In a comment collection on a CBR post not too long ago, I snarked about the tendency of romance authors to make their rakes all superior lovers. On its face, it doesn’t seem that unlikely: practice makes perfect, right? It’s one thing for a man to hone a set of skills over time that most women might appreciate, but these rakes are uniformly self-described scoundrels who care very little for the women they are bedding and admit to considering sex something like a standard bodily function that must be completed regularly. Ostensibly, they get some pleasure out of it, but when it’s treated as a routine akin to one’s first excretion in the morning, how can it possibly be that great, either for him or for his bedmates?
Which is why, when the rake eventually woos the heroine for the first time and his first concern is “her pleasure,” and he somehow is able to perform as if his particular habit is the art of making love adoringly, tenderly, and just generally spectacularly — and not simply getting his dick wet — I roll my eyes and smirk. Though I’m aware that what makes great sex is a highly personal set of preferences, I for myself can’t believe that someone portrayed so habitually emotionless during the act is suddenly in tune with the exact… techniques(?) guaranteed to send that one special lady into orbit.
ANYWAY, when I (much more concisely) mentioned this before, Mrs. Julien referred to this book, saying that here, the heroine actually calls out the rake for being lousy! I was immediately intrigued and this jumped to the top of the pile. For what it’s worth, the scene in question was, as promised, perfect. Although one never exactly tires of reading steamy love scenes (smirking GIF here) it’s also very fun to encounter a Bad Sex scene to break up the parade of the Best Orgasms Ever. Abigail Harewood’s whole purpose in losing her virginity to the Duke of Wallingford was that she wanted her first experience to be spectacular, and she expected that he would be given his rakish reputation and the whole aforementioned ‘practice makes perfect’ assumption. How disappointing for her! I loved how indignant she was, and her takedown was marvelous. In general, Abigail was a fun heroine and I was pleased with her.
The hero himself, the Duke of Wallingford, wasn’t quite as much of an interesting character to me — very standard-issue. I could have done with a bit more personality on him. What really took this book down to two stars, from my somewhat high expectations considering the realism of their first carnal encounter, was the completely bizarre supernatural subplot that hijacked the ending of the story and supplanted the opportunity to explore the leads’ relationship in a more authentic way. I was left scratching my head. It seems I am never too far away from PNR after all, even when I try to detour into historicals for a bit!