Leisure, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-8439-6363-2
Historical Romance, 2010
I was led by the synopsis on the back cover of Shirl Henke’s Love Lessons at Midnight to believe that this is the story of the owner of a brothel teaching our sexually inexperienced hero all about bedroom tricks only for the two of them to fall in love in the end. Since I’m always up for a heroine who is different from the usual stereotypes, this book ended up in my book bag without much hesitation on my part.
Well, it turns out that Amber Leighigh indeed runs the House of Dreams as Lady Fantasia, but she hasn’t had any lover since she fled her abusive villain of a husband. In other words, she’s another stereotypical heroine in need of sexual healing. We are talking about an unrealistic brothel here, where the prostitutes are so happy to be what they are that I’m amazed that they didn’t break out into song like Ten Johns a Day Keep My Blues Away. Meanwhile, Amber has a protective assistant whose priority in life seems to be to see Amber get laid. Sigh.
Our hero, Rob St John, the Earl of Barrington, runs with the pious reformers who want to end all trades of the flesh in London, but now that he is about to marry, he is hypocritical enough to want to pay Lady Fantasia to teach him how to make his future wife scream in genteel delirious ecstasy in the bedroom. Lady Fantasia is led by her assistant to believe that she should take Rob on as a client, but only after she leads him to believe that she is a happy French prostitute named Gabrielle, a woman who needs sexual healing. Meanwhile, Gaby Fantasia Amber Whatever’s husband cackles and plots mayhem.
It is disappointing enough to discover that what I initially expected to be a different read turns out to be another clichéd affair, but the characters in this book aren’t just content to bore me – they have to make me grit my teeth in exasperation as well. Amber Fantasia Gabriella Puka-Puka Houdini is a silly fool who hogs secrets unnecessarily and behaves more like a nitwit victim than someone with enough grit to actually run a brothel. Rob is a hypocrite who has the nerve to be angry at Amber’s deception when he has no problems shagging her despite the fact that doing so goes against the political stance he adopts in public. Then again, maybe this trait of his qualifies him to be the perfect politician.
But what is most annoying here is the dizzying head-hopping that takes place on every single page. The author actually collaborated with her husband on this book, but it seems like none of them realizes that they are making me feel like someone caught in a violent storm while I’m on a boat. Head hopping can happen even from one paragraph to the next, so by the last page of this book, I have a pounding headache.
The story is nothing new or unusual despite being packaged as something different, the characters are unlikable twits, and the writing style makes me seasick. What a waste of time this one had been, really.
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