Mastering the Marquess by Lavinia Kent

mastmarq

One night of fierce passion and unbound pleasure leaves two strangers craving much more in Lavinia Kent’s sumptuous novel of sensual discovery.

The time has come for the widow Louisa, Lady Brookingston, to move on, but she refuses to remarry at the cost of shaming her late husband’s memory. Their six years together were wedded bliss—even if a war injury prevented him from fulfilling his marital duties. Only one woman can help Louisa: Madame Rouge, the discreet proprietress of a club where London’s elite explore their wildest fantasies.

Geoffrey, the Marquess of Swanston, has no intention of agreeing to deflower an anonymous virgin. But when Madame Rouge tempts him with the absolute power he’ll have over a woman who knows nothing of carnal delights, he’s intrigued. Control is the one thing he cannot resist—and control is what he loses during his night with the blindfolded beauty. He longs to take her further, to leave his mark upon her perfect behind, but the mystery woman refuses to see him again. Instead Geoffrey reluctantly agrees to take a wife, the widow of his dear friend, Lord Brookingston—fating them both to a wicked surprise.

Rating: B-

Mastering the Marquess is an erotic historical romance (strictly M/F) in which a young widow’s sexual awakening at the hands (and other body parts!) of a man who values control in all aspects of his life proves to him that maybe allowing someone get close to him isn’t such a bad thing.

Lady Louisa Brookingston is that rare thing – a virgin widow. Her late husband – her childhood sweetheart – was badly injured in the war, so badly that he was left unable to perform his husbandly duties. Louisa is still young enough to have a family of her own and wants to remarry, but doesn’t want to tarnish her husband’s reputation by going to her second husband in her untried state. She seeks help from a discreet madam – Madame Rouge – whose select, high-class brothel she knew her husband had visited regularly during their marriage. Louisa wants to divest herself of her maidenhead, and wants to do so discreetly before she begins to look about her for a suitable husband.

Madame has just the man – one she knows will be considerate and sure to give the virginal Louisa the best night of her life. Geoffrey Danser, Marquess of Swanston, is a man who exerts an iron control over all facets of his life – and especially enjoys doing so in the bedroom. At first, he is disinclined to deflower a virgin but Madame entices him by reminding him of how much he enjoys instructing his partners in the delights of bedsport, and by suggesting how much more exciting he will find it to initiate a partner who has no idea of what is “normal” and what isn’t.

The assignation is arranged. Neither party will be made privy to the other’s identity, and will be masked or blindfolded during their encounter in order to ensure their anonymity. After her initial nervousness, Louisa realises the inability to see her partner is strangely freeing, and finds herself at last able to indulge her sexual curiosity. Geoffrey finds himself responding to her in a way he hadn’t anticipated and the pair discovers a completely unexpected companionship which leaves them unable to forget their night together.

Louisa can now embark upon her search for a husband in earnest and Geoffrey can go back to his highly controlled life and his discreet sexual liaisons – except for the fact that his father’s latest ridiculous scheme sees him needing to find a large sum of money quickly if he is to avert disaster – and the only way he can lay his hands on a fortune that fast is to marry one.

Geoffrey has the reputation in society of being starchily proper, exceedingly dull and not at all good with women, so when he takes an interest in Lady Brookingston, nobody – and certainly not Louisa, to whom he shows nothing but the strictest propriety – expects him to make her an offer of marriage. When he does, he is completely honest as to his motivations, and Louisa, who realises that admiring a man’s honesty and good-looks is probably not the best way to select a husband, finds herself so drawn to him that she accepts him nonetheless.

This is an erotic romance, so there is obviously an emphasis on the sexual encounters that take place between the hero and heroine. These are well written and definitely hot, but the author has also placed great importance on the emotional side of the story, so that the reader is not just faced with a string of sex scenes linked by very little plot. She develops the romance between Geoffrey and Louisa well, beginning on their very first night together, and continuing as they navigate through the early days of their marriage.

I confess that I haven’t read a large number of erotic romances, but it seems that an historical one is unavoidably going to bring modern sensibilities to the sexual aspects of the story. Most young women at this period were kept largely in ignorance of sexual matters, and other than the “lie back and think of England” speech on their wedding day, such things were not discussed. Louisa is one such woman, although she is clearly open-minded and very curious about what goes on between a man and a woman. That said, I wasn’t completely convinced she would have been so eager to understand why her husband visited a brothel when they were married, and to understand Geoffrey’s desire – his need – for control. Fortunately for her, Geoffrey is a man who is willing to talk about such things, which is another aspect of the book I enjoyed. He is a man who keeps the truth about himself very much under wraps – so much so that even his family isn’t sure he’s ever had a sexual relationship! – and for him to be so honest with Louisa is another indication of the strength of the connection between them.

The book is divided into three parts, and is well-paced overall. The first sexual encounter is romantic as well as steamy, and Ms Kent keeps the emotional connection between the protagonists to the fore of the story. Their meetings in society, when they can see each other but know little about each other, make for an interesting parallel to their earlier intimate encounter, when they could not see, but began to know each other on the inside. The early days of their marriage suffer from a serious lack of communication, but as things begin to improve, the author throws a spanner into the works in the form of the somewhat deranged Countess Ormonde, a former lover of Swanston’s who hasn’t forgiven him for discarding her when her sexual proclivities and penchant for violence went too far for his tastes. And you know what they say about a woman scorned…

Mastering the Marquess is an enjoyable read featuring two well-drawn and well-matched central characters. I would probably have rated it slightly higher had the final part of the book not thrown itself off a cliff into the sea of melodrama, but if you can get past that, and fancy a steamy story in which there is as much of an emphasis on the romance as the sex, you could do worse than give this a try.

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