Review & Excerpt: It Stings So Sweet by Stephanie Draven

It Stings So Sweet
By: Stephanie Draven
Publisher: Berkley
Published: Feb. 5, 2013
Genre: Historical Erotic Romance

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They vibrated with incendiary Jazz. They teemed with sexual abandon.
The Twenties were roaring and the women—young, open, rebellious, and willing—set the pace and pushed the limits with every man they met…
 In the aftermath of a wild, liquor-soaked party, three women from very different social classes are about to live out their forbidden desires.

Society girl, Nora Richardson’s passionate nature has always been a challenge to her ever-patient husband. Now he wants out of the marriage and she has just this one night to win him back. The catch? He wants to punish her for her bad behavior. Nora is offended by her husband’s increasingly depraved demands, but as the night unfolds, she discovers her own true nature and that the line between pain and pleasure is very thin indeed.

Meanwhile, Clara Cartwright, sultry siren of the silent screen, is introduced to a mysterious WWI Flying Ace. If Clara, darling of the scandal sheets, knows anything, it’s men. And she’s known plenty. But none of them push her boundaries like the aviator, who lures her into a ménage with a stranger in a darkened cinema then steals her jaded heart.

Working class girl Sophie O’Brien has more important things on her mind than pleasures of the flesh. But when her playboy boss, the wealthy heir to the Aster family fortune, confronts her with her diary of secret sex fantasies, she could die of shame. To her surprise, he doesn’t fire her; instead, he dares her to re-enact her boldest fantasies and Sophie is utterly seduced.

One party serves as a catalyst of sexual awakening. And in an age when anything goes, three women discover that anything is possible

At home, from the safe height of my fancy penthouse apartment with its gilded furniture and velvet drapes, I find my stash in the sideboard and pour myself a shot of hooch. Downing it too quickly, I cough at the burn. Then I wipe my lips and hurriedly hide the evidence of my distress only moments before the doorman brings me the red roses and the note attached.The man who sent them is waiting downstairs.

“Can’t you shoo him away, Charlie?”

“He’s not the sort to be given the bum’s rush, madam,” the doorman replies.

No, I don’t suppose he is. Leo Vanderberg has come at the worst time, but I find that I want to see him. Maybe the reckless aviator is just the tonic I need. “Alright, send him up. Wait fifteen minutes, then have the car brought around, won’t you?”

The penthouse, the doorman, and the driver are all perks of being a kept woman. I can afford without Teddy Morgan’s generosity, of course. But like I said before, I never turn down a gift. The days when I was clawing for crumbs in a cold one-bedroom apartment are over, but I haven’t forgotten them and I’m never going back.

When I hear the aviator’s footsteps in the hall, my pulse quickens. I can see his lean body in my mind’s eye, and those dark looks, hot and heavy. I still remember what he whispered in my ear, and it makes me a little shaky to think of it. I don’t have to guess what he wants.

When he comes in, I don’t turn around right away. “Why, Mr. Vanderberg, I didn’t expect to see you again so soon, much less bearing gifts,” I say, arranging the roses so that blooms are on fine display. I have to admit, their perfume lifts my spirits. “Are you falling in love with me?”

“Of course not. That would ruin the whole arrangement.”

I want to turn around and look him in the eye, but I don’t. “What arrangement would that be?”

“The one where I’m planning to debauch you and you’re planning to let me.”

My lips part in amusement. “I’m afraid I was thoroughly debauched long ago.”

“I’d like to test that—” He catches his breath when I finally turn from the mirror. He has both hands in his pockets, a languid slope to his shoulders, a snappy hat shadowing his face, but he can’t hide his surprise.

And his wide-eyed astonishment makes me laugh. “What’s the matter, Ace? Haven’t you ever seen a girl without powder on her nose before?”

“I—I just . . . I just need a second to get used to it, is all.”

“Is my skirt too long, my hat too wide, or don’t you recognize me without my war paint?”

“You look younger . . .”

“Like a farm-fresh freckled milkmaid? Like a sweet daisy ready to be plucked from a field?”

He shrugs. “Something like that.”

“Well, don’t let the baby face fool you. I only go out like this when I don’t want anyone to recognize me.”

“You’re Clara Cartwright. Why the devil wouldn’t you want anyone to recognize you?”

There is nothing I can do but lie. “Because, I’m going to a matinee at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. I can’t go there looking like myself. My handprints are in the concrete forecourt right next to Charlie Chaplin’s. I’d spend the whole afternoon signing autographs.”

He smirks. “Must be hard to be you.”

“Positively a trial.”

He’s still smirking—and I see it’s his natural expression, as if he has the utmost contempt for the whole world. “If you’re going to the matinee, Clara, let me take you. My treat.”

My voice is low and husky with regret. “I’m not interested, Mr. Vanderberg.”

“Yes you are. And like I said before, you can call me Leo.”

“I haven’t decided if I want to be on a first-name basis. At the party I got the impression you weren’t just another wet blanket . . . you seemed reckless. A little bit dangerous. But flowers and a movie? Rather conventional, wouldn’t you say?”

“The courtship’s for your benefit, doll, not mine.” Then he leans in and everything turns deadly serious. “See, it’s like this. When you’re in bed with me, squirming in embarrassment for all the filthy things you’ve let me do to you, it should comfort you to remember that I did court you as a lady . . . even though I intend to treat you as anything but.”


This book contains 3 separate but entwined stories. Some characters from the main story make appearances in the others and everything always comes back to the party that started it all.

Love Me or Leave Me
Nora and Jonathan are on the brink of a divorce due to Nora kissing another man. Jonathan is livid and when Nora claims that she’ll do whatever he wants to prove that she loves him, he has her dance with other men at the party to see if he can figure out who the mystery man is. But when he finds out who that guy is, he punches the guy which starts a fight.

I must say that I wasn’t overly sympathetic to Nora. She was spoiled and well, I’m not a huge fan of cheating. However, towards the end of the story I was rooting for them.

When I’m Bad I’m Better
Clara is a big name movie star. The party that takes place is in honor of her. She’s not one for serious relationships. In fact she’s content to be the mistress to the biggest pocket. Leo has admired her on screen well before they met. He actually has a sex tape that she starred in. In fact, Clara would like nothing more than destroy the tape and forget about it. However, Leo has other plans. If Clara lets Leo take the reigns on her sex life for a little while he will give her back the tape.

Leo and Clara were interesting characters. Leo knew how to push Clara to new limits and always seemed to know what she’d like. Their exploration of each other was an interesting read. I must admit that I wasn’t a whole fan of the blackmailing that takes place in the beginning but once Leo started to show his feelings towards her, it lessened the blow.

Let’s Misbehave
Sophie’s boss calls her into his office to discuss something that’s been brought to his attention. Her fantasy diary was confiscated from her work locker. However, instead of reprimanding her, Robert suggest they play a game. They will act out the fantasies in her diary.

Robert was in all three stories and it was nice to see him get his own story. Their encounter is innocent and a lot slower moving than the previous two. However, it doesn’t take long for things to heat up.

Considering that I’m not a short stories person, I really enjoyed this. I think it helped that all the stories were intertwined, so we got to meet the characters before their stories began. Even though a couple of the circumstances were less than ideal, I still really enjoyed the book as a whole. Since it is 3 short stories, there isn’t a lot of filler. The author gets right down to business, sometimes quite literally, with her writing. This is a great story for anyone who is a fan of romance and novellas containing a bit of smut.

“I hope your list numbers in the hundreds… this way, when you admit I’m the best you’ve ever had, it’ll really mean something?” -Leo


STEPHANIE DRAVEN is a bestselling, award-winning and RITA-nominated author of historical, paranormal, and contemporary romance. Her newest project, IT STINGS SO SWEET is a collection of 1920s historical erotic romances that celebrate sex, women, and the Jazz Age. Her most recent novel with Entangled Publishing, IN BED WITH THE OPPOSITION, is a mix of humor and sex-appeal set against the backdrop of a zany political campaign inspired by the career of Baltimore legend William Donald Schaefer. Both novels are fun departures from her more serious Greek mythology-inspired series for Harlequin’s Nocturne line, the debut novel of which was nominated by Romantic Times for Best First Series. The series has earned critical praise for its originality and awareness of social issues and garnered the 2012 SWIRL award for excellence in multi-cultural romance literature as well as the CataRomance’s Reviewers Choice Award. Writing historical fiction about Cleopatra’s daughter as Stephanie Dray, she won the Golden Leaf Award for SONG OF THE NILE. Stephanie is currently a denizen of Baltimore, that city of ravens and purple night skies. She lives there with her favorite nocturnal creatures–three scheming cats and a deliciously wicked husband. And when she is not busy with dark domestic rituals, she writes her books.

One Thought on “Review & Excerpt: It Stings So Sweet by Stephanie Draven

  1. Ya now, I usually avoid erotica, and while I won’t review on my blog since I do YA..this sounds so good, and it appears to have an actual plot. Is it really listed as erotica by publisher?

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