3 out of 4 stars
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The House of Trysts, by Lucy White, is an erotic romance novel. This book has graphic language and sex scenes (some involving BDSM). Therefore, this is only appropriate for adult readers.
The story is told from an omniscient third-person point of view. There are breaks within chapters that typically reflect a change in the primary viewpoint. The viewpoint fluctuates between various characters throughout the novel.
The story focuses on two primary characters with overlapping storylines. The first is Laura, a woman in her thirties, who is stuck in a marriage with a husband who refuses to be intimate with her. The second is Lady Pamela, a rich woman in her seventies, who is the life of the party and just so happens to run an illegal high-end escort service in the heart of London.
The story opens with Laura explaining why she thinks her husband hasn't slept with her in over a year. As the first few chapters unfold, she realizes there's a lot more to the story than she thought. These discoveries lead her to take her life into her own hands. She randomly meets Lady Pamela and forms a close relationship with her. She's in the dark about Lady Pamela's profession, but thanks to the unseen guiding hands of the woman and her old friend, "The Colonel", Laura unwittingly becomes a part of their underground world. This world is nothing like her own. It's filled with an array of tantalizing and vibrant characters. What will happen when she finds out about what really goes on at Lady Pamela's house? How will this affect her relationships with these people? How will it affect her relationship with her husband?
This book covers themes like betrayal, artistic expression, emotional abuse, empowerment and manipulation via sexual acts, dynamic and complex familial relationships, and the need to get lost in order to find out where you're going. As is typical of a lot of books in this genre, this book highlights the belief that men are constantly thinking about sex and it is the primary, if not only, driving force behind their actions. It's a little boring, not to mention an unfair generalization, but I'm not surprised. It's also a fair viewpoint in a book that focuses on an escort business.
Laura's storyline follows her marriage, her attempts to both save it and escape from it, and trying to maintain a good relationship with her daughter, Juliet, through it all. After the first few chapters, her ultimate storyline is fairly predictable; however, the author does manage to throw in some nice twists along the way, which I heartily commend her for.
Lady Pamela, also known as "Madam Pam", has a much more interesting storyline. For one, she and her servant, Tanice, are the best characters in this book. They are complex, dynamic, witty and well-developed. Their relationship is hilarious. Secondly, this is where you really get the behind the scenes look at the escort business. You get to meet the escorts (two of which are well-developed characters) and their frequent customers, find out about Madam Pam's racy past, how and why the business started in the first place, and the sort of "special services" they offer (like BDSM or a "special tea ceremony").
Tanice offers a different insight as she knows the ins-and-outs of the business but makes no attempts to justify what goes on there. She eavesdrops on the girls' conversations because she's working on a "bodice ripper" novel. There are excerpts throughout the book, most of which are hilarious due to the fact that they're filled with grammatical and spelling errors (as the author intended them to be).
The relationships are the best part of this book. Oddly, given that it's a romance novel, the romantic relationships aren't the ones that jumped out at me. Given that all of the characters are unique, three-dimensional, and have their own secrets and vices, the relationships they form with one another are enticing. It's interesting to see the dynamic of the conspiring and manipulative partners who run the show, the relationship between Madam Pam and her escorts, the inner thoughts of an escort and her customer, and the complicated relationships of a family that is falling apart and unsure of whether they should let nature take its course or fight to change it. That is only the beginning of an extensive list. I didn't feel that any relationship seemed forced; that's always a plus in my books.
Unfortunately, the book does drop off towards the end. Most of the novel is fast-paced, but once the book climaxes, things get a lot slower and, honestly, a lot more predictable. If it had only been one of these things, it would've been just fine, but the combination made reading it a bit of a drag. However, things are tied up nicely, and the author even includes an "epilogue" of sorts where she sums up what she believes the reader would like to know about what happened to the characters. I really enjoyed that part. She also includes recipes of several dishes Tanice made throughout the novel.
This book could use some professional editing as it's full of technical errors. The author likes to start a new line between the dialogue and its preceding tagline, and I found that really distracting. "Madam" and "Madame" are interchanged throughout the novel. There are a lot of periods outside of quotation marks and a few spelling errors.
This book is charming, witty, whimsical and has amazing characters. There are dull points in the novel, but White's writing style makes even these moments sparkle with humor. Because of the dragging out of the ending and the technical errors, I give this book 3 out of 4 stars.
I recommend this book to people who love witty and snappy characters, reading about illicit businesses, collapsing marriages, and, well, sex. To be fair, I'm picky about erotic novels because I'm uninterested in meaningless graphic sex scenes that don't advance the plot. All of the sex scenes in this book add something to the storyline. They also are descriptive without being too perverse. I wouldn't recommend this book to people who are uncomfortable with strong language or sex. I also wouldn't recommend it to people who cannot get past a bunch of technical errors or only enjoy romance novels when the romances are consistently front and center.
The house of trysts
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