Enchanting Pleasures
by Eloisa James, historical (2001)
Delacorte, $21.95, ISBN 0-385-33362-5


The sound you hear is Connie Mason falling off the pedestal that is reserved for the Queen of Lurid Big Misunderstanding Plots. Move over, Grandma Mason, we have a younger reigning Queen now. Meet Eloisa James, purveyor of tiny lil' misunderstandings in a plot that will either make you burst a blood vessel or laugh at the silliness of it all. Enchanting Pleasures, the third in her perversely titled Pleasures books, isn't as agonizing a hemorrhage material as her previous two books. It's either a sign of quality upgrade or that I know what to expect this time around and hence in a mood to enjoy the whole nonsense.

Quill Dewland has a problem - he gets motion sickness, sort of like Penelopé Cruz's character in Woman On Top. In that movie, Cruz's character Isabella solves everything by being on top in everything including while having sex. Maybe Quill should have seen that movie. Becomes he sure doesn't have a clue in this story.

He is supposed to marry Gabrielle Jerningham in an arrangement made by their parents, but he's, you know, sick that way. But that is before he sees Gabby. He sees her and - phwoar, baby. Let Big Daddy at those hot hoochie mamas, hubba hubba. So they marry. And that's when the fun starts.

Quill won't have sex with Gabby. He doesn't want her to see his weakness, poor man. Gabby asks him why, and of course he must snap at her. What a tramp, what sort of pure woman would dare demand sex from her husband, eh? What sort of woman has he married? Oh, that woman! But Gabby is a stereotypical bluestocking, the sort that makes head-banging-against-wall-until-the-wall-finally-breaks-down an artform, determined to make the marriage real. So they do the deed.

"Ooohhhh!" Quill groans as he has this bad headache for days.

"Oh no, it's my fault!" Gabby whines, wringing her hands. "I will never ask you for sex ever again, my darling husband!"

"What?!!" Quill sits up and yells. "You have it so good, now you want to cheat on me with other men, huh? Tramp, admit it - you tramp! You wanna spread around, tramp! Well, we'll see about that. I'll get me a mistress, see if I don't!"

"What?!!" Gabby shrieks, horrified that a man would ever suggest that a pure womyn like her even like sex. "How dare you? Uhuuuurgh, uhuuurgh, waaa..."

Fun. Gabby is like a demented Florence Nightingale, catering to Quill hands and feet - "Darling? Do I please you now? Please, say you love me, darlin'? Tell me I make you happy!" and Quill responds by behaving like a demented Homer Simpson. He sees demons and infidelity and betrayal in every other thing Gabby does and proceeds to humiliate her or snap at her. It's like reading about a senile bulldog and a clucking chicken trapped in a tiny coop together.

This author shows a marked improvement when it comes to characters. Gabby isn't a complete loss - she has some spine, not like the two brain-free twits of her previous books. Likewise, the secondary characters, while completely unnecessary and just take up scenery, are actually better developed than the hero. Now someone please tell this author to buck up on the hero and plot department. Or if that's too much work, stop writing in such serious tone and just go corny and cheesy ala Connie Mason.

Either way, Ms James is almost there. The world and me await the next "pleasurable" book with popcorns and bated breath.

Rating: 55


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