Given a title like An Introduction to Pleasure: Mistress Matchmaker, you should not be surprised to learn that Jess Michaels’ book falls into the “romantica” historical romance category which means it’s reasonably tame erotica with a love story thrown in to keep things on the straight and narrow. It was free for Kindle, I read it quickly, and I wasn’t going to review it, but the heroine’s name beckoned:
Were I the kind of person to make egregious use of multiple exclamation points, that name would warrant just such a display. What’s more, I kept misreading “Lysandra” as “Lysistrata” thus adding piquancy my romantica experience. As for the hero, I track the men’s names on The (Shameful) Tally and I’d like to show you something:
Simon – 7: I’ve updated the totals many times. Simon always wins.
Michael – 5: Meh.; Alex/Alexander – 5: Seems fair.
Robert – 5: Seriously? And not a Bob or a Rob in the bunch.
Charles – 4: Including a rather charming Charlie.
Colin – 4: Tessa Dare has the best one, just ask Malin.
Harry – 4: Plus 2 Henries.
Sebastian – 4: Sebastian is the quintessential rake name.
William – 4: Will never Bill.
Gareth/Ian – 3, Jackson – 3: Yet I could not name one of the books off the top of my head.
Julian – 3: I prefer this spelling, Lucien – 3: THREE!
Marcus – 3: I would have thought there would be more.
Why did I bring this up? Because, somehow, this is the first ANDREW and I find that interesting. Mind you, his brother calls him “Drew” because “Andy” isn’t going to cut it on the Testosterone and a Y Chromosome Registry of Manly Names.
Andrew is Viscount Callis (not to worry though, he isn’t) whose beloved wife died three years ago and he is still grieving. Lysandra Keates is an impoverished lady with an ailing mother, abusive moustache-twirling relatives, and no reference to help her find work in household service. As a last resort, she approaches Vivien, a former courtesan, for help being matched with a “Protector”. Lysandra is wholly inexperienced (how quickly things change), so Vivien chooses Andrew because while he is not in the market for a mistress, she feels Lysandra can help him to, quite literally, come out of mourning.
It is lust at first sight.
Pointless time constraints being common in romance, their relationship duration is set for one month during which Andrew will act as Protector and Lysandra will learn the ways of Mistressin’. The woman used as payment of debt/or turning to a “life of sin” out of desperation is, for better or worse, a standard romance trope, and I should make it clear that the woman is always a willing sexual participant, and that her sojourn in the Land of Euphemistic Prostitution is usually brief. What sets romantica apart from a standard romance is the reversal of the First Comes Affection Then Comes Consummation structure, and focusing on the sexual elements over the emotional bonding elements, or by replacing them therewith as was the case here.
As expected, although it is neither particularly romantic, nor especially erotic, An Introduction to Pleasure: Mistress Matchmaker does have more than the average amount of detail and level of creativity in the love scenes. Jess Michaels gets a gold star on her romantica report card for putting a check in each activity box. She doesn’t get one for the sequencing of the sex scenes/love story though, and there are a lot of authors who make similar mistakes. In this case it’s romantica, but even in standard issue historical romance, the writers sometimes fumble in terms of timing. If one is following a checklist, and this story reads like one is, shouldn’t one put a little thought into progression as well? On the Lisa Kleypas Suddenly You scale of one to six raspberries, with six being a sequencing misstep on par with the scale’s namesake, “He’s doing that NOW?!” and one being a Georgette Heyer novel, I would give An Introduction to Pleasure four raspberries. I’d say the plot organization had a negative effect on the reading experience, but since I had profoundly low expectations that really wasn’t possible and it resulted in eye-rolling more than a let down. Other than that, the writing was perfectly serviceable, if unromantic(a), which is likely not the enthusiastic endorsement the writer was looking for.