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REVIEW: Pleasure for Pleasure by Eloisa James

Dear Ms. James:

Pleasure for PleasureYou have an immense talent and I love your writing style. I particular love how you show that women are a community of individuals rather than separate and alone. Josie has been a favorite of mine since the very beginning of the Essex sisters. She’s a little bit of each of her sisters: a bit of a pragmatist (Tess), a bit of a dreamer (Imogen), a bit of a fatalist (Annabelle); but she also wholly her own creature. I tend to think that Josie could have carried this book on her own without Mayne as she is just so delightful. For the readers’ benefit, Mayne is 34 in this book and Josie is 18. You engage in a little writer cheat here as in previous stories, Mayne was 34 in Your Wicked Ways which took place two years earlier than Pleasure for Pleasure.

I was not bothered by the May/December aspect of Mayne and Josie’s relationship. I thought that Mayne, after years of dissipation, needed the love for life that Josie had. Josie, after being thought of as the least desirable Essex sister, needed the love of a famous connoisseur of women to show that she was beautiful and luscious in her own way.

You wrote beautifully rendered scenes. Loving scenes, tender scenes, funny scenes, and heartbreaking scenes. Yet, once again I have come away wondering whether there was an equality of feeling between the main two characters and bewilderment over the pairing of the secondary couple.

The problem is that for most of the story (right up to the point that he proposes to Josie), Mayne is affianced to Sylvie de la Brodierie, a well set beautiful French woman. He proclaims that he is in love with her. He is described as looking at her the way that Rafe gazes at Imogen. He spends half of the book internally and externally proclaiming his great love for Sylvie, cataloguing why he loves her.

To say that his turn about is quick is an understatement. I practically suffered whiplash from his switch from Sylvie to Josie, if there ever really was a switch. Oh, I know you say that in the end Mayne loves Josie but I can’t really tell at what point that the “love” meter was moved from Sylvie to Josie in Mayne’s mind. Mayne reminded me of the Balthasar’s song in Much Ado About Nothng

One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never:

The thing that made me the most befuddled and frustrated was the secondary romance. Josie is launched into society but spends 6 weeks being shunned by the young men in society. She is called the Scottish Sausage and no one crosses the invisible boundary for fear of ridicule. There is a heartrending scene that is described wherein Josie is sobbing to Lucius after a ball questioning why she is such a pariah.

The sobriquet was made up by Lord Charles Darlington, 3d son of the Duke of Bedrock. Darlington provided a wonderful nickname for a previous debutante called the Woolly Breeder who also went unromanced during her first season. Of course, you provide an explanation for Darlington’s despicable actions but you NEVER ONCE have him apologize to Josie. The rest of my rant may be spoilerish so I am going to hide it. You try to pass it off onto another character and have the other character be the villian, but it was Darlington who made up the nickname and set the standard for all the other young men to follow. To give Darlington a happy ever after in this book, with Griselda no less, was an affront to me. Further, Darlington never stopped being mean. He only passed on his cruel observations to Griselda instead of the entire ton. You did a great job of showing how emotionally destroyed Josie was by Darlington but then you never redeemed him. To think that the Essex sisters and Josie would accept this ass to be Josie’s bloody brother in law was beyond the pale. The men in that family should have beat him to a bloody pulp and then he could marry Griselda.

It’s hard to grade this book. Your prose is beautiful. You are able to capture the little idiosyncrasies that make characters individuals. You have great scenes. The entirety of the story, though, like the last one, left me bewildered and dissatisfied. I just wonder if there is something that I am missing as a reader that I can’t enjoy the stories more because you are such a good writer. Dunno. C+

Best regards,

Jane

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

9 Comments

  1. Danielle
    Dec 01, 2006 @ 07:06:13

    Why am I not surprise by this review. I was hoping that Eloisa would pull a fast one and give us someone totally different for Josie. In my opinion everyone has been in love with Mayne since he fell in love with Helen from Your Wicked Ways. So it was only natural that Josie end up with Mayne.

    I haven’t read the book yet, but so far from what I read…I have a feeling I’m going to be disappointed again. I was so disappointed in The
    Taming of the Duke.

    Great review.

  2. Kat
    Dec 01, 2006 @ 08:14:52

    Do you think maybe it’s the editing as much as the writing? That because EJ is now so popular, her editor is less likely to question the writing? I don’t know that this is true – I’m just wondering, because while I haven’t always loved every one of her books, I always thought that the ambiguities in Taming of the Duke could have been tidied up a lot better had it been read with a more critical eye. I haven’t read Pleasure for Pleasure (not for lack of trying – it was sold out when I tried to buy it), but again, many of the points you raise in the review should have been asked by people who critiqued the book. But I’m a sucker for EJ so I’m still buying, reading and keeping this one. At least she’s done with this series and we can move on…

  3. Estelle
    Dec 01, 2006 @ 11:03:24

    Totally agree with your review of PFP and your assessment of Eloisa James’ writing in general.

    The secondary romance didn’t bother me as much as it did you but that’s because I skipped most of it. I was so flabbagasted by what was going on with Mayne ‘Love meter’ that I wanted to see how the trainwreck was going to end. And now that I’ve finished the book I have no desire to go back and read it again.

    After I finished PFP I found myself wondering whether James was really at home in the Romance genre. Her books read more like a cross between Chicklit and Women’s fiction IMO.

  4. Jane
    Dec 01, 2006 @ 11:04:50

    Danielle – I didn’t mind the pairing of Mayne and I certainly felt he deserved his HEA, despite his past excesses.

    Kit – I just don’t know. Alot of times I think it is me, as the reader, being inadequate for the book. I view James as being very intelligent and very educated and a very good writer. Maybe she tries things that are just over my head. There were certainly nuances in TOD that she thought were very clear and I couldn’t really understand even after reading the Spoiler Trail.

    Estelle – You may be right – that romance isn’t the place for her. Maybe if the romance was secondary to the characterizations (actually it is secondary). Or maybe if my expectations weren’t that this is a romance, I wouldn’t be so disappointed.

  5. B. Danielle
    Dec 01, 2006 @ 12:09:35

    I can’t help but agree. I think I like the idea of Eloisa James more than her books. She is a smart, successful and sassy woman who has proved that there is more to the romance genre than ripped bodices, (although PfP had its fair share!) which is refreshing to me, a romance-lover who enjoys analyzing romance as literature.

    I didn’t even buy TotD, I got it from my library. And my reaction to it was the same as last night’s: I shook my head and sighed. I so want Ms. James to succeed. I had heard about her unique approach to romance and went to meet her at a book signing. We had such a lovely conversation and I decided afterward to buy Much Ado About You.

    The problem for me is that I have never been able to get caught up in any of the romances. The writing, yes, very good, and in PfB, it is better than I have ever seen it. But the chemistry between the characters is just not there. Maybe the problem is that these characters are modern placed in a Regency setting? (I’ve heard this criticism). I think a more pressing issue is that even those who loved the book (from what I read on her bulletin board, which really is lots of fun), is that we just don’t get enough time with Josie and Mayne to really believe in their love. We definitely didn’t need to be in Thurman’s head so much. Unless he is going to be a future hero in his own story–doubtful, but who knows?–there was too much detail and backstory for him. Who on earth is Emily Blechstedt? and why do we care? She and Griselda had a whole scene together, well done, but not needed. In general, I felt stretched in too many directions–which is saying something, since I’m a sales assistant to 14 people and can handle lots of stretch.

    If I could give one bit of advice to Ms. James it would to focus on making her scenes connect. Know when to show and when to tell. It is such a common struggle for writers, including myself, but it something worth mastering. But I am positive she will have a lot less disgruntled readers. And her books will be worthy of her writing–if that makes sense to anyone.

  6. colleen
    Dec 01, 2006 @ 14:01:00

    To my surprise, I enjoyed the book, despite some of the things that Jane mentioned. I have always liked EJ’s books, and have come to know what to expect. Her turns of phrase, her characterizations, the “smartness” of her writing.

    However, I, like Danielle, really really really hoped she would have “pulled a fast one” on us and not have given Mayne to Josie. I argued with my friends about it for months between ToD and PfP, not willing to buy into the Mayne and Josie setup. I didn’t want it to be that. I wanted Josie’s story and her hero to be unexpected and fresh–like she is.

    I really hoped, even, at the beginning, that Josie might end up with Darlington! Wouldn’t that have been fun? Even though I “knew” it was going to be Mayne, I thought, wow. Wouldn’t it have been interesting if James had done that?

    Pushed the envelope?

    I mean, if she could make us believe (and that is a little debatable) that Mayne really loved Josie so quickly on the heels of loving Sylvie, why couldn’t she have redeemed Darlington for Josie instead of Griselda?

    However, I did enjoy the book, I must say. There were parts that I skimmed, but I still read it straight through because I really wanted to see if she could make me believe that Josie and Mayne truly belonged together–since I’d been so adamant for so long that they didn’t.

    Did she succeed? Meh. Not 100%, but I did buy into it.

  7. bam
    Dec 01, 2006 @ 18:10:51

    Word up, Jane. I totally agree with everything you said. I just wasn’t convinced with Darlington’s transformation and thought it was bullshit that he got an HEA. And I liked Grizzy, too.

    Yeah, I was not a fan of this one. I was so meh about it that I decided not to review it at all.

  8. Devon
    Dec 02, 2006 @ 20:38:50

    I’m glad I didn’t run out and buy this one. I knew it would be Josie and Mayne, and that doesn’t bother me.

    The issue for me with James is that I always get the feeling that she is trying to experiment with cliches and structure and make romances out of things that readers wouldn’t find romantic: i.e. an adulterous husband who is a crappy lover, a pot-bellied drunk, a hero who loves to wear lace. Or a hero who believes he’s in love with someone else for most of the book. But it’s like she’s trying too hard, and oftentimes something in the execution falls flat. I really don’t think it’s that we are not smart, there’s just not enough nuance there often enough. Or enough for me, at any rate. She loses sight of the romance a bit.

    I will continue reading her books though, for a number of reasons others mentioned. She’s got a nice touch with the characterization and the turn of phrase. But I’m hitting the library from now on.

  9. Deb
    Dec 26, 2006 @ 17:46:27

    I haven’t read Pleasure for Pleasure but I have read the earlier books in the series. I knew Josie would end up with Mayne during Rafe and Imogene’s book, so no surprise, it was so obvious. I’ll probably read this one for lack of enough good romance books to read. I am a fan of EJ’s and enjoyed her earlier books and really appreciated meeting her at my public library a few years ago (where I was the youngest participant, in my 40′s), so I am rooting for her to find her voice again. As others have commented, I think most of our authors are under pressure to deliver, so they are all following this series genre, groups of sisters or brothers or whole family trees, or a theme that repeats. Some of you may have more insight or direct contact with authors. It would be great if they or their editors could read some of these comments.

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