This book had some buzz and so I thought I'd read it to see if Katherine Greyle's Jade Lee erotic stories would be something to watch. For me, the answer is - maybe. The premise, while improbable, sounded intriguing but the execution fell a bit short of the mark.
On the death of her parson father, Lynette Jameson does not want to be a penniless drain on her relations and so, on the advice of a family friend, writes to Baroness Huntley who will assist her in finding a wealthy husband. When she arrives in London, however, it is not only the baroness, but her handsome, brooding nephew, Viscount Marlock who will participate in her instruction. For not only will she learn comportment, manners, fashion and how to move in Society, she will also learn how to entice and please a man. The "Marlock brides" are, for lack a a better word, marketed to a select group of older, often sickly gentlemen who want to be pleasured and taken care of in their dotage. Marlock's sales pitch to the destitute girls who come to him is that in five, ten, fifteen years the old boy will kick off and then the women are free to carry on and do as they please as wealthy widows. While Lynette struggles with "selling herself" and often has misgivings, she feels this is the best course open to her and resigns herself to her fate. She suffers indignities, insecurities and a blossoming sensuality that Adrian awakens in her that both thrills and frightens her.
Adrian takes no satisfaction in what he has been reduced to in order to save his crumbling family estate. He feels anger at his family (especially his aunt), his fate, shame for his actions and sadness for these women who become such a large part of his life and then leave him to his loneliness. He wonders if he is helping them to a better life or selling them into slavery with the hope of a distant payoff years down the road. But from day one Lynette is different. She is much more sensible, curious, intelligent, and innately sensual than any of his prior "girls". He admires her and does not look forward to the day when she walks down the aisle - eventhough his part of her marriage portion will finally allow him to quit this wretched business and begin to set his estate to rights.
Of course they fall for one another and now have a dilemma: he needs her to marry to ensure his financial future and she needs the security of a rich husband. What to do?
While I enjoyed aspects of this story, I found it surprisingly slow, lifeless, and flat. I liked the characters on an intellectual level but they never really touched me on an emotional level. And I had expected much more of a sustained erotic undercurrent between Adrian and Lynette from the moment she entered the house, but there really wasn't much - only during the admittedly steamy scenes in the last quarter of the book, which was very disappointing. Surprisingly the only character that I truly felt empathy for was the baroness, Aunt Agatha whose guilty over Adrian's fate and the fate of all those girls drives her to the bottle - until Lynette challenges her to take another stab at life. While enjoyable on some levels, it's just not a book that I would heartily recommend to others. I will keep an open mind, however, as her next books will be set in China and delve into the Dragon/Tigress sect. If she can infuse a little more life and emotion into her characters, she'll be a force to be reckoned with.