On the first day, she left him with her name.
On the second day, her story.
On the third day, a touch.
On the fourth day, a kiss.
On the fifth day, her heart.
Every day, they built on the tentative connection, on the very small impression of the first meeting but the seduction isn't one-sided -- as Angelina slowly chips through John's defenses, John also melts Angelina's cynicism with his sincerity and kindness. But even a change of heart cannot change who Angelina is, a whore, a prostitute, a woman completely unsuitable for John.
This novella reminded me of Cinema Paradiso , except the roles were reversed: it is the woman who must prove her constancy to the man (and it didn't take Angelina 100 days to convince John). And Angelina isn't there to show her constancy, she's there to do a job she was hired to do: seduce John and make him interested in women again. All for the sum of one hundred pounds.
In some other play, she'd stay here in his castle, be beloved by him. Love him. Even the word itself made her chest tighten. Plays of love, where all ended well, were not particularly fashionable at the moment. Skewering wit and social commentary, or at least a good tragedy, were far more favored among the populace. Accordingly, her life was more a Sheridan play.
She slid away from him, stretched out, and stared up at the royal blue light of a night about to break into day.
So she loved him. What did she know of love? This was nothing like that first desperate infatuation of her youth, when all she cared about were feelings and dramatic gestures. It was nothing like the sophisticated flirtations and meaningless companionship of her time with either Alverley or Lord Peter.
With John, she'd stripped naked, beyond her literal skin, down to the parts of her she rarely, if ever, acknowledged to herself. Terrifying.
- p. 87
Angelina is mercenary out of necessity. She needs the money to survive but she isn't without honor. In fact, she has dignity and grace -- two traits that one would not normally associate with a prostitute, but Angelina has them both in spades. She's there to help John's mother and John and she is intent in fulfilling the terms of the contract. That she fell in love with John along the way is a complication and job hazard that she is willing to endure on her own once her job was done.
I love that she's also very practical and doesn't fall into melodrama or histrionics over her predicament. She views her situation with such candor and pragmatism that it really is heartbreaking. Angelina won me over, she had me at "hello" (p. 10) -- really, she did.
This isn't that short (which I am thankful for because it was an utter pleasure to read) and it is completely, completely fascinating. After I finished reading the book (in one sitting), I couldn't sleep thinking about just how wonderful this story was and what I wanted to say in this review.
Sabrina Darby left me with a very good first impression with her debut novel, On these Silken Sheets , and she has ensured my undying loyalty with this novella about Angelina Whitcombe.