Sunday, March 30, 2008

Enchanting Pleasures

Boy, oh boy. Planning and hosting a bachelorette party sure distracts a girl from her reading. Cleaning, menu planning, gift and goodie bag shopping, creating dirty Mad Libs. Ah, the fun and debauchery. Last night was a rousing success, but the drag queens are done dancing and the alcohol has all been consumed. Back to real life. Back to my reading.

After visiting many of your blogs and reading through scads of reviews, I headed to my local branch of the Chicago Public Library last week armed with a shopping list of sorts. Titles and authors filled the paper. Among the authors listed was one I had seen mentioned a number of times: Eloisa James. I was looking for a change of pace. A girl can only read so many paranormal romances before she starts to burn out. There were only two titles available on the day of my visit. After a small debate with myself I settled on the book I just finished reading.

Title: Enchanting Pleasures
Author: Eloisa James
Genre: Historical Romance

Gabrielle Jerningham cherishes the portrait of her betrothed, the perfect Peter Dewland...until she meets his commanding older brother Quill. But it is Peter to whom she has been promised. And how can she possibly transform her voluptuous, outspoken self into the poised gentlewoman Peter requires?

When Gabby's shocking d├ęcolletage plunges to her waist at her first ball, Peter is humiliated. But Quill comes to the rescue, to the peril of his heart. An accident years before has left Quill plagued by headaches--the kind that grows more excruciating with strenuous exercise. Needless to say, this hardly bodes well for siring progeny. But the very sight of Gabby leaves Quill breathless. One forbidden kiss and Quill vows to have her, headaches--and Peter--be damned! But it will take a clever man--and a cleverer woman--to turn the tables on propriety and find their way to true love....

This was my first exposure to the writings of Ms. James. After seeing so many positive comments and reviews of her work, I knew I need to give her a shot. What if she was the favorite author I had simply yet to discover?

I am conflicted over how to review this book. It took me a little while to truly get into the story. The beginning was a wee bit tedious. Gabby comes to England, miniature portrait in hand, to marry Peter. Whom she has never met. Whom she is terribly in love with... because he has gentle eyes. OK, she was a sheltered, young girl raised in India by a single father. I will not judge her too soon. I mean, her father was a cold-hearted meanie. She deserves a handsome young man with kind eyes.

She is met (eventually) at the docks in England by her future brother-in-law, the very obvious hero of our story. Why is it obvious? Well, Peter (her fiance) is a vain, flighty, smack-me-over-the-head-with-the-obvious-stick gay man. His love for his tailor is only eclipsed by his love for his mother. Let's just say Peter is one big offensive stereotype. Simply put, he's a queen. That is fine. It makes the reader immediately root for Quill. (Yes, the hero goes by the name Quill. Why? Well, you would too if your given name was Erskine.) Anyhow, it wasn't until Peter accompanies his mother to Bath (and is out of everyone's hair) that I started to enjoy the story.

The middle of the story, in which Quill and Gabby's relationship begins to blossom, is quite fun. Gabby is a trifle annoying. Sweet, oblivious, inept. But she means well. Quill is heroic and scarred. We, the readers, feel for him. We want to heal him. It really is a shame that The Sex lands him in bed with a three-day migraine. Actually, kudos to Ms. James for accurately depicting the possible symptoms of migraine headaches. They can be nasty bastards, and she is spot on here. Makes me wonder if she suffers from them herself. Despite the potential repercussion of having The Sex, Quill is drawn to Gabby. They have a few lovely, hot moments together. MMmmmm. Nice. With Peter out of town, it is up to Quill to begin showing Gabby about London society. In amongst all of their canoodling, you meet a handful of secondary characters. Sophie Foakes, Duchess of Gilse, is probably my favorite. Color me pleased to discover she had her very own book. She is spunky, fun, and just a bit scandalous. She goes to great lengths to support her friends. For those who have read this book, I laughed out loud at the "incident" at Gabby's first ball. I love Sophie! The other characters who I adored (and wished they had a full book of their own) were Lucien Boch and Emily Ewing. Such a lovely little side plot.

All of that being said, the last quarter of the book nearly ruined the read for me. Throughout the beginning with the pining and the burning, the kissing and the near skirt tossing, Gabby issued nary a word of objection. In some cases she was quite forward for such an innocent miss, provoking Quill into kissing her. Why is it, then, that she suddenly starts thinking that sex with her husband is a sin? Where the hell did that come from? Confusion! Stubbornness rules the roost. Not surprising, as it often does in romance novels. I had a BIG problem with a decision that Gabby makes towards the end that put the final storyline into action. Bad form, Gabby, bad form. Quill had every right to be angry. What the character did was wrong. So very wrong. You could see the ending coming a mile away.


The whole omg-she-might-die-and-I-only-just-realized-that-none-of-this-matters ploy felt like a cop out. I felt as if the author had painted herself into a corner with these two and had no other idea of how to get them out of the emotional spot she had put them into.


Taking all of that into account (the good, bad and ugly), I feel I need to give Eloisa James a chance to shown me what she's got. I am going to look for Sophie's book. I already like her, so maybe that will help. As far as Enchanting Pleasures goes, there were some enchanting moments. Overall, it did not leave me feeling gah-gah. I have not discovered my favorite author I never knew about. It was by turns sweet, frustrating, amusing, annoying, and entertaining. If she had kept her momentum going and devised an ending that did not make me want to throttle her characters, this book would have a solid B+ or even A-. Sadly, the ending is what it is.

Grade: B- good middle, good writing style, ending that made me want to throw things


Ana said...

I read the first two books of this series, Potent Pleasures and Midnight Pleasures (Sophie's Books) and I have to say that although Eloisa James is a good writer, I wasn't crazy for the stories themselves. Ok, to be honest, I did not like them AT ALL. She seems to like quite a lot the Big Misunderstanding and I have no patience for it. I have Enchanting Pleasures but I do not feel like reading it. BUT and this is a big BUT, I read somewhere that Eloisa says that her first books were based on the classical romance authors from the 70s and 80s - hence the BM plots. Since these three are her very first books and that she has plently of others that have wonderful reviews, I will give her a go. I do have the next four books she wrote ..... plus I feel really bad for not liking her books - she is such a nice person. I love her board and she is ever so smart - did you know she is a Shakespeare expert?

Rowena said...

Ugh, I hate endings that make me want to throw things. I hate books that start off good, start to slow down but are still good and then end with things that get on my hot damn nerves!

I've heard good things about Eloisa James so I'm gonna have to keep her on my list and try her for myself just in case.

Good review though.