When She Said I Do by Celeste Bradley
When Calliope Worthington and her family are caught in a rainstorm they take refuge in a seemingly uninhabited ramshackle castle. While her family sleeps she wanders the halls in her chemise and finds a chestful of jewels and unable to help herself she tries them on. Sir Lawrence Porter has attempted to escape the outside world after a betrayal by his friends left him hideously scared and he hopes to live out his remaining days drinking in private. He follows the sound of singing and finds an angel who he wastes no time in trying to seduce and Callie can't help but respond to his dark spell. A family member catches them in a compromising situation and to prevent a duel Callie agrees to marry Ren, sight unseen, for as long as it takes to work of her debt to him. Ren had never hoped to know the joy of woman's touch again and, even knowing he shouldn't, he unleashes his darkest desires on her and finds that she responds with a passion equal to his. Callie loves the pleasure that he gives her and wants to know how far she will allow him to push her boundaries.
She has also decided to help Ren improve his life, from trying to make friends with the very reluctant villagers to cleaning up the years of dust and grime that have accumulated. But mysterious accidents begin to befall Callie as a ladder is knocked from under her, a horse gets spooked, and the cellar door slams shut on her. Ren cannot believe that there is someone out to hurt her until a blast from his past shows up and he wonders if his former friends, the ones who betrayed him, are out to finish the job. He continues to weave his spell on her in the bedroom, and elsewhere, and finds that he cannot bear the thought that she will leave him one day. He is the one to rescue her each time an accident occurs and she begins to like her newfound freedom away from her eccentric family. A glamorous ball brings everyone together and Ren is forced to confront his past and his fears of losing Callie while she must find away to set priorities in her life. The bad guys have come at last and Ren will do anything to rescue the happiness he has found with Callie and save the future they hope to have together.
Callie was industrious and joyful and her constant joyfulness did sometimes get on my nerves, but I admired her introspection as she discovered what she expected out of life. She was friendly and eager to please and her desire to become a real part of village life was very likable and overall she came across as a very genuine person. Ren was shaped by his horrible past and I understood why he would chose the path in life he did and even though many brooding heroes annoy me, he displayed a willingness to change and adapt that took the edge of his darkness. She brought light and happiness to his life and became his reason for living, which I don't particularly like in a romance as they both need something to make them their own person. He was a hero to her as he rescued her time and time again but I really did not feel like he proved himself worthy of so much affection from her, except in the bedroom. They spent very little time together outside of sexual activities and I would have liked more non-sexual time.
The sex took center stage in this novel, partly because of the large amount of sex Ren and Callie engaged in, but mostly because of the nature of the sex. Their sexual relationship would definitely be categorized as a dominant/ submissive one as he gave orders and she followed them. This arose from their bargain and him not wanting her to see him, but quickly progressed into something both of them desired. Their was very little reflection on what drove both of them to want this type of sexual relationship and just as little about the specific nature of their relationship. There was no real bondage or spanking (or things of that nature) but it definitely is in the very kinky category. I wish there had been more reflection and discussion as I feel like that is necessary in this type of relationship, but both were happy with what they had and suffice to say it was quite hot. The side plot involving the bad guys was great and I liked that we got to see what made them tick. Her family featured prominently and their eccentricity quickly became annoying so I was glad they only appeared occasionally.
Rating: A fun heroine and a strong relationship accompanied by very hot sex and a well developed murder (ish) plot.