The moment that you see the cover to this book, you’re going to think, “there has got to be a big blurry line between romance novels and porn.” And there is, sure. A line that’s blurrier than the eyesight of a shortsighted drunk who looked straight at the eclipse.

Eloisa James is one of the writers who most often has steamy covers, and Pleasure for Pleasure is no exception. (And in case you are wondering, the story has no resemblance to Measure for Measure – no severed heads in this one. Drat.)

I say this to get it out of the way.


This book gets full points for consciously dealing with age differences: one couple is between a thirty-five year old man and an eighteen year old woman; the other is between a thirty-two year old woman and a twenty-seven year old man. In each case, the older partner bemoans how unrealistic their relationship is, how their age differences means that they have less in common; they say things like ‘I was seventeen when you were born…’


It was tremendously satisfying to see an older woman with a younger man; it was more realistic, particularly in the light of a guy in peri-midlife-crisis and a girl who barely knows which foot goes in which shoe.

That said, James missed a huge opportunity. The 35 year old guy (The Geezer) is initially engaged to another woman (The Ice Queen), a lady of extreme elegance and poise. The Ice Queen prefers not to be touched; she is always perfectly presented, always knows just how to act. She does well socially, and is most comfortable in her sphere, around other women. Her role in the story is a little confusing: she is never fully vilified as most other love-rivals are, but never fully embraced, either. For a genre book like this, such waffling can be enjoyable, just not when so little attention is paid to it for it to be worthwhile.

Their engagement is broken when The Geezer tries to steal a kiss, and The Ice Queen slaps him good and hard. He’s left standing, aghast, wondering how he’s misread the situation.

I was pulling for The Ice Queen to be asexual. It’d be a first, and it would be genuinely interesting. There had to have been a number of women who never wanted to get married, who never wanted to be intimate with a man – or a woman, either. I was reading a book with a character who didn’t like passing touches, touches which were largely nonsexual. It made sense. Of course, James pulled a hat trick at the end and made her a lesbian. The Ice Queen left England, and that was that.

I like the idea of the contrast of a story that is all about pairing off, true love, and (ehrm) carnal knowledge that has this radical other perspective, the character who needs friendship and family but who doesn’t need matrimony. It would be the ultimate subversion of the genre while still egging it on. (Though you could argue that is what we are doing here.)


Tropes: 5, 6, 14, 16, 19

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