This book is definitely NOT for everyone. It is a very erotic love triangle that some will find hot and others may find, as another reviewer put it, "nasty". I fall into the former camp and found it rather erotic, but also flawed. It is not particularly romantic, so if that's what you are looking for/expecting you may want to try something else. Instead I'd call it more compelling or intriguing or, perhaps, even disfunctional.
Clarissa Onslowe is the daughter of a vicar and a fallen woman. She has been sent by her only remaining relative to the Carribean to be governess to the daughter of a plantation owner. As the ship pulls out of Bristol, she meets lawyer Allen Pendale, a man fleeing an irate husband he cuckolded and on a mission to inform his plantation owner father that his wife, Allen's mother, has just died. Clarissa and Allen are attracted to one another and on the voyage Clarissa shares with Allen her plans to eventually become a courtesan. She may have been ruined, but she is far from experienced, and she enlists Allen's rakish help in furthering her education. Allen is only too happy to oblige and while he plans to simply amuse himself with Clarissa, he finds himself falling for her much to his shock.
When they arrive and meet Clarissa's employer, Mr Lemarchand or "March", Allen realizes that he has a rival for Clarissa in this powerful and wealthy man. But he also quickly realizes, much to his discomfort, that March is not only attracted to Clarissa. Yes, we have a menage a trois in which Allen loves Clarissa, Clarissa loves March and March loves Allen. But when March discovers a secret about Allen, all hell breaks loose and readers can only wonder what will become of these forbidden lovers.
While the book worked for me on an erotic level (much to my surprise since I'm not really into male/male interaction or threesomes), it didn't so much on an emotional level. I never understood why Clarissa loved March so - he may have been sexually attractive or fascinating but not particularly worthy of her love. I did, however really like Allen's character very much and shared his frustation with Clarissa. But interestingly enough, it was March's initial feelings for Allen that I found most poignant.
The author dedicates the book to those who led the abolitionist movement and, while slavery is obviously covered, it is handled almost in passing as I'm sure the Europeans experienced it. They simply believed that these fellow human beings were property to be treated like little more than animals and, while there are scenes of cruelty, they are relatively few and of short duration. Was it a perfect book? No, but if you are tired of the same old same old in historical romance/erotica, and enjoy a more unorthodox read, this may be for you. The trade paperback price tag may make this more of a borrow than a buy, however. For me, I'll be very interested in what Ms Lockwood comes out with next.