Book Review: Markham Hall series by Sierra Simone

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Title: The Markham Hall Series (The Awakening of Ivy Leavhold, The Teaching of Ivy Leavhold, The Punishment of Ivy Leavhold, The Reclaiming of Ivy Leavhold)
Author: Sierra Simone
Genre: Historical Romance, Erotica
Length: 416 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis

Yorkshire, 1879I am alone.

When Ivy Leavold is left destitute by her brother’s death, she is taken in by her cousin’s brooding, tortured widower–Julian Markham. Handsome and possessive, it’s not long before Ivy falls for him. But Mr. Markham has dark secrets, secrets that may put Ivy in danger…

I am afraid.

As Ivy unravels the mystery surrounding her cousin’s death, she falls deeper and deeper in love with Julian, who opens her body and her mind to his indomitable will. But even as he draws pleasure and desire from her night after night, Ivy can’t shake the feeling that their passionate affair may end in violence…

And I am completely his.

So begins the riveting Markham Hall trilogy–a tangled tale of love, betrayal, and murder. This volume includes The Awakening of Ivy Leavold, the second book, The Education of Ivy Leavold, and the third book, The Punishment of Ivy Leavold. And then enjoy a final glimpse into Julian and Ivy’s lives in the bonus novelette, The Reclaiming of Ivy Leavold!

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If you think historical romance can’t be kinky, think again!

He was wild and feral, like myself. We were the same- solitary animals forced into human skin.”

I was a little hesitant to read and review this series at first. While I loved Sierra Simone’s Priest, I haven’t read historical romance in a very VERY long time, and I wasn’t really sure if this was something I’d enjoy after reading contemporary books for so long. While I love the genre, it’s usually something I need to be in the mood for. But this, this wasn’t like any historical romance I’d read before.

The Markham Hall Series consists of four novellas…The Awakening of Ivy Leavhold, The Education of Ivy Leavhold, The Punishment of Ivy Leavhold, and The Reclaiming of Ivy Leavhold. It’s the story of a young woman whose brother has just died after gambling away what little money they had left. Having no money and nowhere to go, she’s taken in by her next closest relative, Julian Markham, the twice-widowed husband of her cousin Violet, who has recently died under mysterious circumstances. He’s wealthy, dark, and brooding and from the moment they meet there’s an instant attraction. While Ivy embraces the attraction, Julian fights it not wanting to corrupt Ivy with his very dark desires, but once he gets her he has no intention of ever letting her go. The closer Ivy gets to him, the more she questions his part in Violet’s death. There’s a darkness and violence in Julian that both scares and attracts Ivy to him. There’s a constant warning in her head to run away from him, but there’s also a part of her that craves the fear. The more she fears him, the more she wants him. She has a choice to make…a decision between what she can live with versus what she can’t live without.

“I loved his strength and his weakness, his command and his dependence on me. I loved him. I loved him to the point of the damnation of my soul. And I was afraid of him.”

The Markham Hall series is what you get when you take a Jane Austen novel and throw in bdsm and a murder mystery. If you’re someone who read Pride and Prejudice and thought to yourself “I really enjoyed it but it could’ve used more ass sex,” then this is the book for you! All joking aside, I really enjoyed this series. Simone proves once again that she knows how to write erotic sex scenes. I didn’t know if she could top her “sex on the altar” scene from Priest, but she came pretty damn close with Ivy and Julian. There were threesomes, actual bodice ripping, carriage ride blow jobs and some very interesting “parlor games” with some very interesting people. I’ve read a lot of bdsm erotica but I’ve never read historical erotica. I quite liked reading about a Dominant/submissive relationship in the Victorian era, even if they didn’t have a name for it, as there were heavy bdsm elements throughout.

And in case you’re worried this might be a case of “all sex no plot”, the mystery surrounding the death of Julian’s second wife and what, if anything, he had to do with it, along with the palpable sexual chemistry between him and Ivy, kept me engaged throughout. It was perhaps a little predictable at some points but I didn’t feel like I needed to turn my brain off to enjoy the story. If you’re someone who doesn’t really read historical romance/erotica but thinks you might want to give it a try, I would definitely recommend this series. I know some people can be put off by the flowery, over the top language of historical romances, but this was very restrained in that regard. It felt very much like it could be a story set in contemporary times but with just a bit of Victorian flair. The sex and the story was well written, the heroine likable, and most of all I loved Julian. He was dark, intense, dominating, and an alpha in an age when men were expected to be courteous gentlemen. Just make sure you have the smelling salts and the fainting couch nearby because this man is NO gentleman and there will be swooning!

“And once we start there will be no stopping. I’ll have you in every room of this house, on every surface. I’ll make you climax as often as it suits me, even if it’s several times an hour for an entire night. I’ll make you thrash underneath me and beg, and maybe if you’re good, I’ll let you ride me and use me until you’re too limp to keep yourself upright any longer.”

Just imagine Mr. Darcy saying THAT to Elizabeth Bennet. Oh the scandal!

– Rachel

*An ARC was received from the publisher for an honest review.

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