Doll - Juniper Bell I came to know of Juniper Bell’s work when Beth Kery hosted her at her blog during a recent contest. There was the usual synopsis and an excerpt from “Doll” and an interview with the author. The story immediately attracted me and I visited Ms. Bell’s, website where she provides a free “chapter” which is about 7 pages long called “Doll Interrupted.” This is essentially the prologue to Chloe Barnes’ story and after reading it I thought it may well be the kind of emotional erotic contemporary romance I’ve been enjoying lately.

Raised by older conservative and very restrictive parents, Chloe enjoyed a little freedom during summers spent on the picturesque, quiet island of Bellhaven. It was there she met “Andrew Garwood,” the cool guy, five years her senior who summered on Bellhaven with his upper class wealthy parents and frat boy buddies. Chloe idolized the handsome Andrew and when he showed her attention and asked her out the naive young woman fell in ‘love’ with the handsome local “god”. She was 18 years old when she became his wife, his prisoner, his “doll.”

Andrew Garwood is written as a verbally abusive, sexual deviant who treated his young, beautiful and vulnerable wife like property to be paraded around in front of his “buddies” in provocative outfits and used like a sex toy. Andrew is essentially a degenerate bully who got his jollies by demoralizing and humiliating his wife.

Chloe tolerated the abuse for 10 years. Then, Andrew sets his eye on a Senate seat and when he tries to prostitute Chloe for political favors, she finally “hits the wall” and files for divorce. At the opening of the novella "Doll" Chloe has been legally separated from Andrew for 1 1/2 years and is in a precarious position because he is threatening to keep their 2 young daughters whom she loves beyond measure. She wants custody of her girls but doesn’t have the money to hire legal counsel to assist her. Andrew is using his children as a bargining chip in the divorce settlement.

Chloe’s parents have passed away and left her the family cottage on Bellhaven. She returns there planning to arrange the sale of the property so she will have enough money to finance a lawyer.

Dustin MacDougal is a fisherman and Bellhaven permanent resident, a man of strength and integrity who has made his way through hard work. He is the complete opposite of Andrew and I really liked the juxtaposition the author crafted between the two men. When he lays eyes on the beautiful, delicate Chloe Barnes on the dock he can see her fragility and offers to help get her settled in the cottage. Dustin remembers the “pixie-like" Chloe and had a crush on her as a teen. He always wondered why she married Andrew who he knew as an arrogant bully. Dustin despised Andrew Garwood.

Chloe is wary of Dustin’s kindness but memories of his integrity and compassion toward her as a teenager come flooding back and she turns to him to show her sexual pleasure. I did have a little difficulty with the speed in which their sexual relationship developed because she is a woman who had endured 10 years of abuse at the hands of her husband. However, this is a 62 page novella and given the limited page time, the author penned Chloe’s early exploration into a healthy sensual relationship with a gentle and caring man extremely well. Ms. Bell also describes Chloe’s emotional turmoil and her difficulties dealing with flashbacks of her husband’s abuse effectively. That being said, I think Chloe Barnes' story would have made a wonderful novel.

Trouble arrives in spades and I had to keep turning the pages to see how Ms. Bell was going to give Chloe, her girls and Dustin their happy ending. I wasn’t disappointed. If you are interested in reading "Doll" I would strongly suggest you visit Ms. Bell's site and read "Doll Interrupted" first. Finally, I have to say, I love the cover art for "Doll,” it is perfect. :)