Potent Pleasures
by Eloisa James, historical (1999)
Delacorte, $21.95, ISBN 0-385-33360-9

Hmm, another hardcover debut. Is the romance genre turning into something like the fantasy/sci-fi genre, where a debut author can get hardcover deals as easy as digging one's nostrils? Not that it's a bad thing, for it shows the publishing industry's greater confidence in the genre and because let's face it, hardcover books do give romance a wider - if unwittingly duped into reading romance - sort of audience. But after the below average The Stargazer by Michele Jaffe, I wonder if this book will be better.

Let me put aside my jackhammer, drill, and ultrasound dissector beam for a minute. I did pay for this hardcover - okay, part of the full price, for I won some sort of discount voucher from Border's that enable me to buy a hardcover at quarter price. But I can safely say I'd take Potent Pleasures over The Stargazer anytime. Not that Potent Pleasures is any classic. That's because the main characters in Potent Pleasures are complete marshmallow-for-brains, and the hero reminds me of that idiot from Sweet Savage Love sans rape and abuse. Physical abuse, that is. The moron Alex Foakes (think of another vulgar word that rhymes a little with that surname, add a comma between Alex and the F word, add a you at the end and you'll get my sentiments about this man).

The first sentence's rather good.

Charlotte was one week short of seventeen when her life changed, falling into two halves like a shiny child's ball: before and after.

In fact, despite a few rather jarring turn of phrases - her face is pointed like a question mark... huh? - the book is very readable in the first half. I can see why the publishers offer her a hardcover deal. With time and practice, she can probably write like a 21st century Edith Wharton. Probably.

Charlotte's life changed because the silly woman allowed herself to be seduced at her coming-out night by Alex McDonough F... err, Foakes, yes, that's it. Foakes. Cut to three years down the road, where everyone believes Alex Fonky is impotent. The Fonker decides to marry despite rumors scaring off potential marriage candidates, and guess who's the lucky girl he chooses? The Fonked-up Basket of a man is a careless rake, and the fact that he can seduce a seventeen year old chills me to the bone.

After a rather pleasant courtship (despite my growing uneasiness at the Fonker's growing show of callousness), all holy hell hit the roof when the Fonker discovers that lawk-a-mussy, that hussy ain't no virgin! You can guess what happens next, can you?

Here is where the book goes downhill, way way down. Why would a dumb fonking retard, who sleeps with anything that moves, gets so mad at his non-virgin wife is beyond me. Okay, maybe it's an accurate depiction of the man of his time, but you don't want to get me started about the historical accuracies - or rather, inaccuracies in this book, trust me (if even a history dunce like me can notice a few glaring errors, I shudder to think what a die-hard Regency reader will do to this book). The rest of the book deals with the basket case alternating between calling her a ho and getting paranoid about her and his brother. Frankly, I'm appalled. Such verbal abuse is so unbecoming of a man his age. He's petty and childish, not at all an interesting or even readable hero.

And Charlotte, well, she might as well lie down and pull a rug over her, because that's what she is - a doormat. She keeps holding on pathetically for any scrap of the fonker's affection, taking any and every verbal abuse like a misguided Joan of Arc. Why she just doesn't scream at that idiot, right before introducing the business end of a frying pan to his thick skull, "Listen, you anal-retentive piece of cow dung, you're the lecherous, pathetic, probably syphilic, and definitely braindead moron that has the nerve to debauch me three years back and now you have the nerve to call me a slut? TAKE THAT! AND THAT! AND THAT! Oh, and I'm running away with a nice, funny, kind Earl to live in sin like the slut you call me. Have fun, sucker! Oh yeah, and yes, I've been faking it all along" is again beyond me. I actually gagged when I read he looked into his forgiving wife's eyes towards the end of the book. Talk about childish men and spineless women. These two deserve each other.

Rating: 39

Note: The author has done considerable revisions to remove the historical inaccuracies in the paperback version.

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