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Portrait of Desire (MF)

La Belle Epoque 1

Siren-BookStrand, Inc.

Heat Rating: SIZZLING
Word Count: 30,000
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[Siren Classic: Erotic Historical Romance]

1901 promises to be the dawn of a new age, and Vassar-educated socialite Charlotte Benington pursues her dream of painting in Paris, France. Despite the constant matchmaking machinations of her chaperone, she has no interest in such ordinary matters as romance, love and, worst of all, marriage. All that changes when Paul de Sainte enters her life and tips her narrow world upside down.

The handsome, aristocratic, passionate Paul is also an artist, and he sets out to challenge Charlotte's fundamental beliefs about life, love, art and desire. Charlotte finds herself both attracted by Paul's talent and frightened by the intensity of the hunger he awakens within her.

Passions run hot, and events spiral out of control when obsession turns dangerous. Paul captures his beautiful muse in a daring escapade, determined to make her his wife. Will he be able to convince Charlotte that her true freedom lies in his arms...or will he scare her even further away?

A Siren Erotic Romance

Professional Reviews

 "Daring and sophisticated, Portrait of Desire captures the passion and freedom of the turn of the century, 1901, in a compelling tale of desire, discovery, and coming of age in an era when nothing would ever be the same again." -- Romance Readers Weekly: Book Club Selection

5 BLUE RIBBONS: "Kate September's writing sparkles. Her characters are vivid and lifelike. The heat between Charlotte and Paul was positively flaming. One scene in particular will melt your hard drive (small hint: think Demi and Patrick working with clay in Ghost). This is one short story that will leave you completely satisfied.
Charlotte is a young lady who knows what she wants and is willing to challenge the mores of her time to get it. When forced to face her own passion, she is torn between what she wants and her upbringing. She is willing to fight for her career but scared to face her desires. The struggle that she undergoes keeps her character faithful to her times, leading the reader to a better understanding of Charlotte. Paul is full of fire and passion. The intensity of his emotions will burn your fingers as you turn the pages. He can be summed up in one word: YUMMY!
La Belle Epoque: Portrait of Desire is the first in a series by Kate September. If this book is anything to go by, then I am already eagerly awaiting the other two. Ms. September gives us an alluring glimpse at a bygone era, a time filled with passions that never go out of style." --Belle Rouge, Romance Junkies

5 FLOWERS/Superior: "I loved this book. Paul's intensity and passion for Charlotte just screamed off the pages. Yet, I could really understand Charlottes fear of letting herself go with such a strong, alpha male. As a reader, I found myself urging her to submit to him while hoping that she held strong. Paul's resolution was unexpected and shocking, but as a woman, I sighed, wishing that someone would love me enough to do the same. I can heartily recommend this book to anyone who loves romance. Sensually written and full of emotion, Kate September has penned a story that should be on everyone's reading list. I can't wait to read the others in this series!" -- Char, May Reviews/Enchanted in Romance

4 STARS: 2006 Reviewers' Choice Award Nominee: "Portrait of Desire is a compelling story of one young woman determined to be true to herself. She had decided not to marry and she was not going to marry no matter what, but when Charlotte decides to commit she was equally strong in that commitment. Paul was a little overbearing but he redeemed himself nicely in the end. He was so deeply in love with Charlotte that he made a few mistakes. Charlotte had no problem correcting those mistakes.
Kate September did a beautiful job bringing all the characters to life. You really felt what Charlotte and Paul felt. A blossoming artist, Charlotte liked to paint pictures. Kate is equally adept at paining pictures through her words. Fantastic job for Kate September." -- Elise, Ecataromance

4 CUPS: "Portrait of Desire is an intriguing love story. Charlotte's quest for discovery and art is well written, and you can feel her emotional upheavals. Paul is an unusual alpha male. His disapproval of Charlotte is shocking, but by the end his utter devotion is redeeming. The background characters are very much a part of the story, and exactly what one expects in a Belle Epoch romance. The sex was delightful and very hedonistic. Portrait of Desire is part of a trilogy by Siren Publishing, and some of their best work." -- Anya, Coffee Time Romance

4 STARS: "Portrait of Desire is a beautifully written story, full of wonderfully lush prose. The story unfolds slowly and seductively. Readers who like regency romance will enjoy this book. The author clearly knows her art techniques. Furthermore, she creates an excellent sense of time and place with the subtle hints of the social codes for this time period. Charlotte is an engaging young woman who thinks she knows what she wants. Paul is a wonderfully tall, dark, handsome hero but sometimes comes off as a bit obsessive. But then again, artists are supposed to be intense. [T]he sex scenes are wonderfully written." -- Sakura Kai, Just Erotic Romance Reviews

4 ANGELS: "Many people say that artists, especially the ones that paint, are an odd lot and that they go beyond the extreme in how they feel and live. Well, Portrait of Desire with Paul de Sainte is the perfect example. Even though Paul seems insane with his obsessions and his eventual kidnapping of Charlotte, his love for her still shines through. You could not help but sit at the edge of your seat hoping that she picks him. Ms. September's rendering of the era was wonderful; you could almost see the two worlds of the old and the new age colliding. She keeps you wondering how it will end, and the ending is not what you expect. I enjoyed every aspect of this storyline." -- Debbie, Fallen Angel Reviews

4 HEARTS: "Portrait of Desire by Kate September is a steamy, passionate romance. Creative well developed characters such as Charlotte and Paul will entertain the readers. Charlotte wants to be a great painter but is afraid to express her feelings in her art and in her life. She is stubborn and resists any attempt to change her. Paul is handsome, aristocratic, and lonely. He seems to have a tortured soul and seems very vulnerable. The chemistry between the two is electric and sparks fly whenever they are together. Their passionate encounters are described in creatively choreographed and explicit details. The hot steamy scenes are stimulating and are easily visualized through the author's words. They are sure to leave the reader's heart beating a little faster. Portrait of Desire by Kate September is an enjoyable steamy romance sure to please its readers." -- Anita, The Romance Studio

More From La Belle Epoque

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“Now then, let’s work on her body today,” Paul said, a ring of authority in his voice. “Some of your lines are hesitant, especially here and here,” he added, reaching past her to point at the nude’s breasts and sex. “And the legs have very little definition. But most of all, there’s no heartbeat in this body. There’s no sense that you’ve captured anything living.”

“But I meant to paint her flat and lifeless,” Charlotte protested. “I wanted you to feel suffocated when you looked at her.”

“You must first have life in order to make it lifeless,” Paul said. “Here, pick up your brush. Let me show you.”

Obediently, Charlotte took up her brush. To her surprise, Paul wrapped his hand around hers and guided it to the easel. She heard him shift behind her, and looking down, she saw him stretch his long legs, encased in their dark pants, on either side of her. She felt his chest press against her back and his breath on her ear. His scent–warm, sharp, leather and paint–was almost drugging to her.

She tried to focus on what he was doing, to follow the movement of his hand as it guided hers. But she could only focus on how strong yet elegant the line of his hand was, and how utterly distracting the paint smudges on his skin were.

“Do you see what I mean, Charlotte?” Paul asked finally, releasing her hand, though not changing his position.

Starting out of her reverie, Charlotte studied the painting.

“How did you do that?” she exclaimed. “How did you know that just a few lines of darker pigment on a wider brush would make the curves look flat, almost concave? It’s like you’re mocking the fact that in life those are full and round limbs by over-exaggerating the lines. It’s incredible!”

Paul was silent for a moment, and Charlotte could feel the tension in the air.

“Put grey on your brush now,” he said quietly.

Her hand shook slightly, but she obeyed. Again, Paul leaned forward and took her hand in his, moving her hand over the canvas in flowing almost musical motions as if he was conducting a symphony.

“A little bit of grey,” he whispered into her ear. “It turns the pallor of the nude cold, as if her life was being pressed out of her by the pressures of her grey existence and grey hopes. In painting you must not just look, you must feel. Colors surround us. Everything we touch, everything we are, everything we experience–it is all the sum of colors and lines.”

His words, spoken low in her ear, were hypnotic. Charlotte could feel the rumbling of his voice in his chest as it pressed against hers. She could feel the enveloping heat of his body around her. Her eyes drifted closed as she couldn’t help but surrender to the sensation of his hand guiding hers in an eerie dance over the canvas.

“Lift up your hand,” he continued, taking her free hand with his other one and extending her arm out to the side. His grip shifted so that his hand cupped the back of it, his strong fingers loosely laced with hers. He gently moved her hand in a sweeping gesture back and forth through the air. “Feel substance and movement in the air. You cannot see it, or touch it for more than a heartbeat, but you can feel it. And that is what you must put into your painting.”

His voice was like a spell that was winding around her. Charlotte felt her head fall to the side against his shoulder, her lips slightly parted as he whispered his words now against her neck. Her chest rose and fell with deep breaths. Every inch of her felt alive and almost possessed of a strange new energy.

“Painting is not something you do,” Paul whispered, rubbing his rough, stubbly cheek along her neck. “Not if you’re a true artist. Painting is something you are. It is within you. You feel it here,” he added, releasing the hand he held in the air, drawing his own hand back along her arm and down her side until it was splayed across her abdomen.

“You feel it here,” he said, moving his hand slowly up her chest, gently brushing over her breasts until it rested over her heart.

“Oh, God, you feel it here, Charlotte,” Paul murmured, as if in agony, bringing in the hand that was holding her brush-hand, cupping her face, and gently turning it to him.

Charlotte dizzily half-opened her eyes, then closed them as she felt the nearness of his face to hers. Her body felt warm and liquid in his embrace, and her mind was incapable of doing anything but wanting to feel his lips paint a burning trail on her skin, to feel his hands learn the lines of her body, to have those green eyes soak up her colors. She felt the damp heat of his breath against her skin, and she moistened her lips with the tip of her tongue, wanting what she dared not put into words.

Before their lips could touch, there was a heavy footfall outside the door and the murmur of low voices, men’s voices. Paul didn’t seem to pay any mind to it, but Charlotte jumped up and out of Paul’s embrace, ripped from her reverie and blushing furiously. She looked down at Paul, feeling utterly confused and upset. But it was nothing to the pleading and torment in Paul’s eyes as he met her gaze and held out his hands as if to ask her back into his arms. The look only added to the terrifying tumult of her feelings.

The door opened and Master Lafonte walked into the studio, followed by Raoul.


He put down the thick brush and picked up the small, fine brush, dipping it in a deep, burnt orange paint. She gazed at him, feeling drugged from unfulfilled pleasure, suffocated by newborn desire.

He took the brush and made a series of delicate strokes along her inner thigh, coaxing her through the torment of the brush’s whispery touch to spread her legs wider. Charlotte felt her hips roll hungrily with the movements of the brush. Her nipples felt cold and sensitive, covered in paint. She inadvertently brought her hands to her breasts, stopping short just before she touched them, blushingly realizing what she was about to do.

“It’s all right, Charlotte,” Paul whispered raggedly as he continued to paint cool, wet designs on her thighs, inching closer and closer to her sex. “Learn the canvas. Learn your own art.”

With a gasp, Charlotte lowered her fingers to her breasts, feeling the softness of the mounds and moaning as she touched her nipples. Her fingers slipped around the peaks, sliding on the paint and creating new patterns from her pleasure. Unable and unwilling to rein in her need for a release she had never known, Charlotte fell into a rhythm of stroking and thumbing her slippery nipples.

She felt a warm, viscous honey seep out between her legs. But before she could feel embarrassed about it, Paul took the fan brush and swept it between the lips of her sex.

“Oooh,” she moaned as the brush touched her clitoris, sending a throbbing pulse of pleasure radiating out through her body. Paul’s brushstrokes were now focused on her, painting her with her own desire. Abandoning all thought for sweet and wicked sensation, Charlotte feverishly tweaked and worried her slick nipples with her now-paint-stained fingers. She instinctively spread her legs wide so that he could paint whatever pleased him. She felt his brushstrokes go with treacherous softness over and over her clitoris.

“Oh, God!” she cried out as she felt her whole body explode with a starburst of pleasure. From her toes to the tips of her fingers, to her lips and eyelids, every nerve vibrated with a numbing ecstasy.

Dizzily, she tried to focus her eyes on Paul, the consequences of her actions slowly surfacing in her pleasure-drunk mind. She saw that his face was flushed and tight, that he stood above her now. His frame looked tense, and she could see his own desire tenting his trousers. In a moment of panic, she wondered if he was going to fall upon her, to ravish her. The thought both frightened and excited her, stirring her desire from its languor. She knew it would be wrong of him to do that, but she couldn’t get the image of their naked bodies entwined, the paint rubbing into their bodies as they slid together in lovemaking.

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