they often skip some of the filler and needless problems that longer novels contain. When written well, like this was, I get a decent feel for the characters and the relationship they have together. Ladies of the evening have been featured as heroines in several books recently, almost always with a back-story to explain away their profession and this was no exception. Coral had family issues and needed the money but she did not make any apologies for her decisions and I admired that. Isaac was wonderful as the dark and handsome hero who was widowed, loved his wife and didn’t have to vilify her in order to fall in love again, and he was so obviously dedicated to Coral. They really got to know each other during their evenings together and I could really sense that they worked well together and had a solid relationship. The sex between them was not as hot as some of Hoyt’s other writings, but it was interesting enough and served to cement the feelings they had for each other.
Rating: A very good short story that I very much liked with two wonderful characters and enough problems between them to keep it interesting.