Raine
by Elizabeth Amber, historical/fantasy (2008)
Aphrodisia, $12.95, ISBN 978-0-7582-2040-0


Raine is the second book in Elizabeth Amber's The Lords Of Satyr series. May I direct you to my review of the previous book, Nicholas, so that you can get the 101s on the double-wang brothers and why they are running around looking for "FaerieBlend" wives. The heroine in this one is considered a hermaphrodite by some people and in many ways, they may be right.

Raine Satyr couldn't find his FaerieBlend wife in Paris but he finally lucks out in another town in another country: Venice. Once a year, Jordan Cietta travels to Venice with researcher Signore Sarleno who uses her as Las Mascheras or the Masked One (so called because she is always wearing a mask while on display), the main attraction in his medical lecture, one in which you can always pay for a ticket to gape at and touch and examine the "subject" when you attend his lectures. Exclusive and more intimate medical examination requires an exclusive payment, of course, although Sarleno wisely forbids sexual contact during those examination sessions. Thanks to her, he is quite the famed researcher, his lectures always attended by all kinds of people. While Jordan has her share of detractors, she has also gathered a bunch of worshipful fans called the La Mascheras Admiration Society (LAMAS). Imagine that. Just add "Loser" in front of the name of the fan club and we can call them LLAMAS.

Jordan isn't happy with her current situation, but she is pretty much sold to Signore Sarleno by her mother who prefers to live in comfort while her daughter's vaginal canal is constantly being publicly examined by intrigued doctors. What happens is that her mother would inherit the family fortune should she produce a male child, so Sarleno, the surgeon attending Jordan's birth, confirmed Jordan's gender as male. In return, he will get to "borrow" Jordan once a year for his lecture circuit. The mask is therefore necessary to hide Jordan's true identity. For the rest of the year, Jordan has to live out her life as a male. She's not too happy with this since she personally identifies herself as a female.

Raine is dragged to Signore Sarleno's lecture by a bishop who disapproves of Jordan but - and I'm trying very hard not to make a rude joke here about men of the cloth - insists on attending the lecture anyway. But his displeasure evaporates when he lays eyes on Jordan for the first time and... well, let's just say that this is the first romance novel I have read where both hero and heroine sport an erection within seconds of meeting each other. I really have read everything now, cool. And because I know you will ask, yes, the author provided the length. 5.1 inches. Jordan may be a lady, but I suspect that she can put quite a few guys out there to shame, heh.

Raine really kicks into action when Jordan has had enough after Sarleno decides to shove his entire arm up her vaginal canal - before an audience! - in order to determine whether she has an uterus. When the man is distracted before he can put his plan into motion, she makes her escape. Guess who she runs into along the way.

I have to say, this book is a revelation. Raine is very well-written when I compare this to Nicholas, although it too has its share of prose that is rough around the edges. The plot isn't the most inspired, what with its tired perverted-evil-bishop cliché, Raine's unwillingness to father a child, and Jordan's determination to be the martyr of Venice in the last quarter or so of the story. Nonetheless, the sex scenes here are not too purple for me, the characters do come off as credibly besotted with each other, and, unlike Nicholas, Raine isn't that big of an asshole. [spoiler starts] Besides, any alpha male who lets the wife bugger him in the rear end is definitely A-OK with me. [spoiler ends]

Jordan has a tendency to speak like a sassy young lady of today rather than a woman of her time, but then again, apart from the way Ms Amber captures the fascination of the society of that time with all aspects of sexuality, the historical accuracy of the story is most lacking. For example, you may want to steel yourself when a character drops the phrase "hard-on" in his conversation. Back to Jordan, for the most part she is a pretty enjoyable heroine with admittedly modern sensibilities. I especially love just how much she wants and asks for sex from Raine. I love a heroine who isn't afraid to enjoy herself. The heroine's hermaphrodite nature doesn't come off like an exploitative element inserted solely to titillate - the perverted bishop fulfills that role here, heh - and instead, Ms Amber has the heroine going, "Yeah, yeah, I have a penis, but I'd prefer to live as a woman and screw you if you don't like it!" Such attitude may not be accurate in those time, but what the heck, I'll take this Jordan over a dramatic self-loathing martyr. Besides, we are talking about an Italian heroine named Jordan here. She's not going to lay claim on historical authenticity anytime soon.

A part of me is disappointed that Raine isn't a funny over-the-top guilty pleasure, but another part of me is pleased at how much I enjoy this book for the right reasons. This is not a book for you if you don't fancy your erotic fiction to be as unorthodox as what I have described in this review. But if you like something that is "out there" and can take an occasional chunk of prose dripping with purple goo or a lack of historical authenticity in the sensibilities and linguistic nuances in the story, Raine has your name on it.

Rating: 83


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