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If anyone is keeping a record of longest sex scenes in romance novels, I think Mastering the Marquess is a strong contender. The first sexual encounter between our hero and heroine spans 7 chapters: Chapters 3-9, but, as I read through it, it didn't feel overlong or over-extended. I love how thoroughly Lavinia Kent explored this moment, making it clear how important and pivotal this scene is to Louisa and Geoffrey's love story. I think it was wonderful how Geoffrey and Louisa's love developed out of very honest conversation, shared intimacy, and, perhaps, a mutual curiosity.
"Are you ready to proceed?" he asked.
She tensed, bit harder at her lip. "I don't know."
"I will promise not to laugh again -- unless you tickle me. I should warn you: I do not like to be tickled." He made his voice severe.
"I don't think I care for it either, although it has been a decade or more since anyone has tickled me."
"We agree to no tickling then, although some things may be ticklish. You will have to tell me if it is too much."
"I agree to no tickling."
Good, she'd agreed to proceed without even realising it. "Should we have any other rules?"
"I don't know -- I think that should be clear by now. I know nothing."
Damn. She sounded unsure again. "We can keep it simple. All you have to do is tell me if you want me to slow down or stop."
"I can manage that. And will you do the same?"
- loc 977-987
As I write this review,I'm consciously avoiding the term "dark" to keep from sounding redundant, but there's no other word to use to describe the encounters of our hero and heroine: together they test the boundaries of pain/pleasure and try to define their relationship on their own terms. A necessary thing because Louisa and Geoffrey are members of "Polite Society" and such things are never spoken about -- Louisa frets about her sexual awakening and struggles with questions about what is proper or permitted.
There's a point in Mastering the Marquess where I felt Lavinia Kent could've ended the story, and it would have been satisfying, but it would also mean answering only half of Louisa's question, and this is, perhaps, why the author decided to push forward and continue to tell the story of Louisa and Geoffrey. After this point, the story takes a dark turn: exposing the lengths of cruelty that the villain of the story, Countess Ormande, was willing to go through for Geoffrey and pushed Louisa ask if is she willing to go that far for the sake of her love for him. It's at that moment that I came to admire the heroine because, despite her innocence and lack of knowledge/experience about Geoffrey's lifestyle, she knew herself and knew her own limits. It takes a brave and confident woman to take a stand, and Louisa is that woman.
Geoffrey's story is a quest for acceptance. While he has embraced the dark side of his desires, he wonders if he could find a woman who would embrace and accept him for who he is. He straddles both sides of himself, wondering if he is the straightlaced gentleman his father and sister see him, or if he is the dominant lover who takes pleasure in the darker aspects of sex? It's interesting how he was able to be and enjoy both with Louisa, but, he worried that he might break her, so he kept controlled himself. I wondered if he would have been content living and barely skimming the surface of the deeper aspects of his desires. The final encounter with Countess Ormande and Louisa also addresses this.
Unfortunately, when the story took this dark turn, it also took an uneven tone and an abrupt change in pace, which I thought it was a bit jarring and confusing (and it took me a while to get my bearings). While it gave the story a definitive resolution (and answered all of Louisa and Geoffrey's questions), I thought it had taken away a lot of the story's original charm, luster and momentum.
Mastering the Marquess is Book 1 in Lavinia Kent's Bound and Determined series. As mentioned on the author's website, this is "an erotic romance intended for mature audiences." To find out more about Lavinia Kent and her books, click below: