Kindle Readers: Please note that this book has a prologue, but that the book opened - at least for me - at chapter 1. The prologue is also not mentioned in the table of contents. I only discovered it because I hit the back button by mistake. Without it, you'll be missing the much discussed carriage scene.
I selected this book, because ... well, I don't entirely know. I'd pre-ordered it, so I must have heard something good about the author or she must have impressed me on a message board somewhere. Besides, gorgeous cover, which - as a Kindle owner - I can only appreciate from afar. I'm sure I was also interested because the plot promised some raciness. While I appreciate trembling virgin heroines, I also like a story with more advanced sensuality.
The plot actually gives us both types of heroines. We have the newly married Brianna and her friend, the yet unmarried, Rebecca. Brianna discovered in a small shop a book from a "scarlet lady." She bought it because she wanted to seduce her husband into being more attentive and also fulfill some of her own personal needs. Her husband, Colton, is both highly aroused and confused as to where she's coming up with these ideas. He finds a confidante in his brother Robert. Rebecca, Brianna's friend, is quite smitten with Robert, who is a "rakehell." Robert gives his brother terrific advice which amounts to not looking a gift horse in the mouth. This attitude immediately made me anticipate his scenes with Rebecca.
Brianna, Robert, and Rebecca are all - in their own ways - progressive thinkers. This is both good and bad. Obviously, it's enjoyable to read characters that see the world more in easily relatable modern terms. Jane Austen would have committed seppuku before writing a book about a wife dropping to her knees, although she might have enjoyed Rebecca's interest in composing. Robert, being the more experienced brother and Colton's sounding board, is as close to a feminist as one could expect back then - at least until he takes leave of his senses AKA falls in love. However, and remember that I want the heightened erotic elements, a book like this can edge on coming across as being people playing dress-up, rather than genuinely inhabiting that time.
I didn't fully buy that Brianna, who'd apparently been a perfect "lady" up until then, bought the book and then freely shared this knowledge with her friends, following the advice without trepidation. The plot wasn't a problem, but her comfort level struck me as too modern. How much this, and similar details, are a problem for you will be based on your expectations.
The actual guide book felt authentic though, and acknowledged the different expectations for women at that time and, certainly, the outsized control wielded by the men in their lives. This was a good device for speaking to the reader and used to greater effect than the moments when the characters seemed to take on the role of providing social commentary through their thoughts, as the heroines tended to do. I certainly didn't want them to be unaware, but the execution came across a reminder that this was a book written in modern times and with a modern sensibility rather than letting the events and the interactions between the characters lead the reader to her own thoughts on the restrictions of the time.
In truth, Rebecca and Robert started out as being the more interesting couple for me. She secretly composed music and the plot allowed an opportunity for him to accompany her in the playing of one of her compositions. I quite enjoyed that - the unknowing intimacy. The revelation that she was the composer came and went too fast. A third brother was also present, and he was also an enjoyable character. I have to say that Colton was my least favorite of the men up until the last few chapters.
The lovemaking wasn't truly outrageous, only perhaps advanced for the time, and more time was spent out of the bedroom than in it. There was a lot of conversation between the characters, and the pages were divided between the couples, so there was not a lot of time to fully explore any of the main characters.
I enjoyed "Lessons" overall, but I can't say I fully clicked with this author in the same way I have with a few other books I've reviewed recently. I adored the premise, but I'm left feeling not all of the potential was achieved. There's enough here for me to anticipate that this will find an appreciative audience though. I'm guessing the remaining brother, Damien, might find his own lady in the parlor, naughty girl elsewhere soon -- hopefully she'll get a copy of a certain advice-filled book.