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Willaful Review: Restraint by Charlotte Stein

Sensuality Rating: Blistering

I’m so glad I loved this, because now I don’t have to feel bad about the fact that I bought it — after the CyberMonday sales! — and then discovered I had just checked it out of the library. (I know, I know, it was only $.99 — but I have bought a serious number of books in the last few days!)

This is the second Charlotte Stein book in a row I’ve given a five star rating, but it’s very different from Deep Desires — probably the only thing they have in common is they’re both narrated in the first person by women. Our narrator here is Mallory, a sharp, funny young woman whose observations often had me laughing, as she tells the story of how her friend James ruined their vacation plans by inviting her worst enemy Artie. For some unknown reason, Artie just seems to loath her.

“He looked at you weird one time. He probably had something in his eye!”

“Yeah, I think it’s called ‘extreme contempt.'”

Things come to a head one night when Mallory and Artie wind up in a hot tub together.

It’s beautiful, and the air is crisp and just a little cold… Nothing could be lovelier. So why doesn’t he look like it’s lovely at all? All he does is stare off at some indeterminate point, as though some indeterminate point annoys him an incredible amount. I can even make out that little frown-y crinkle between his brows, because of course the trees are such a pain in the ass. The softly falling night is such an inconvenience.

When Mallory attempts to clear the air between them, Artie responds so nastily that she can’t help crying… which sends him into a frantic apology and an unexpected, very heated embrace.  And Mallory discovers that Artie has a very proper past, including a stint in Bible college, and that his unpleasantness has been hiding a painfully repressed fascination.

“Are you really going to make me say it?” he asks, and it’s like I’m being cruel. He sounds almost tortured now, and that hand in his hair is making a fist – but I still can’t help him. Even after he’s said the words, I’m at a loss. “You know. Your bosom.”

I wonder if that Bible college he went to was in 1955.

It takes some work to get Artie to let go… and both of them enjoy it thoroughly. I did too. I love large heroes and Artie is described in such a way that you know he really is large all over, not just the typical massive shoulders-trim waist-hung you get in virtually every romance.  And that cool, quiet demeanor that hides seething desires… woof!

This is a fairly short story and takes place within just a week’s time, so it’s not a full fledged romance ending with wedding bells. But the ending feels happy and right.

Restraint is available only in ebook format. You can buy it from Amazon here, Barnes and Noble here, or at All Romance here. All currently offer it for $.99.

Published by Xcite. Review copy purchased by me.