Zebra Splendor, $4.99, ISBN 0-8217-6288-5
Historical Erotica, 1999
This review contains spoilers.
I’m so disappointed when Robin Schone’s The Lady’s Tutor contains several fatal flaws kept me from enjoying this novel fully. The author has created a compelling hero and intriguing plot, but she flounders tremendously when it comes to creating a realistic external conflict for this story. And the heroine’s a weak and rather unmemorable character.
Elizabeth Petre, daughter of the Prime Minister, wife of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, loving mother of two children, has a secret. She is dying slowly in a loveless marriage where her husband has never showed her any affection or graced her bed in years. In desperation she turned to Ramiel Devington, an illegitimate son of an English Countess (a result of her slavery days in Arab), who is rumored to have sexual skills unparalleled in England. Ramiel finds himself attracted to her and they begin to rendezvous in which he’d teach her skills of seduction and the arts of the bedroom. Platonically, of course. Only they begin to find themselves attracted to each other.
I’m not bothered by the adultery. What I’m bothered by is the really unnecessarily harsh depiction of homosexuality in this novel. Must the author make the hubby have an affair with her father, of all people? And have them sexually abuse her sons? I find it rather ironic that a story that celebrates one form of sexuality has to paint another form in an unnecessarily harsh light. And if every man except Ramiel is a disgusting, dirty, pederasty pervert, what does that make Elizabeth, who is blissfully unaware that her marriage is unnatural? Can a woman in her late thirties be that ignorant about the bedchamber, even at her time? I find all this elements of the external conflict totally unbelievable, and it bogs the story down.
Oh, and if hubby and daddy playing house and abusing the kids aren’t bad enough, let’s make Ramiel the victim of homosexual rape too!
There are just too many nasty religious zealots and rapists and all sorts of disgustingly vile characters surrounding a passive hero and an annoyingly inertia-ridden heroine – why the need of all these dysfunctionality? Can’t people have adventurous sex life without getting tangled up with nasty, ugly things? Or is there a moral in here somewhere? Keep ye to missionary position or ye will find yourselves hounded by every scum of society.
If that’s not depressing enough, Elizabeth makes a lot of really ridiculous snap judgments that strains my belief. She’s practically pointing fingers at everyone, including the hero, and screaming “You, you, you!” almost hysterically. She’s so cold and distant at the start, and just when I thought she’d thaw, she turned stock erotica-heroine and lost her IQ by about 30 points in between pre- and post-Ramiel induced orgasms.
I wish the author had stuck to the quiet moments between Ramiel and Elizabeth because these scenes are the best thing about this otherwise joyless read.