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La Bonne by Michele de Lully

Dear Mademoiselle de Lully,

Several readers recommended this book to me as the ultimate f/f/m ménage romance. They were all absolutely right. I bought it on Christmas Day (using my new kindle!) and I'm so glad I did. La Bonne was a delight from start to finish.

La Bonne by Michele de LullyI'm not going to include the back-cover description because it's overcomplicated and confusing. If not for the strong word of mouth, that muddled blurb would have deterred me from buying. Dear Samhain-’this story deserves better.

La Bonne (The Maid) is told in first person point of view from (you guessed it) the maid's perspective. This character remains nameless. The fact that I didn’t even notice is a testament to your storytelling skills. When I referred back to the text to look for a name, I got wrapped up in the fairytale romance again and enjoyed it even more the second time around. Oh, Mlle. de Lully. You are good.

Writing a review–or a blurb–is difficult when the  heroine has no name, but I will try to do her justice.   The maid is a plucky, plainspoken young woman. She's low-class, hard-edged, and down on her luck. No one has ever treated her with kindness or respect, so she doesn't value herself or feel entitled to anything. She knows her station in life and accepts it without flinching.

When the story opens, the maid has been arrested for prostitution. She’s left her loser boyfriend and is out walking the streets when a handsome older gentleman (really an undercover police officer) asks her for a paid date. She’s cuffed before she can turn her first trick. After three months at a halfway house, she's released on a probationary period to work as a servant at the illustrious Cheroigne House. Dame Cheroigne is involved in many charitable pursuits, including the rehabilitation of wayward girls. If the maid does an exemplary job, she won't go to jail.

During the maid's employment interview, the Dame's granddaughter comes sailing down the stairs in a designer gown. Amanda is a present-day princess, pure and unspoiled and achingly lovely. She needs help fastening her dress. The maid jumps to the task, dazzled by fine fabric and flawless skin. Amanda requests the maid as her personal assistant. She doesn't have any friends her own age and longs for a fun female confidant.

The Dame doesn't consider the maid a good influence, but she indulges Amanda for a very cunning reason.

The maid and the princess hit it off well. Amanda is an adventurous spirit, eager to break free from the restrictions of propriety. The maid, in turn, feels a wicked compulsion to coax some naughtiness out of her. When she advises the princess to go bare beneath her revealing ball gown, Amanda complies easily.

Without the underclothes, the dress clung to her like paint, making a surface so smooth and shiny I could barely resist running my hands over it. "This dress shouldn't be worn with underthings."

The stunningly beautiful woman in the mirror agreed. She didn't look like an innocent child anymore. I couldn't imagine any man not breaking his neck when she walked by. Yes, I was envious, but only a little. Mostly I was just in awe. Amanda was too sweet to envy, too pure for spite.

Amanda's betrothed, Petros, a Greek prince, is equally delicious:

When I first saw His Highness, I forgot to breathe.

I was expecting some stuffed shirt, either a tweedy, arrogant young man or a fat, arrogant, old one. What I saw was a Mediterranean concoction that melted my knees, a honey-brown liqueur that I wanted to drink until I drowned in it. His stylish suit could not conceal the hardness of his body, lean and lithe and graceful at every turn. His black eyes saw everything, and when they swept over me I wilted, shamed by my desire.

Petros has been engaged to Amanda since she was twelve and their marriage will be an “affair of the state.” He sees the princess as a child; or worse, his duty. He treats her with the utmost care and deference, but there's no passion between them. Amanda is too naive to realize anything is amiss. When the maid informs her that Petros kisses her like a sister, she bursts into tears.

Amanda wants to learn how to kiss Petros like a mature, desirable woman. The maid offers herself as an instructor, and the two women share an intensely erotic kiss. Aroused and unsettled, the maid retires to her room.

Changing into my nightgown, I wondered what had just happened. Her eagerness I could understand. She was young, inexperienced, untouched. Anything would feel good to her. But what about me? Was three months off men enough to sign me up for the other team?

Not quite. The maid continues to tutor Amanda at night but she never loses her interest in men, particularly Petros. She takes a vicarious thrill in seeing Amanda in his arms. The make such a beautiful couple that the maid feels excited just to be near them. For the first time, she has a chance to do something good in her life, by helping Amanda catch her prince.

When Petros invites Amanda on a Mediterranean cruise on his private yacht, the princess insists on having her maid chaperone.

The Dame pulls the maid aside for a stern warning. Amanda must come home a virgin, and prove it by a doctor's exam, or the marriage will not take place. The maid is to protect the princess's chastity by offering her body to Petros for relief. If she fails, she'll be released from her position and sent to jail. The maid has no choice but to comply. She must betray Amanda's trust, and ensure the royal engagement.

The tension on the cruise is sizzling. Amanda and the maid are treated like goddesses by Petros and his crew of loyal, prestigious sailors. Petros is a perfect gentleman, noble and gracious, but he’s also a bit of a playboy, in no hurry to set a wedding date. The princess has blossomed under the maid's tutelage, however, and their special friendship doesn't escape his notice. There's a priceless scene in which the women rub each other down with sunblock on the deck of the yacht, torturing a mesmerized Petros.

At night, in the stateroom they share, Amanda and the maid share every kind of pleasure imaginable.

I was thoroughly confused, and not a little ashamed-The things she had done to me surprised me, but the way I reacted to them terrified me. I had accepted being sent out here to relieve sexual tension. If Amanda was the one who had to be serviced instead of Petros, well, one had to have a certain amount of flexibility in these affairs.

But what I was doing with Amanda was more than service. It felt, to me, like love.

The maid decides she can't hurt Amanda by sleeping with Petros, although she longs to. The steamy sessions with the princess have made her desperate for a man's touch. Complicating matters, Petros recognizes the maid's honor and finds her irresistible. She can't help but be enamored of him in return. They are kindred spirits, bound by duty, resigned to their fate.

Amanda wants Petros and the maid. The maid wants Petros and Amanda. Petros wants the maid and Amanda. Who will live happily ever after?

The resolution is erotic, romantic, and ultimately satisfying for all parties. It’s a fairytale ending for a girl who was born from nothing, expected nothing, and gets everything she'd never dared to dream of. I really liked the mix of heart and humor, fantasy and realism. I also loved the brassy narrative voice and deft characterization of the maid, a noble young woman who doesn’t recognize her own worth.

I challenge anyone to read La Bonne and not be charmed. A

Available in ebook and print.

Best regards,

Jill

Book Link | Kindle | nook | Sony| Samhain

Guest Reviewer

25 Comments

  1. Jane
    Jan 19, 2011 @ 15:43:09

    This cover…so horrible even if the book is good. Or in spite of the great content.

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  2. Janine
    Jan 19, 2011 @ 15:49:07

    This book sounds wonderful. Sold!

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  3. Christine M.
    Jan 19, 2011 @ 16:14:13

    Is it a comptemporary setting?

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  4. Michele de Lully
    Jan 19, 2011 @ 16:54:26

    Thank you so much for the nice review!

    A fun fact: La Bonne was rejected by one publishing house because “there is no Greek Royal family.” It never occurred to me that there needed to be one; as it turns out, there is, but they’re all pasty-white Germans.

    I have to confess, though, that the back-cover blurb is my fault. :blush:

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  5. Jill Sorenson
    Jan 19, 2011 @ 17:02:28

    @Jane: I agree that the cover isn’t great. I think it gives the impression that the maid is intruding on married bliss, which is not accurate at all.

    @Janine: Well, yay! Hope you enjoy it.

    @Christine M.: It’s contemporary, but sort of timeless. Modern values are not important at Cheroigne House, the princess is sheltered from the outside world, etc.

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  6. Lynn S.
    Jan 19, 2011 @ 17:43:26

    Jill,

    Happy Wednesday. I'm one of those who recommended this book to you when you mentioned your quest for good f/f/m erotica in your review of The Gift. So glad that you not only liked it, but loved it. All of her works, though contemporary, seem to exist in a world of their own. With regard to the anonymity of the heroine, she uses this to phenomenal effect in La Ceinture. I enjoyed Ms. De Lully's comment about “no Greek Royal family”. Did they not realize she was submitting a work of fiction? Here's hoping she writes many more.

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  7. LVLMLeah
    Jan 19, 2011 @ 17:50:42

    I read this book way back and absolutely loved it! One of those rare f/f/m books that mixes innocence with the erotic while also building up a nice love story. I’m glad it got reviewed here at DA to give it the exposure it deserves.

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  8. Jan
    Jan 19, 2011 @ 18:09:25

    Oooooh. Great review, it’s very enticing to try it out. So I will :)

    I’m curious about the French name and title though. Just fashionable or a particular reason?

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  9. Jan
    Jan 19, 2011 @ 18:11:00

    Alas, I went on to click on the Book Link after my comment, but it links to an unauthorized seventh Harry Potter novel, instead of to this book.

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  10. Jill Sorenson
    Jan 19, 2011 @ 19:01:03

    @Michele de Lully: You’re so welcome! Thanks for a lovely story.

    @Lynn S.: “All of her works, though contemporary, seem to exist in a world of their own.”

    That’s a great way to put it. I’m going to buy her print anthology and see if I agree. Thank you again (and @LVLMLeah:) for the rec.

    @Jan: The story is set in France. Sorry about the link. The others work, including the ones I included in the body of my review.

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  11. Jane
    Jan 19, 2011 @ 19:08:36

    @Jan It actually links to “Unauthorized Harry Potter Book Seven News: “Half-Blood Prince” Analysis and Speculation ” on goodreads which I guess is the default for my wonky goodreads template link. Am changing. (We are not linking to unauthorized copies of books, just to be clear.

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  12. Jan
    Jan 19, 2011 @ 19:40:26

    @Jane:
    Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to imply you linked to unauthorized copies (which in any case would still be only a record and not an actual file, since it’s on Goodreads).

    I probably just glanced over the 2nd part of the title one I realized it wasn’t La Bonne.

    Link mistake besides, I’ve added this to my TBR list, and am quite looking forward to it.

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  13. Jane
    Jan 20, 2011 @ 02:09:12

    @Jan: No, I didn’t think you did but I just wanted to clarify because authors are super touchy these days about piracy.

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  14. Hannah
    Jan 20, 2011 @ 08:30:08

    I purchased and read this book after supper last night. Thanks for the review, Jill–and well done, Mlle de Lully!

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  15. Jill Sorenson
    Jan 20, 2011 @ 09:13:32

    @Hannah: You’re welcome! Glad you enjoyed it.

    @Jan: Let me know what you think! I really could have gone on and on about this one. There’s a scene between the maid and her thug ex-boyfriend that I wanted to include because it revealed the maid’s true character to perfection and just won me over completely. I’d marked so many passages to quote. I had to restrain myself!

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  16. Cathy in AK
    Jan 20, 2011 @ 09:32:53

    I’m not usually a fan of contemporaries that don’t have something else going on, like a mystery or suspense element, but this one sounds good enough to put those biases aside : ) Thanks!

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  17. kirsten saell
    Jan 20, 2011 @ 12:12:19

    Oh yes yes yes yes.

    This book is the one I measure my own writing against. I’ll ask myself, “Would Michele de Lully approve?” LOL

    And yes, it’s contemporary, but the lavishness of the prose and the depth of emotion between the characters gives it the intensity of…something else entirely. And the first person POV was handled so brilliantly, it gave me a sense of immediacy and connection with the main character that left me breathless. Brilliant.

    I, as well, didn’t realize the maid had no name until I went back and looked for it.

    The eroticism was…gritty and pure at the same time. If that makes sense.

    I’m so glad you reviewed this one, Jill. I hope Ms. De Lully gets a nice spike in sales from it, too–not just for La Bonne, but for La Ceinture and La Queue de Cheval as well, which were just as wonderful in their way.

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  18. Joy
    Jan 20, 2011 @ 12:24:05

    I thought Prince Philip was a member of the Greek royal family, so there has to be one, and it seems like royal marriages are right up their alley.

    *googles*

    Oooh, the Greek Royal family is the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg! And the current Prince Philippos is kinda cute, even for a non-royal.

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  19. Jill Sorenson
    Jan 20, 2011 @ 13:51:46

    @Cathy in AK: It’s an emotionally suspenseful read, if that makes sense. The maid’s multi-layered dilemma keeps the tension high, as does the seeming impossibility of an HEA.

    @kirsten saell: (laughs) I was going to say the prose was “frank and flowery”. You’re right, the explicit sex didn’t seem excessive or take away from the sweetness of the love story.

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  20. Reader
    Jan 20, 2011 @ 19:22:07

    I agree that La Bonne is a wonderful f/f/m erotic romance. I would suggest trying Wickedly Wanton by Kristabel Reed. It is a f/f/m regency erotic romance. It is not quite as good as La Bonne, but that is not unexpected since La Bonne is soooo good.

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  21. Jaclyn
    Jan 20, 2011 @ 20:10:53

    Oooh, I read La Queue de Cheval and didn’t know Ms du Lully had another book out; I will definitely go buy this one.

    La Queue de Cheval made me blush. At the same time, there was a very good emotional arc and I cared about the characters.

    If this book is anything like LQdC, I see pink cheeks and a lovely emotional story in my future. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

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  22. Jill Sorenson
    Jan 21, 2011 @ 10:47:29

    @Reader: Thanks for the rec. The cover is very naked! but the excerpt isn’t awful. Adding it to my list.

    @Jaclyn: Mrs. G gave that one a glowing review. I’m looking forward to reading it. The French titles throw me off a little. I thought La Bonne meant The Beauty even after I’d read the whole thing.

    Hope everyone enjoys this as much as I did! It’s nice to see so many de Lully fans in the comments.

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  23. Author On Vacation
    Jan 21, 2011 @ 15:12:20

    Michele de Lully = one author who knows the difference between porn and erotica and knows how to write erotica.

    I’ve read two of her books and I admit I found them as unsettling as satisfying. Her voice is rich and unique. Her powerful grasp upon emotional depth in the characters and situations resonates throughout the reading experience. Some of the erotica itself glides beyond my “comfort zone,” but they remain irresistible.

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  24. Anon76
    Jan 21, 2011 @ 23:49:21

    Michele,

    Verra well deserved praise. Have tried to think of the proper way to say more without details, but I’m at a loss.

    Just know I never had doubts.

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  25. Jan
    Jan 23, 2011 @ 15:53:05

    Allo again!

    I loved it! Charming is indeed a perfect word for it. I’m not usually a fan of 1st POV, because I like to know everyone’s feelings, but it worked quite well here, mainly because it was so easy to empathize with her.

    It also has this strange mix of fantasy and realism. The setting, the prince and princes, the fantasies, it all makes for a very dreamy feeling. But the emotions, the confusion, and the build up of the relationship seemed all very natural.

    One of the best ménages I’ve read.

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