Hot Under The Collar was purchased in 2012 and then promptly placed in the TBR pile where it languished until recently. When Courtney Milan suggested we all review Jackie Barbosa's work as a show of support, I had already begun reading it. (The problem I have with Jackie Barbosa is that I love her voice but I've lost interest in erotic fiction. When we're out of bed, she's one of my favorite authors. When we hit the sheets she's just as skilled but I'm wandering off.) With all of those caveats and disclaimers in place, I really enjoyed Hot Under The Collar.
Barbosa avoids a number of pitfalls in her fairly conventional setup of reluctant Vicar and former Courtesan. The first, of course, is that the pairing is completely expected. Vicars never seem to fall for young women of deep faith and enduring piety. The second is that Artemisia, the courtesan in question, is not unknown to Walter, our vicar. Before his injury in the military Walter was an underfunded pleasure seeker who admired Artemisia from afar. There was a danger that she would be something he earned, the nice guy rewarded with the dream girl. Barbosa does a good job of having them earn each other. Artemisia is lonely, yes, but she's not desperate. Walter is not obsessed with her because of her former status but because he enjoys her as she is then and now.
Hot Under The Collar presents two facts about Artemisia and Walter early then leaves them alone. Walter's injury is manageable. He's not impeded in his life nor obsessed with it. There's no detailed scar kissing scene or wallowing in man pain. He got shot, it sucked, he moved on. For Artemisia's part she was ruined and subsequently is infertile. These are facts in her life, not tragic flaws. Walter explains he cares about neither and he means it. She doesn't run and hide from who she is or from his acceptance of it. The objections and obstacles to their relationship are appropriate and appropriately dealt with. I understood the reason for one late arrival's introduction but he wasn't needed. Walter's discovery that true faith adds to lives instead of diminishing them worked without it.
If Barbosa ever decides to write a full length standard Regency I'm completely in.
* This review originally appeared at Love In The Margins.