Beyond Innocence by Emma Holly
(Jove, $6.50, R) ISBN 0-515-13099-0
Emma Holly’s reputation for erotic romance has gained her a wide audience. Beyond Innocence, her first more mainstream historical novel, should create a still wider audience for her. While the sex scenes are plenty hot, they stay pretty mainstream and the plot is good enough for a reader to start turning pages as quickly as possible.

The Earl of Greystowe, Edward Burbrooke, has a problem. His beloved younger brother, Freddie, has been caught fooling with the servants again. Ordinarily, that might not be a problem - excep Freddie fools around with the male servants. Edward is desperate to keep his brother from public humiliation and sure if Freddie would just put his mind to it, he would find a nice girl to marry. Surely marriage would help him overcome his unfortunate tendencies. Since Freddie won’t help himself, Edward sets to finding his brother a bride.

With the help of his solicitor and aunt, they find a likely marriage candidate. Florence Fairleigh, an orphaned vicar’s daughter, is looking for a kind husband to support her in a comfortable marriage. She is naïve and desperate - a good combination for Edward’s scheme. Florence also looks very delectable undressed. Edward gets a good peep at her at the dressmaker’s shop as she stands there in her undergarments and, given his own violent reaction to her half-naked charms, Edward is sure she can cure Freddie.

As a modern reader would expect, Edward’s plans do not go the way he wants them to. Freddie and Florence get engaged but Florence keeps realizing that Freddie’s disapproving older brother makes her go weak when Freddie only elicits friendly feelings from her. Edward doesn’t go weak at all - if anything he just gets more aroused by the moment. He vows over and over to keep from toying with his little brother’s betrothed and fails spectacularly. Meanwhile Freddie, miserable at being forced into the whole situation, keeps trying to escape in a gentlemanly way, especially when he finds the right person for him.

The hero and heroine certainly generate enough heat. While in real life a woman might feel compelled to slap Edward once he voiced his stern notions of what should and should not be done with his and others’ lives, in the story the reader is captivated. Florence is equally mesmerized by Edward. She may not always understand what is going on in his lust-filled mind but she figures out enough at the right times to keep things sizzling. Edward’s feelings for Florence force him to rethink what he demands from himself and the people around him.

There are lots of things that are imperfect in the story. Other reviewers have complained about the historical inaccuracy in some areas. The heroine’s anger and sudden forgiveness of Edward could be done better. In the end, though, all the minor mistakes remain minor because this book will keep you reading until the end and definitely wanting more.

--Irene Williams

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