Pros: Beautifully written, the heroine feels very real.
Cons: The ending feels a little rushed and cliché
Rating: 4.75 out of 5
Review book courtesy of Penguin Group
Mary Wren is a simple girl, an orphan taken in by Lady Catherine Worthy and put to work in the kitchens. When she meets and falls in love with John Lyon, their romance is all the hotter for having to be kept hidden. But when she is ruined on the dining room table before Sunday dinner, she and John are both cast out. John is taken to India, while Mary is left to fend for herself. She is taken in once again, this time by Calliope Wiles, the mistress of the Earl of Rogersme. With the help of Calliope, Mary (now Marianna) will attempt to make a living for herself, but will she and John be able to find each other again? Or will she live her life with pleasure but no love?
Charlotte Lovejoy’s Madame Bliss: The Erotic Adventures of a Lady was one of those books that I simply did not want to put down after I had started it. Marianna was an absolute joy to spend time with, because she is no sheltered society miss. Her embrace of sensuality once she is introduced to it is wonderful to watch, because there is an innocent joy in it. She is far from perfect in the eyes of Society, but she is determined to enjoy her life anyways. I enjoy stories of women who are resilient, and the way that Marianna makes a living for herself while waiting for John without becoming bitter or resentful actually felt uplifting. This is a love story about a woman’s journey to finding herself without the help of the man she loves. It’s certainly not a typical romance, but all the more wonderful because of that.
I also enjoyed the depictions of different parts of London society. The reader gets to see not only the typical rich lords and their pampered mistresses but also the worlds of artists, mistresses of minor lords, and what can happen when a lord with full control of his household exercises that authority. The story felt richer for all of the different people and perspectives that Marianna sees. Even the situation in which Marianna finds the closest thing to happiness while waiting for John speaks volumes about not only her character, but about London Society.
The voice of the story was also beautifully done; it almost feels as if someone from the time period was telling the story to us. It took a chapter or two to get used to, but it adds another way to fall into the story and feel as if you’re really there. I also loved that in one or two areas she obliquely points out a trope and purposely avoids it, such as an escape that is undramatic in any way.
The one thing that did feel a little bit off to me was the way in which the story wrapped everything up. Not only did it feel rushed, it felt cliché. I wish we could have seen more about how Marianna felt about being put in that situation; after the detailed descriptions of her reactions throughout the rest of the book, these descriptions felt perfunctory. It was almost as if Ms. Lovejoy was coming to the end of a page limit and had to cram the ending in. The way in which Marianna finds John again not only felt exceedingly impossible, it also felt a bit unoriginal. If the pace had been a little slower, I think I could have felt more prepared for it but that seemed to happen out of the blue.
Despite the rushed ending, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I absolutely fell in love with Marianna and her zest for life and all that it has to offer. She’s a spunky girl making her way in the world, and it was refreshing to see a historical heroine who had no aspirations to move up to the highest ranks of Society. Unique adventures and vibrant characters combine to make this a real treat for someone looking for an atypical historical romance. I never wanted this book to end!