Dear Ms. Gaines:
I bemoaned on Twitter the other day that I was suffering a real slump in the erotic romance category and a reader suggested I give you a try. I bought Miss Foster’s Folly because the premise sounded fun and it was a full length novel versus the other offerings which appeared to be shorter novellas.
This is a role reversal story. The heroine, Juliet Foster, becomes one of the richest women in the world when her father dies and leaves her all his liquidated assets. Juliet is thirty-two, unwed, and 1886, that is old enough to be termed a spinster. With her new found independence, Juliet decides that she will begin to travel the Continent and sample all the delicious men that she can on her way around the world. Unfortunately she is a virgin which means she’ll need to dispense of her virginity before she can embark and her licentious endeavors.
Enter David Winslow, seventh Marquis of Derrington. Derrington has come to America in search of a woman who can break the Winslow curse. I’m not entirely sure, even after having read the book, exactly what this curse is. In order to break this mysterious curse, Derrington must find a bold and, well, again, I’m not sure exactly what the Winslows need to break the mysterious curse, but I think it is someone who is adventurous in bed.
The sad thing is that the book is best when it gets away from the gimmicks. Why not just say that Derrington comes to America to find someone who is as entertaining in bed as she is out of bed? Why include this substanceless curse that every Derrington inevitably overcomes by merely finding the “right” woman? Another problem with the story was the constant use of frig instead of fuck. Was it an effort to appear historically accurate? Because fuck has been around for a long time. And accuracy seemed to take a backseat when Juliet goes off into the country to live with Derrington for weeks at a time with no companion. Nothing that Juliet does is scandalous from talking about orchids in polite company with sexually charged terms to nearly have sex in a host’s afternoon garden party.
The use of the word frig, while maybe more historically accurate, actually appeared to be anachronistic instead of accurate, prim instead of naughty:
“I’m not. I’ll make the demands here, and I demand you frig me.”
“I don’t obey you,” he answered. “Instead, I demand you frig me.”
She sucked in a breath.
Of course, the matters are worsened by Derrington referring to his penis as Priapus frequently:
He could only gape at her in astonishment. Priapus didn’t find her little speech odd. He stiffened further, as if he’d bust out of his own skin.
“I want to be frigged,” she said. “Would a gentleman do that?”
“Then, curse all gentlemen. I want a scoundrel’s cock inside me, stretching the walls of my cunny.”
Despite these problems, there is a lot of fun to be had in this book. Juliet wants to just have affairs and David wants to get married. Juliet tells David that his reactions are melodramatic. (I kind of wish she had referred to him as spunky or feisty but I guess that would have been too much).
“On our wedding night.”
“Oh for the love of heaven, haven’t you given that up yet?”
He stepped back. Without the heat of his body, the chill of the night washed over her. She tucked her exposed breast back into her dress.
“I’m not your plaything,” he said. “If you want me, you’ll have to marry me.”
“You sound like a melodrama.”
And Juliet displays some real wit (instead of being called witty by other people).
“So he really is a rake, then,” Millie said.
“Yes, and a rather talented one,” Lady Mitford said.
“That requires talent?” Juliet asked.
When the story focused on the character role flip and the emotional conflict, I loved it. When it veered off into the curses, the comically bad attempts at bawdy language, and gimmicks, my mind began to wander. I wished that Juliet’s emotional arc would have been better integrated into the story, particularly the courtship time that the two spent together. Juliet felt abandoned by her father who loved her mother to the exclusion of anyone else and didn’t want to get involved on a deep emotional level with David but then why stay weeks at a time in an isolated country house with David? Then Juliet feels imprisoned by David’s love. I wasn’t sure how the “fear of abandonment” and “being stifled by someone’s love” fit together. I also wondered at the time period. Why Victorian? I didn’t get the sense that there was anything particularly Victorian about the book. The wandering plot, the gimmicks, and the sex terms keep me from giving this a full throated recommendation. C+
P.S. She tastes like caramel? Really?