Monday, December 26, 2011
Sir Mark Turner has become the most popular man in England after writing The Gentleman's Practical Guide to Chastity. He was knighted by the Queen, he is beset by every matchmaking mamma and papa in the realm, and he has reporters writing about every move he makes. His book has spawned the Male Chastity Brigade which has taken Mark's words and twisted them to make an exclusive organization that sees women as the impediment to male chastity. After being offered a position on the Poor Commission in the government, George Weston decides to ruin him by hiring his former courtesan, Jessica Farleigh to seduce Mark. Jessica has survived as a courtesan after being thrown out by her father, the vicar, but that is all she has done; merely survived. She hates Weston but is desperate for a way out of this life and the only way she sees to make enough money to never need a protector again is to take him up on this offer. Mark retreats to his small hometown of Shepton where he quickly runs into the widowed Mrs. Farleigh.
He is angry that the town has spurned Jessica purely because she dresses more provocatively than the rector deems appropriate and is drawn to her outsider status and her subtlety. One incident, where she reveals she hates him because of his righteousness and his purity, makes it clear to him that she is special. And Jessica is finding it harder to stick to her mission because for the first time she has met a man who is not attempting to simply use her for his own needs. She feels guilty but does not know how she can get out of her agreement and worries about what his reaction will be when the truth comes out. As she lets seduction fall by the wayside and her relationship with Mark becomes about so much more than physical lust, Jessica knows that she cannot do anything that will lead to Mark's ruin. Mark feels betrayed and hurt but he understands what Jessica has been through and knows that she is the one he is meant for. It is up to him to convince her that she is worthy of finally finding happiness and that he is someone who will always stand by her side.
Jessica is a courtesan and the book makes many apologies and excuses for her career choice and it is clear throughout the book that she detests her profession and it has killed her soul. Normally I dislike being so judgmental of prostitutes and their profession but Milan did a really great job explaining why the lifestyle really did not work for Jessica without completely trampling on all courtesans. It also went towards giving some justification for the horrible actions she was taking against Mark. I really felt like she underwent many changes throughout the book a she went from being desolate to being full of life and love and finding someone that she was willing to do anything for and who truly loved her for herself. It was moving really. Mark was wonderful because he was so conscious of who he was and was completely comfortable with himself. His virginity was not even a big deal to him, he handled fame very maturely, and his dealings with Jessica were spot on for a man who was falling in love and lust but who still wanted to do things the correct way.
Their relationship progressed in both a rational and a passionate way; he used her to illustrate his dedication to not treating women as whores and he did manage to abstain but it was clear throughout all their interactions that their was a connection sizzling just under the surface. They worked well together and they spent a lot of time together, including a lot of quality time getting to know each other. There was not very much sex between them and while it made sense because of the characters and the plot I still felt like these characters needed it. What brings the book down is the length and the very ponderous writing that went on and on with big, and even little, misunderstandings abounding and one thing after another popping up to keep them apart. The villain in the story was interesting but his plot against Mark held a pal over the whole novel and prevented me from feeling any enjoyment for them and in the book. I also could not help but feel like the idea of a man writing a book like that so utterly ridiculous that I wanted to laugh every time it was brought up.
Rating: While I felt like their relationship was well written, I could not get over the almost depressed tone of the book and the incredibly long length.