Series: School of Gallantry #5
Format: review copy provided by author
Length: 221 pages
Publisher: Delilah Marvelle Productions, LLC (November 25, 2014)
WARNING: This historical romance is cotton candy with a razor on top. Themes include male virginity, inappropriate behavior and language you really shouldn't use at home. If you are easily offended by dirty humor and graphic sex, this book is not for you.
After Miss Leona Olivia Webster had allowed herself to fall in love with a dashing childhood friend who had left her scorned and pregnant, she is done chasing her happily-ever-after. Shunned by society, she dedicates herself to raising her young son and putting money in their pockets. She doesn't expect to be drawn to her latest master, a brooding man of hulking presence who carves random messages into walls with his Persian blade as a means of starting a flirtation.
Malcolm Gregory Thayer, the earl of Brayton, may have dedicated himself to a life of religious virtue after leaving the monastery due to dark tendencies, but after meeting Leona, he begins to yearn for the life that had never been his. When he meets a retired French courtesan who invites him to embrace what he has long feared, he seizes the opportunity to become the man he always wanted to be. His new mission is clear. He intends to finally serve the one thing he never had: his heart.
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Other Book in Series:
Master of Pleasure is the fifth of the School of Gallantry series, although it can be read as a standalone novel. It follows the story of Malcolm Thayer, earl of Brayton, as he seeks help to control his pain-seeking personality, and Leona Webster, unwed mother and damsel in distress.
Having read previous School of Gallantry novels, I knew that this book was going to be a Regency historical with a twist. I knew to expect sexy times, despite it being anachronistic to the time period. I am a fan of the School of Gallantry plot mechanism overall; I was less a fan of this book specifically.
A large portion of the beginning of this book is spent with Malcolm while he resides in a French monastery that serves as a correctional facility for “sexually deviant boys.” Malcolm does not identify as sexually deviant, and it is unclear what he is doing there at all. His time there is catalogued in brutal detail. I think more time is spent here than is spent in the entirety of the romantic relationship in this story. While at the monastery Malcolm meets and befriend Nasser, child of a Persian king who takes Malcolm with him to Persia, where he becomes a member of their family and an admiral in their Navy.
While I was able to suspend my disbelief for the bit about Malcolm going to Persia, I had a difficult time understanding exactly what his “issue” was, how it affected him, and what his brother had to do with any of it. He kept mentioning how he needed to be away from his twin, that his twin made him worse, et cetera, but never actually defined what made him different. Even after having finished the book, I cannot tell if he just enjoyed pain overall or if it was specifically a sexual thing.
After years of prayer and celibacy fail to cure him of his predilection for pain, Malcolm meets Leona Webster by chance on a street in London one day. She is haranguing creditors about them taking her child’s stuffed bear. I know, it sounds odd when I say it like that, but Leona is a likeable character. At odds with usual Regency heroines, Leona is practical, clever, and straightforward. I had a hard time believing that she was so attracted to Malcolm at their first meeting, however, because she was a “fallen woman.” Her fiancé impregnated her and left her to raise their child alone. First of all – it’s unthinkable for her to have had premarital sex, but it would have been unheard of for her fiancé not to be forced to marry her as soon as she’d discovered her pregnancy. This was one of the areas I feel like the author eschewed the conventions of the era to the book’s detriment. But when, after having been ostracized by society and her family, she almost immediately offers to have sex with Malcolm, I was out. No way would Leona have risked a second child, no matter how lonely she was. I was unable to suspend my disbelief this far.
That’s not to say that this book is without merit. I enjoyed Leona, as I said, and I enjoyed her son Jacob a lot. Malcolm was an intriguing character as well. I liked not only the way he thought but also his very honest, often blunt statements. I was fine with his pain fetish, too, actually. There are some entertaining secondary characters as well, and I didn’t feel like the book was a waste of time. I do feel, though, that this book stopped as opposed to ended. The entire relationship between Leona and Malcolm was rushed with dizzying speed. The eight weeks they spend in London together go by in a sentence, we never see them marry, and we never get to follow Leona to Persia and watch her acclimate to the new world. Once they have sex, the book just kind of … stops, with an epilogue thrown in that is clunky and awkward. She is shooting arrows? Why? Huh? We never see how or even whether Leona and Malcolm navigate his particular sexual needs, nor whether Leona has any particular “tastes” of her own. This book was only halfway written. It needs another ten chapters or so to allow the reader to watch the hero and heroine fall in love and navigate tricky waters (both literal and figurative).
Whipping the rag against the floor, she closed her eyes in anguish and let out a sob that had been burning within her knowing her dream of them being together was cracking down its center. Malcolm was making her choose between hurting herself or hurting him.
And she honestly wasn’t ready to do either.
Other Reviews for Books in Series:
Night of Pleasure #4