I’ve read and reviewed all of this authors’ books so far. While I enjoyed the first two, When a Lady Misbehaves and Gentlemen Behaving Badly, (see my reviews here and here) for the most part, there were things about them that didn’t quite make them keepers for me. WEA won’t be a keeper either, but I liked it a lot better than the first two books. I can see definite growth in Ms. Marcos’ writing and her character development, the sign of a really good author in the making.
What I do like in these Pleasure Emporium books is that it’s the heroine who always does something that causes conflict, something that causes scandal that has to be taken care of with the hero’s help. I know some readers don’t care for this, but I like the I’ll do anything to make my life better theme, and this time around Athena McAllister is a heroine who takes no prisoners. She’s an older woman in the eyes of society, on the shelf, a spinster, and her last hope for marrying is finally coming true, much to her relief. She’s admired her handsome lord for a while now and is thrilled when he proposes. But that very same night she finds him in the arms of another woman, a woman with ties to the now defunct Pleasure Emporium.
Athena is brokenhearted but not down and out. She takes her destiny and that of other spinster-type ladies of the ton in her own hands, she buys the Pleasure Emporium building, opens The School of Womanly Arts to teach these women how to attract a man and how to keep him happy in intimate ways so they don’t go traipsing off to the nearest widow or prostitute and the women don’t spend their lives alone. She still teaches the usual embroidery and painting, among other things, that a lady of quality should have in her arsenal, but she also adds kissing and other sensual delights to the school catalog. Things go well until a case of mistaken identity takes on a life of its own.
Captain Marshall Hawkesworth is checking out this women’s school after learning his sister attended and she’s now more outspoken about the fact Marshall will be the one to choose a husband for her, and not necessarily one she loves. But upon arrival at the school, Athena mistakes him for the night’s nude model and a roomful of ladies are waiting with bated breath to get his form down on paper. Though the woman is a prickly as can be, Marshall has to admit she has some good points when it comes to women and marriage; he begins to see his sister’s plight in a different way. And he wants to see more of Athena differently.
Eventually the secret of the school makes the newspaper, Athena learns who Marshall really is, and all hell breaks loose, leaving everyone involved hanging in the wind, reputations in tatters. Deciding to work together, however, they come up with a plan that’s quite risky, but the reward in the end will be worth a little pain. Through all of this Athena finally learns what it is she’s been looking for all along, and she couldn’t have been more wrong about what she thought she wanted. Marshall himself has known from the beginning Athena is the one for him, and he’s going to make sure Athena knows it too, even in the face of his mother’s ire that he would wed someone so beneath their station,.
I really liked all the characters in this book, even the villains, who really weren’t all that bad as far as villains go. Marshall and Athena banter and fight to keep things snappy and moving along. Athena’s partner, Hester, has her own little side story about issues with her husband that are quite pertinent to the story and helps push Athena’s point home concerning women and how society views them. There is an underlying mystery, but it really doesn’t have much to do with the story itself, expect to spur Athena on in her goals.
I’m glad I keep giving Ms. Marcos a chance with each book she writes. It’s rewarding to see an author only better with each successive book.
The Pleasure Emporium was once the bordello of choice for London’s gentlemen elite. But now the ladies have something far more seductive—and scandalous—in store…
An Affair to Remember
After discovering her fiancé in the arms of a courtesan, Athena McAllister comes to a frightful realization: Most men prefer the company of their mistresses to their wives. How can she, and other brides-to-be, become both wife and mistress to a man? In her quest for knowledge, she begs her grandfather to let her start a finishing school for marriageable ladies. There she and her students discreetly invite London’s most notorious rakes to educate them on the art of seducing a man.
A Desire They’ll Never Forget…
Marshall Hawkesworth’s sister has become far too knowledgeable about the ways of sex, and he suspects that her new finishing school is to blame. Marshall poses as a lecturer on several topics, including sensual kissing, and he soon finds Athena to be a most apt pupil. But before he has her school shut down for good, he’s determined to give her a few private lessons she won’t soon forget…
Read an excerpt.
Other books in this series: