Pleasure for Pleasure, by Eloisa James

With her nods to Shakespeare, fondness for lofty literary quotations, and unsentimental dialogue, Eloisa James clearly wants to stand out from the bodice-ripper pack. Unfortunately, she seems less interested in coherent plot structure. Her most recent novel, Pleasure for Pleasure, isn’t totally unreadable, but it’s damn close.

Pleasure for Pleasure starts promisingly enough. James’s heroine, Josie, is overweight—so much so that English society’s nastiest wit, Charles Darlington, has dubbed her “The Scottish Sausage”. Having a genuinely heavy heroine would have been an original step for a historical romance, but Ms. James’s courage fails her, and by the end of the first third of the novel it’s clear that Josie isn’t fat at all. She’s (shocker!) enticingly voluptuous, and, with the help of some tight gowns and a little confidence, she instantly has dozens of panting Englishmen flinging themselves at her feet.

In another unusual step, it’s clear that the hero and heroine of Pleasure for Pleasure actually like one another. Unfortunately, their affection for one another cuts down on opportunities for angst-fueled plot development, which means that more attention is devoted to the secondary characters. On the upside, the secondary characters are more interesting. On the downside, they make no sense. Mean-spirited Darlington goes through a particularly confusing story arc, summarized below:
1. He decides to marry for money.

2. He meets Lady Griselda, Josie’s chaperon. Sparks fly.

3. Lady Griselda is not interested in marrying him, but she’s not averse to having an affair.

4. As they grow closer, he explains that his father wanted him to propose to Josie, which is why he came up with the charming “Scottish Sausage” thing. In a jaw-dropping understatement, Griselda pats his hand and describes his attempt to ruin her young charge’s life as “shabby, if understandable”.

5. Darlington’s bizarre explanation holds water for a while, but it eventually turns out that he has no need of a rich wife or his father’s approval, thus proving that he did his best to ruin Josie for no reason at all—except for the fact that he’s a freaking psycho. James seems to be hoping that no one will notice this, and these characters trot off to the requisite happy ending without any further discussion of his motivations.

It’s painfully clear that James simply phoned in most of Pleasure for Pleasure. Maybe her editor quit, or maybe she’s gotten used to grading her work on a curve that includes inexplicable success stories like Catherine Coulter and Sandra Brown, rather than comparable talents like Suzanne Enoch and Julia Quinn. Regardless, her fans deserve better than this—much, much better than this.
Posted by: Julia, Last edit by: Julianka


09 Dec, 2006 03:55 AM @ version 0

The biggest thing I noticed was the proofreading errors. On page 325, the heroine has her face buried in the hero's chest hair (ew!), but on page 326 they're happily chatting about how he's smooth-chested.

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