by Charlotte Lovejoy, historical (2009)
Signet, $15.00, ISBN 978-0-451-22597-9
Someone thought it would be wise to market Madame Bliss as an erotic historical romance. While this story does have a romantic happily ever after in store for Mary Wren, our heroine, it is hardly the focus of the story. The subtitle of this book, The Erotic Adventures Of A Lady, is accurate - this story is more about Mary throwing her skirts up and going "Wheeee!" at the boys, if you know what I mean, than anything else.
Mary was actually a baby found in the countryside by a genteel lady, who proceeded to take her in and have her raised to become a member of her household. When she is about sixteen, Mary falls in love with the handsome John Lyon, said to be the boytoy of her guardian's friend. Okay, maybe "fall in love" is too mild a phrase, as Mary would have given everything up to John during their first meeting if they weren't interrupted. Either he has moves like Jagger or she is easier than ABC. Soon they are going at it like bunnies, but alas, they are soon discovered by their respective guardians. They barely have time to have one last shag before John is pressed into service in India and Mary finds herself in the company of a naughty woman, Calliope, who shows her how to conquer London by shaking what God gave her. Hence Mary becomes Marianna Wren, Madame Bliss.
For a work of historical erotica, this one is more mischievous than outright raunchy. This one has ménage à trois bedroom games, private part shaving, lesbian scenes, and such, but it is not as descriptive as I'd expect. Ms Lovejoy go into explicit details too thoroughly, she relies instead on setting up a scene and building up the reader's erotic anticipation to create erotic tension. This is a nice approach, I find. Unfortunately, the story lacks a certain spark, mostly because Mary is a pretty dull character in her own right. It is hard to root for her "success" when she doesn't do anything to earn it. Calliope is the one who puts into motions things that end up benefitting Mary. Mary is just lucky. In fact, the author knows this - late in the book, she actually tells me that Mary is lucky because she's the heroine, and that's how things will roll in this story. And indeed, this is exactly what this story is - Mary just being lucky as she benefits from the generosity and kindness of others, without doing anything other than to be born beautiful.
The author tries to introduce some superficial character development, such as Mary supposedly becoming older and wiser while staying true to herself, just like Britney Spears would say in her autobiography. But all that character development is negated by Mary finding her happily ever after with the most superficial and poorly written bloke in this story. Older and wiser? Rubbish - the lesson here, kids, is that, at the end of the day, all that sparkling teeth and beautiful physiques will gravitate toward each other even if they claim to have become wise enough to see beyond the superficial pretty.
I do like the author's style and voice, and her more subdued but still effective brand of eroticism works for me. It's just too bad that the main character in this heroine-centric romp is such a bland and uninteresting twit. I like this one, but I'm not as enamored of Madame Bliss as I'd have liked to be.
This book at Amazon.com
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