Hello, Fellow Readers! Please join us in welcoming our friend, Moira Nelligar to the blog. She’ll be reviewing – in three parts - the books of one of her favorite authors, Robin Schone.
Hello, Fellow Readers from Read Our Lips! Book Review Blog.
In this three part examination of Robin Schone’s works, I will review each of her stories in depth. Detail requires that I break this into parts as the only method which will not inundate readers of this blog with so much information one might be inclined to skim through.
A bit of biographical data: Robin began reading romance novels at the tender age of twelve. Her first romance novel was a Georgette Heyer historical, These Old Shades. Her classical training at Rockford College in Illinois prepared her for the arts as a painter. Writing came secondarily as a creative outlet when the apartment she and her new husband lived in was found to be too small for her artist easel.
Awaken My Love was the first of her books to sell. It required four exhaustive attempts at writing a novel. Awaken is considered to be a groundbreaker in being the first romance novel to begin with a masturbation scene. Thank goodness for her tenacity because Awaken was rejected by 28 agents before selling to a publisher five days after her 29th agent submitted it in 1995.
Robin’s novels have been translated into Chinese, Czech, French, German, Polish, Russian and Spanish: a notable accomplishment for any romance writer.
I was lucky. My first foray into the romance genre was Angela Knight’s short story, Dracula, Dominant. That story spun me off my heels and into a plush chair. I had no idea that stories could be so … HOT. I wanted more. Hooked, I began my search by reading web and blog recommendations from other writers who wrote as viscerally. One well-known and respected author recommended Schone’s The Lover. My journey into erotic romance came alive.
There is only one Robin Schone. Her iconic style propels her themes like no other author. You will find that the best writers employ word usages that are entirely their own and phrases that if you find elsewhere, your mind flashes back to where you first met them. Robin uses intense word images—exploding mattresses, sensations bolting down a spine, blistering heat, heat spiraling through nipples. Concepts like coiling anticipation, molten fire, scalding heat, breath snagging in chests, scorching heat, and her ubiquitous ‘embers exploding in a fireplace’ and ‘a door closing somewhere in the distance’.
Robin found success with her very first novel, Awaken, My Love in 1995. Her second novel, my personal favorite, is The Lady’s Tutor. She followed that with The Lover in 2000 which might be considered her masterwork.
Her rich research of the period infuses her stories with a consuming interest in women’s history and its repressive roots infuses by weaving the fabric of time itself into a vital character internal to each story. This is history. Not a history told at arm’s length but an up close history told through the eyes of her softly sensual female protagonists. She pulls no punches about the sexuality and the brutality that happened at the time when women could be institutionalized by their fathers or husbands for ‘acting up’, for expressing needs or ‘railing against the unfairness of the lives’.
After heavy research into the Victorian era, she begins several of her books with the admission that women have not come as far as we believe. The late 1800s gave us department stores, taxis, hot and cold running water, flushing toilets. It also boasted toilet paper, sanitary napkins, and condoms. However, Robin writes of repression against women that is almost unbelievable in today’s age, and in a voice that I find so compelling in all her stories. Much of her writing appears in the era of reticules and corsets, of fine lawn clothing and women’s abigails to assist with such finery. She also traces the history of male prostitution back to the late 1700s when ‘stallions’ were in fashion—men who were the most expensive studs in England. Hence, The Lover, an outgrowth of referring to men endowed in excess of 9 inches as studs.
This dark thriller mixes an oxygenated eroticism within its storyline. Dark haired, violet-eyed 41-year old Michel de Anges aka Michael of the Angels is named for his ability to bring women to orgasm. Every woman. Every time.
The story opens with this former male prostitute sitting in the House of Gabriel, a high class brothel where every carnal desire can be satisfied, where nothing was forbidden, awaiting the woman who has purchased his sexual favors for the month via the help of her solicitor.
Michel has money enough to fill several fortunes. So why does he agree to this? It’s not the money. And it’s more than sexual need. There’s a dark secret that refuses to finish playing itself out until the conclusion of Robin’s second book in this series, Gabriel’s Woman.
Michael has no peace. He learned to bury the horror of his childhood in the scent and taste of a woman. Now he sits waiting, wanting revenge over the person who took away his life that had made him a stud to be sold to any woman who could afford his price. He’s a stallion, renowned in both France and England, as is his friend Gabriel, who attends him this evening. Both men have a near thirty-year friendship between them; they were children when they met, starving in the slums of Paris. A brothel owner took them in, making them her angels, a dark haired one (Michael) for the women, a fair haired one (Gabriel) for the men.
Robin possesses a writing style unlike any other writer in this genre I’ve encountered. Single sentences serve as paragraphs that conjure images that slam into the minds of her readers’ consciousness. Words that linger on the palate; words to provoke sensation. Each sentence serves as a puzzle piece. Fire, flame, rage flaring … they only tease, a whisper of a mystery unfolding.
Fire destroyed Michel’s right cheek and hands. Now it’s been five years since any woman has looked at him without flinching. But shy, 36 year old Anne Aimes, one of England’s richest heiresses, sits down at the proffered seat and does not look away. She is a virginal blue-eyed spinster, with silver kissed hair neither blond nor brown. Before her, she sees the man who, 18 years before, besotted her during an appearance at a ball. To her, the scars are trivial. Instead of the rawness of his hands, she sees their length and breadth as he speaks of how he will bring her pleasure by introducing them, one at a time, into her body.
For their allotted time together, he would be Michel, the man who made women see angels, not Michael, the man who brought them death. No longer beautiful but darkly, dangerously attractive, he will be hers for a month after paying the princely sum of $10,000 pounds.
Anne does not realize she is being used as mere bait. A man, some man, has caused the death of one of Michael’s lovers, Diane. The scars on his face and hands came as a result of his attempt to save her. Anne stares at a man without knowing what has become of him, but longs for him nonetheless. In reality, two men reside in the same body. There is the Michael who cannot quench the hunger he feels or heal the heart that suffered so cruelly for so long. Then there is the Michel, a stallion, who seduces and cajoles and uses his sexuality as bait to lure the killer to him.
Michel takes Anne back to his townhome. She is utterly unprepared for the possessive nature of penetration, of what it means to join, to cleave to a man. To Michel, a man she has loved for decades. The medical conspectus she had read had not cited the repercussions of coition. There had been no reference to the emotional cleaving that occurred with shared orgasm. No mention of the whispered exchange of confidences that exposed loneliness and incited lust … awakening in the bed of a man who had stripped away her every inhibition to reveal her for the love-starved woman that she was.
An interesting side character is Madame Rene, a modiste, a couturière, An artiste. Michael takes Anne to her for a wardrobe makeover. Initially, this humiliates Anne who thinks Michael feels ashamed to be seen with the spinster in public. He can’t possibly be attracted to a woman such as she who doesn’t appear to meet the approval of the French seamstress.
"Madame said that I am too small in the breasts." Her voice was small—almost as small as she felt. "That my waist is thickening. And that my legs are passable. But not to worry, she will do well by me."
He tilted her chin so that she had no choice but to meet his violet gaze. "That is not what she told me," Michel murmured smoothly.
There was no condemnation in either his voice or his face.
"Oh?" Anne drew in a shaky breath. "I would not have credited her with sparing a woman's sensibilities."
Laughter glinted in his eyes, like sunshine rippling on a lake. Brilliant. Blinding. "She said that your breasts are high and firm, like those of a young woman. That your waist is supple. And that you have legs like a racehorse."
In the ensuing days, Anne’s sexuality awakens under the mastery of Michel and her passion unfurls like a hothouse flower. She is utterly unaware of the sinister machinations unfolding around her, unaware of the presence of the body in the crate that is delivered to Michael’s house as a warning, unaware that her every step is being watched, unaware of the thick tension that chokes Michael at every turn.
He feels possessive towards Anne. He doesn’t want to hurt her, and promises himself he will do everything possible to keep her safe. However, at the moment her new wardrobe arrives and she is donning the gorgeous underclothes and gown, and reveling in the sensuality of the fabric and the fit, Michael is nowhere to be seen. He has departed, rushing out to the House of Gabriel, now a smoldering ruin, destroyed in a mysterious fire. As Michael clutches the scorched body of his dearest friend, his loss beyond comprehension, a letter from a friend of Anne’s family’s arrives at his home. She must come at once, it says: her mother’s grave has been desecrated. Dutiful Anne races to the countryside … only to face a nightmarish fate at the hands of a man who is beyond all definitions of evil and clearly insane.
There, she discovers Michael has betrayed both her trust and passion. Even as she prays to God to have him save her, she must decide … can she forgive him for the unforgivable?
This book was the very first full-length erotic novel I ever read and a book that has given me comfort many times over. I’ve read it more than a dozen times, at least, lingering over moments between Anne and Michael, gaining better understanding of the mystery that is Michael and Gabriel each time. It is not an easy read; Robin’s style is enigmatic and challenging and wonderfully creative and will leave you pondering what is going on and rereading passages to fully make sense of the developing story. Her men are volcanic and not completely comprehensible on first reading as befits any excellent mystery.
It is so much more than just an erotic romp, books for which I have no taste,. I want real stories, not thin plots wrapped around a lot of titillation. In Robin’s work, you obtain the rich sense of the Victorian era; a time when a woman could be fitted for a cervical cap but a husband could have her restrained, imprisoned and manage her reproductive rights. The Lover is a dark drama that presents us with a killer who makes no appearance until the story winds to its end, even though his malevolent spirit weaves heavily through each page. Why is Michael the source of this deranged killer’s anger? What is he to this obsessed man? Is Gabriel friend or foe? There are moments in the story you cannot be sure. Gabriel is cold to Michael’s hot and there seems to be a push-pull to his friendship with his childhood friend. Why?
I was so desperate to know what happened to Anne and Michael in the continuation of this story that I shipped overnight the sequel. Spent a fortune. I’d do it again.
Silver eyed, and possessed with an ethereal beauty, Gabriel is the untouchable angel, a man who has not been with a woman in over 14 years, though he aches to be. His anger and hurt are visceral, reminders of a childhood spent in gnawing hunger and squalor until a madam rescued him and Michael from the streets. She made them prostitutes in her brothel. Not just any prostitutes but stallions, renowned for their meritorious length and their ability to bring pleasure to their customers. Imagine being forced into prostitution as a young boy and not given a choice of preference as to which sex you prefer. Michael was taught how to please women, Gabriel men.
Both men have made fortunes with their bodies and Gabriel has built a high-class brothel but not for the reason you might think.
Thirty four year old Victoria Childers, a former lady’s governess and the daughter of one of the richest men in England, finds herself dismissed without references after eighteen years of service over improper charges. The Victorian era that offers her no recourse but to sell everything she has to try and survive. She has taken to the streets and even sold her own bustle. At last, she has nothing left to sell … but her virginity.
In this book, some months have elapsed since the conclusion of The Lover. She enters the House of Gabriel on its celebratory reopening night. Michael is present as Victoria enters Gabriel’s establishment to offer her body up to the highest bidder. Gabriel watches dispassionately. Normally, his employees would throw a woman like her out. Something about her got past their defenses. Something about her gets past his defenses. He bids 2000 pounds for her and wins the bid. The untouchable angel has taken a woman … the city will be abuzz with the salacious news by the morning.
On his orders, his men bring her to his suite so he can question her. Who suggested she come here? Who does she work for? We discover Michael is not out of the woods yet. A second man exists somewhere out there who will kill to make Michael suffer. He will certainly kill Gabriel if given the chance. For his own part, Gabriel is seeking the man who raped him years ago. Can they be one and the same? It had been Michael who found Gabriel after the assault, chained in an attic like a dog, lying in his own filth, praying for death. But Michael had not let him die and Gabriel wishes he had. He has hated Michael ever since the rape. In trying to protect the angel he loves, Gabriel has suffered monstrously.
Even while Victoria professes her innocence, a card arrives. It is from the second man. It was he who arranged for this woman to come to Gabriel, to tempt the untouchable angel.
You have set the stage, mon ange, now I bring you a woman. A leading actress, if you will. Laissez le jeu commencer.
Let the play begin. . . .
Confronted, Victoria still insists she knows nothing of him. Can Gabriel believe her? Now he cannot turn her out because he knows, pawn or no, she will be killed too. He must protect her and the only way to do that is to keep her in his suite but not touch her. Touching her will mean her death. Yet her presence proves an intoxication he possesses no defense against. She is everything he has ever wanted in a woman.
If he took her, she could die. If he did not take her, she would die. Of cold. Of hunger.
The same modiste makes an appearance in this book as in the last as Gabriel orders her services to create a wardrobe for the impoverished Victoria. And as she measures Victoria, she skillfully forces both of them to confront their desires. Victoria walks a fine line of believability with Gabriel. He knows she is attracted to him but he can’t bear to be touched, even while craving it desperately. He gets her to allow him to touch her, instead, and begs her to share her light because he has been in darkness for too long.
Michael brings good news that stuns Gabriel. He dismisses him angrily, not wanting him in the crosshairs of what is bound to occur. Fighting fierce attraction to the shy governess, Gabriel digs into her past to find out how she came to his establishment because he believes the loss of her position is no accident. With every minute that passes having the lust each feel for the other grows. They walk a treacherous road that can only end in bloodshed and death. Gabriel knows all too well everything has a price; if faced with a choice between saving Victoria or saving Michael, who will he choose?
Rest assured, when the end comes, it brings incredible closure to the entire mystery. Anne, too, reappears near the end of the story. You will find it satisfying to catch up with her and to see moments of friendship between the two women.
A fun moment for her loyal Robin Schone readers: Gabriel owns a combo bathtub/shower with a copper lined hood like the one purchased by James and Frances in The Scandalous Lovers. It is the very same timeline.
This novel is my personal favorite of all her works.
With a threat to revoke his citizenship if Muhamed, a manservant, doesn’t let her into Lord Safyre’s home, 33 year old Elizabeth Petre, wife of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and daughter to the prime minister of England, meets 38 year old dark skinned, turquoise eyed Lord Ramiel Safyre. Elizabeth comes to the Bastard Sheikh, as he is known because he is the illegitimate son of an English countess and an Arab sheikh, to obtain lessons on how to give her husband sexual pleasure because he will not touch her.
Content to believe her relationship with her husband was satisfying until she heard the rumors that he had a mistress, she is now painfully aware that her marriage is a sham and she’s in nothing more than a sexless bondage. She yearns to find a way to bring her husband back to their marital bed. This devout self-sacrificing woman has been a good wife, wonderful mother and a pillar of society with an adoring public. Approaching Ramiel is a last resort; society scorns him and she’d bring great damage to the public profile of her family if it became known she was consorted with him. For the sake of her marriage, however, she has steeled herself to beg him for instruction.
Ramiel is intrigued. The likes of her did not socialize with the likes of him save behind closed doors and between silken sheets. Tired of being used by women who bed him for the sexual titillation … and his reputation of satisfying them, Ramiel, with his sun kissed wheat colored hair and tailored English clothing, assumes she wants him to show her physically what a man enjoys. To service her. And he would not be blackmailed into having sex. No, she says firmly, she will not be unfaithful to her marriage. She wants the words only. “I do not desire to bed you, sir. I only want you to teach me how to give my husband pleasure so he will bed me.”
She is nothing like he assumes; he is nothing like she expects.
He hands her a book, the 16th century The Perfumed Garden of the Sheikh Nefzaoui and tells her to read it. Thus begins their morning discussions of the book. The book is designed to give expert advice on how to satisfy both women and men. Ramiel studied it as a child, preparing himself to satisfy women. He sends her on her way but not before telling her not to wear a corset at the next meeting. She is naturally reviled, her fine white skin, so prized in Arabia, turning ruby red with the shock of his words (and his knowing) but does as he asks when he tells her it is for her comfort. The following day she must remove her cloak, the next her bonnet.
A eunuch, 53-year old Muhamed, a clothed in turban, baggy trousers and thobs, has been in Ramiel’s service for 26 years. Ramiel asks Muhamed to follow Mrs Petre and then the husband. Rumors circulate that Elizabeth’s husband has taken a lover. He wants to know whom.
Muhamed looked Arab but in fact was not. Ramiel looked English but in fact was not.
Edward, Elizabeth’s revered politically correct husband with his midnight-black hair rigidly controlled by an application of macassar oil, is a puzzle to her. She suspects he doesn’t come home at night. Does her lack of sexual knowledge repel him? Her body? Her personality? Her lack of political charisma?
They have two sons at Eton, Phillip, 11 and Richard, 15, both of whom Elizabeth adores and caters to. She is a loving, nurturing mother in a beautiful home with a generous stipend but she feels both alone and lonely and miserable for intimacy.
Ramiel begins to break down her defenses. Their first morning together, he comments that her nipples are hard and wonders if anger stimulates them. Seething, she can barely sit in her chair. Gentlemen don’t use such language. However, she needs what he has, the ability to seduce, and she will persevere for the sake of her marriage.
She will be his taalibba, his student. Ramiel seems to take great joy in embarrassing her, initially as payback for her threat of deportation, then almost immediately because of his attraction to her moral complexity hinting of depths he’d like to plumb. Like Anne who was unprepared for the intimacy of coitus, like Victoria who was unprepared for the want of wanting, Elizabeth is unprepared for the effect of Ramiel’s graphic words that drive visual images into her almost virginal head, not of her husband but of a brown bodied man. She can barely breathe, the palms of her hands are wet as are other, unthinkable parts of her body.
She intends to shock him. She does, but not as she expected. When Ramiel discusses how a couple work together as a pestle, the woman swinging her hips to complement the grinding motions of the man during sex, she questions how a woman can move without hindering the actions of a man during sex. As a dutiful wife, she learned from her cold mother, who is only concerned her daughter fulfills her obligations because of her husband’s importance, to lie still for her husband.
In sixteen years of marriage, Elizabeth has been kissed by her husband ONCE when the minister pronounced them husband and wife. When Ramiel tells her a sexually excited man will tremble with his passion, the idea is unfathomable to a woman whose husband came to her bed twice, simply to consummate the marriage in the dark and bring forth heirs.
She doesn’t want to discuss her marriage but she gives away details by her very surprise at what Ramiel tells her. In fact, she has gone without intimacy for over twelve years. She can count the days back to the very day. Her husband looks at Elizabeth as if he has no interest in her or in any other woman. Still, she knows he has a lover, she’s certain of it.
At a ball, Elizabeth she is introduced to Ramiel’s mother, the Countess Devington. Elizabeth notes the Countess’ blond hair and immaculate appearance as she appears before her wearing a beautiful, turquoise gown that matches Ramiel’s eyes. She is everything Elizabeth’s mother is not: warm, sensual, protective, loving. As she turns her attention to Ramiel, everything they have discussed the last two mornings is in his gaze as he asks her to dance. She accepts. Their first touch is electric.
The Bastard Sheikh was not discussing a waltz. He was discussing sex. Edward did not dance with her in public, he was telling her, any more than he slept with her in private.
“Rule number three. Starting tomorrow morning, you will not wear one single article of wool in my house. You may wear silk, muslin, velvet, brocade, whatever you wish so long as it is not wool.”
“And you, Lord Safyre,” she asked rashly, brashly, “what will you wear?”
“As little or as much as you wish me to wear.” Elizabeth’s mouth went dry, imagining warm brown skin capped by red-hot desire.
He wants her. He wants her to acknowledge her physical needs. He wants her to want him, the Bastard Sheikh, a man born in the West who had become a man in the East and El lbn, a man who had tasted the bitter dregs of human sexuality and still yearned for more.
They irrevocably cross the boundaries of tutor and student—he knows it, she knows it. He had planted doubt in her mind about her husband—and himself.
“Rule number four.”
She did not raise her head. “There are only so many articles of clothing I can shed, Lord Safyre. It is February. Furthermore, gowns are designed for bustles.”
He studied her intently. “How do you know what I was going to say?”
Clutching her gloves, she stood up. “You do seem to be obsessed with a woman’s clothing, or lack of, I should say.”
One day—hopefully soon—they would conduct their lessons without clothes.
Their discussions have become an ethical tug-of-war. He asks her to masturbate, to practice rotating her pelvis against the mattress of her bed at night. Caught in his spell, compelled to comply even as his incendiary words serve to fan what smolders between them, Elizabeth continues trying to maintain a distance.
“Will this teach me how to please my husband, Lord Safyre?” she asked stiffly.
“It will teach you how to please a man, Mrs. Petre.”
That night, she tries to seduce her husband Edward who humiliates her with his distaste. “It was a chore bedding you the number of times I did to get you with children. I will not put myself through the trouble of bedding you again just so that you can lie with a man. Do I make myself clear?”
If I object to any portion of the story, it is that Edward has no ambiguity, no shading. He is gleefully without redemption, painted in a tarry brushstroke of black. What he says to her that night, looking at her standing before him naked and vulnerable, is so awful, so damning, you can’t fail to hate him.
The night of the charity ball changes everything. Ramiel openly begs her to leave her husband and come to him. She tells him she cannot.
At tea the next day, Elizabeth tells her mother she wants a divorce.
“Men will do what men will do. You have two sons—what more could you possibly want?”
A man who loved her.
A man who would share her bed and be a father to her children before they were too old to need one or care if they had one.
“Edward came to my bed when he thought Richard was dying.” Elizabeth tried to keep the horror and disgust out of her voice, and failed. “He did not give me a child, Mother, or you a grandchild—he gave his voters a family.”
But this is the 19th century where a woman has no rights and a petition for divorce against a man who doesn’t beat her, gives her “everything a woman could possibly want. A home, children, a substantial allowance.” would have the court see her as a nymphomaniac, a disturbed woman needing asylum. Not only would she lose her children if she was granted a divorce or separation, she would lose them now if she did not continue as they had carried on for the past sixteen years.
Her husband admits he doesn’t love her but he won’t allow her to sue for separation because seeing her in an asylum would garner more public sympathy from his voters who do not know the marriage is a farce. Her father, the prime minister, is equally cold. “Edward is going to be England’s next prime minister. If he cannot control you, everything we have worked for will be lost. Edward will be banned from Parliament. My career will go up in smoke. I will see you dead before I allow you to destroy our lives.”
While at the same time, the Countess tells her son that she will help him stop running from his past and Elizabeth from her passion and do what she can for these two people so in need to come together. With so much against a happily ever after, how can it be pulled off? This story roars to its conclusion very dramatically. As I said, it’s my favorite story of hers. Very rich, very satisfying.
Side Notes: The timeline is the same as The Lovers and Gabriel’s Woman. There is mention of The Hundred Guineas Club where Gabriel went to look for the ‘second man’. Ramiel, too, employs a modiste to clothe Elizabeth and I sorely wished it had been Madame Rene. I longed for her all-knowing presence in this story rather than the brief mention given Ramiel’s modiste. I also hope for a spinoff that would give more information on this woman who actually comes from noble birth.
He lowered his head in a whisper of a kiss. “Always so polite. I am not your husband, taalibba. I don’t want your politeness. I want you to moan and groan and beg me to take you.”
Ramiel licked and licked until all that held her up was the pillar of his fingers between her thighs and his hand gripping her buttocks.
Talk about achieving an emotional, visceral response to a book! I so enjoyed this story. I like to believe Ramiel and Elizabeth learn not to let a flawed society inhibit their emotional expression and passion for one another, that peace and happiness is a bounty of their union. While it no longer matters what Elizabeth’s family thinks or does, I hope they get their just desserts and lose the political power they covet and protect at so immoral a cost.
Note to Robin: Ramiel’s mother deserves a happily ever after. She’s a lovely woman who has suffered greatly. I’d love to see a novella wrapping up her story. If I hadn’t already fallen in love with this devoted woman, I certainly did when she made a “healthy selection” of biscuits while sitting down to tea with Elizabeth. I love this: The countess smiled, that lovely warm smile of hers that embraced the good and the bad, the innocent and the forbidden. Which sums up her heart so aptly, too.
In this short story, we follow Muhamed who has gone to Cornwall to see his relatives, as mentioned at the end of The Lady’s Tutor. This is a continuation of his storyline because, you see, Muhamed is not the man we got the bad impression of. Now we learn about the man, his character, his background and his hopes.
He is at an inn in Land’s End and has paid for a woman for one night. 48-year old Megan Phillins, widow of a vicar, has paid off the whore hired by the innkeeper and instead so she can instead present herself.
They have nothing in common but their physical yearnings.
Megan Phillins’ husband died penniless. The vicar who replaced him was a bachelor at the time and kind enough to let her stay on as his housekeeper. Now he’s to marry and Megan has come to Land’s End to live out her days with a small plot of land her parents left her; she has nowhere else to go.
She comes to Muhamed without bustle, chemise, drawers, corset or stockings, a contraceptive vinegar soaked sponge burning in her vagina. Her husband had condemned her to a life of loneliness when he refused to share her bed after she was found incapable of carrying a child to term. He didn’t want to endanger her life, he had said. Even though the local midwife has apprised her of certain prophylactics that would prevent conception, her husband refused to use them, feeling they were immoral and that marital pleasure was solely for the benefit of procreation.
Twenty long years of no intimacy, she’s desperate to know pleasure just once. She has been abstinent more than half the number of years Muhamed has been a enunch. With the countess’s words in his mind, he is paying a woman to find out if he is a man. He needs to know he can give her pleasure. Megan is expecting him to be experienced; he’s expecting her to experienced.
He douses the lamp, leaving Megan to think it’s because he is not interested in seeing her body. He wants her to show him how to bring a woman to orgasm.
Their coupling is directed by Megan who tells him what to do for her. It’s her fantasy as the only man she’s ever been with is her husband. In the morning, Muhamed stands naked before her and she is unaware his testicles are missing. He realizes she is not the whore he thought. She comes clean and he asks her to stay another day with him and she accepts.
He would replace the empty barrenness of his life with the scent and the taste and the feel of this woman, and for a little while longer, he would bask in her belief that he was a man.
In the afternoon sun, at a picnic at Madron Well, the privacy provides them another intimate moment. He wants to be cured by washing in the well water and bathe away his past. He needs a woman who won’t cringe at his body as he does. A woman who will take what he can give her and not belittle him for what he can’t give her. A woman who cares about the needs of a eunuch. We learn his true intentions towards Ramiel, the son of his heart, and the woman he had loved: Have you never, ever wanted to find love in a woman's body? This shocked me. Evidently, Muhamed had long carried a love for the countess. I felt his loneliness then, how achingly wanting he must have been for so many years, and the next time I read My Lady’s Tutor, I had a warmer feel for his character understanding his terrible pain.
We learn Muhamed’s English past and how he came to become a eunuch. For 9 years he’s been in England and could have seen his parents before they died but was too ashamed to do so. Now he needs to make peace with himself and Cornwall seemed like a good place to start.
"I am fifty-three years old, and I do not know who I am. I am a eunuch. I have gone by the name of Muhamed for forty years. But I want what Connor [his real name] would have had. I want a woman; I want children. I want to live among other men, as a man."
"You are a man."
"And which man do you think I am, Megan? Muhamed . . . or Connor?"
"I think the man I baptized today is the man you are," she said firmly.
While Muhamed was my least favorite of all Robin’s characters because of his behavior towards Elizabeth, I was glad to see him finally at peace with himself and starting a relationship that looked to be, for all purposes, a perfect fit for both Megan and himself. Whether he chooses to live out his life in Muslim thobs or English trousers, Muhamed has been given the gift of Megan’s love and acceptance and these two lonely people will never be alone again. It’s everything we hope for in a romance.
Thank you, Fellow Readers. This concludes Part One. When I post next, I will examine Awaken, My Love and A Lady’s Pleasure.
~Moira Nelligar ~
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