Even before I met the Essex sisters, I’ve been patiently waiting for Eloisa James to give poor Mayne a break and send someone to love him. He’s never been the same since Helena rejected him in Your Wicked Ways.
So when the Essex sisters were introduced, I had this feeling that one of the Essex sisters will complete his soul’s yearning for true love and secretly hoped it’d be the delightfully saucy Josie, the heroine of Pleasure for Pleasure.
The book opens with Imogen’s and Rafe’s wedding, during which we met Mayne’s fiancée, the decidedly French and eccentric Sylvie, and a downcast Josie who’s trying to cheer up after the debacle of her debut. The curvaceous young woman was given the hateful nickname of “The Scottish Sausage” by a bunch of bored, inconsiderate young bucks within a week of her debut, and her hopes of gaining a respectable marriage appear dim.
To boost her flagging confidence, Mayne, who’s always had a soft spot for our dear witty Josie, took her under his wings one evening, and gave her some sound advice: discard her corset, flaunt her curves and flirt outrageously.
As Josie blossoms under Mayne’s tutelage, she unfortunately attracted the unwanted attentions of a petty young lord. After she was nearly violated, Mayne stepped in and offered for her hand in marriage to save her from utter ruin, never suspecting that her virtue is still intact and that she is desperately in love with him.
My favourite scene was the part when Mayne cross dressed to show Josie how to walk like a woman and kiss like one. This scene is telling because it reveals how Mayne appreciates Josie’s fine wit and her knowledge of literature. There were also at least two other scenes which build and support the rightness of their pairing – those at the races, and their exchange of Shakespeare quotes and verses from love poems.
The two main characters engage my interest as I’ve followed their ups and downs since Much Ado (Mayne much earlier), which I enjoyed. Ms James elegant pose and clever dialogues really add an extra sparkle to the intriguing subplot of the London society trying to unmask the mystery writer of a very risqué memoir. There is also an empowering second romance involving Mayne’s sister and a much younger suitor. The young Darling-ton has taste, I must say!
This book is a pleasure to the very last not just because it is a great finale to a wonderful series, but also because it’s gratifying for me to see my favourite, and oft misunderstood, Eloisa James hero get his happily-ever-after fairy tale ending.