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REVIEW: Secrets of Sin by Chloe Harris

Dear Ms. Harris:

Thank you for sending me your book for review. I suspect my review will solidify rumors that I just do not like erotic romance. I don’t believe that that’s true but I do find many erotic romances to be problematic. This is because I require some emotional connection to accompany the physical acts. I can see the accounts to create emotional depth in the story but I felt that those were written around the sex rather than the sex flowing from the emotional headspace. In this book, I felt like the story was created around a bunch of sex scenes rather than the sex scenes used to highlight any emotional progression.

secrets-of-sin by Chloe Harris Many times in the story I kept asking why. Emiline du Ronde was the daughter of a wealthy African sugar cane plantation owner in the Caribbean. When her father dies and leaves her alone, young and immature and spoiled, Emiline was easy prey for seducer, Reinier Barhydt. Reinier wanted his own ship but he lacked the funds. By marrying Emiline, Reinier got access to her money and her body. He uses both and then takes off to build his shipping empire, abandoning Emiline for four years. After four years of her husband’s absense, Emiline goes to her family lawyer to see about a divorce. When Reinier hears about this, he is enraged. He won’t be a cuckold and he won’t be sloughed off like dead skin. But before he runs to correct his wayward wife, Reinier has to introduce a new whore to the ways of whoredom with his best friend and business partner, Connor.

Why? Why open a book with the hero having sex with his business partner and a whore? What’s the point of that? What does it say about the hero? That he is a licentious philanderer? That sex is meaningless to him? (The business partner and the whore are the main protagonists in the sequel to this book but sequel bait sex scenes don’t set a good stage for a believable romance between the protagonists of this book). Reinier is portrayed as emotionally distraught because Emiline didn’t love him while he loved her. Yet not once do thoughts of Emiline enter Reinier’s mind while he’s pleasuring the whore. He does think of Connor though.

Connor and Reinier have a sexual attraction to each other that is alluded to but never acted upon. The way in which the two inflame each other and the time they’ve spent together alone on ships, one has to wonder why is it all talk and no action? In other words, why the titillation of two men being attracted to each other, two men who engage in menages, yet who are not screwing each other up one side of the captain’s cabin and down the other? At one point, Emiline does confront Reinier about Connor but Reinier never addresses his feelings for Connor, instead dismissing her jealousy as unreasonable.

Like Emiline, however, I felt that the strongest emotional connection was between Reinier and Connor. In one of the opening scenes, Connor gets hard just thinking about Reinier. They love each other, unreservedly:

His affection for Connor, Reinier knew, went beyond what was sane or sensible, but at least it was mutual. Reinier had never questioned it, nor had he ever had reason to. Connor was his friend, his only, best friend.

He was so much more than that if Reinier were completely honest with himself.

Rainier’s emotional insecurity is blamed on his bad, bad childhood and lack of mommy love, but the explanation was too little, too late for me. Further, Rainier never acknowledges that he pursued Emiline for her money, for the express purpose of marrying her and gaining access to the money. His actions are supposed to be offset by the fact that she bragged to her friends about capturing him. However, I never saw Emiline do anything adverse to Rainier. We were told, through Rainier’s words, that Emiline hurt him, but we saw through sex scenes and through Connor’s explanations, that Rainier has been whoring up and down the continental seaboard with Connor.

I felt like there was a mismatch between the character’s actions and what those actions told me as a reader and the words that were said by the characters. This passage is a perfect example:

He noticed her hands were trembling. When she put the cup down on the saucer she was holding with her left hand, it clat- tered. Emiline cleared her throat at the embarrassing noise.

Reinier laughed softly.

“What amuses you?” She was only smiling at him, her stun- ningly bright eyes searching his face, and as always she didn’t have the slightest idea what he was thinking.

“I see that nothing has changed.”

“Oh . . .” Emiline set out, but he rose to leave and she didn’t continue.

Reinier had had enough for the moment. If he’d missed the evening tide, then they had plenty of time to talk before morn- ing. “Since I feel fatigued after the journey, I will retire until supper. I expect you to honor me with your presence, Emiline.”

Her mouth opened and closed a few times, but in the end, she nodded, “Of course.”

Reinier hid his disappointment behind a detached but self- assured smirk, an expression he’d practiced well over the years. He’d have preferred her sneering at him, or screaming she’d rather starve or eat maggots than dine with him. But no, he wouldn’t get any emotional reaction from her.
Emiline. Always polite. Ever the perfect wife.

He wouldn’t get any emotional reaction from her? He was just laughing not a few sentences previously at her trembling fingers, the clattering teacup, and the embarrassing noise she made from her throat. At one point, Reinier is acknowledging that he married Emiline for her money and then he is cursing her for not loving him and running far, far away because she had broken his heart. Or was it because he was obsessed with her and didn’t want to be obsessed. Or was it the call of the sea, his first love? His reasons for abandoning her varied from section to section. I wanted to know what the root cause of their separation was because without knowing, how could I be convinced that being landlocked with Emiline would result in a happy ending?

And that was the crux of my problem with this book. I wasn’t convinced that Emiline and Rainier were happy at the end of the story. There wasn’t enough believable emotional development to accompany the sex scenes. Not even the exotic setting or the multicultural heroine saved this story for me. D

Best regards,


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As an aside, I call the hero “I-can-see-the-hymen-from-my-porch-Renier” because when he and Connor took the whore he saw a “secret” in her girl parts which turns out later to be a half torn hymen. You have to wonder how many hymens Renier’s seen to make that kind of diagnosis.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Ridley
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 17:08:39

    As an aside, I call the hero “I-can-see-the-hymen-from-my-porch-Renier” because when he and Connor took the whore he saw a “secret” in her girl parts which turns out later to be a half torn hymen. You have to wonder how many hymens Renier’s seen to make that kind of diagnosis.


  2. Lynn S.
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 17:28:44

    If you aren’t tired of sifting through the suggestions yet, you might want to try Caressa’s Knees by Annabel Joseph. It’s lighter on the BDSM elements, no degradation, no threesomes or moresomes, and there is a believable connection between the hero and heroine. Fireflies as a romantic element is a given; sharpie markers—well, they are now.

    I find the biggest problem with erotic romance is that erotic tag sticking to the front of it. The predominate skew is towards the sex and sex, in and of itself, isn’t all that romantic nor is it necessarily erotic although it is the main selling feature for the subgenre. They often read like straight erotica and calling them “erotic romance” is nothing more than a marketing strategy.

    Personally, I find truly erotic scenes more often in mainstream romance. The bell tower scene in Loretta Chase’s Your Scandalous Ways comes to mind as a perfect example. An entire chapter and not a bit of it tacked on or superfluous.

  3. Linda S
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 19:49:24

    There are some erotic romances I enjoy, but at the very least they have to have likeable characters. From what you’ve written, there doesn’t seem to be any character to bond with in this one. That torn hymen thing…ick.

  4. Cara Ellison
    Jun 15, 2011 @ 00:00:32

    I thought the sex was hot, but as you noted, I felt there was something more between Connor and Reinier; specifically I felt that there had been sex scenes between them that were edited out. The gaps in the story between the two men were obvious.

  5. Loreen
    Jun 15, 2011 @ 03:07:11

    I am with you on erotic romance being mostly lacking in the romance department. For me, it doesn’t, ahem..”work” if I don’t like the characters and believe that they have a true emotional connection.
    The only erotica author I have ever liked is Annabel Joseph because her characters have a really intense emotional interaction that underlies the sex.
    Mostly what erotica shows me is that human sexuality is a giant messy rainbow. No matter how I try, I cannot get into menage scenes and will either not buy the book or skip over that chapter (à la Joseph). But there must be a lot of women who really enjoy this fantasy. Fascinating!
    It is great that the genre is expanding to include a range of desires, from BDSM to homosexuality to menage.

    On a side note, I get really tired of romances that try to make their heroes interesting by giving them traumatic, abusive childhoods. I mean, people who were abused as children deserve love too, but in real life if I meet a man who says “I am violently angry, wildly promiscuous, and terrified of commitment because my mother didn’t love me,” I will respond, “I am so sorry for your pain. Here is the number of a good therapist. Ta ta!”
    People can be plenty complicated even if they had okay childhoods and love their mothers…

  6. David
    Jun 16, 2011 @ 01:23:10

    this book seems lil gory.. i found some other good resds on a website thati was surfing through.. an online personal assistant n it’ll get u all types of books that u want.. its amazing..

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