Oyce (oyceter) wrote,
Oyce
oyceter

Janssen, Victoria - The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom, and Their Lover

Disclaimer: Victoria is a friend of mine, though I haven't read much of her writing before this.

The Duchess Camille married her husband in hopes that he would take care of her (Ruritanian) duchy. Alas for her, he turns out to be unfit on many levels and abuses her to boot. Finally, when she realizes she's going to be killed to make way for a younger wife, she decides to flee to find her first love and seek his help, taking her maid Sylvie, her groom Henri, and her eunuch servants.

This is an erotic romance novel (explanation), so there's too much sex for me—I found myself getting bored in several of the first few chapters. On the other hand, I very much like what Janssen does with several romance tropes, and I suspect she would not have had the space to play with those tropes in a more traditional romance. Camille is nearly twenty years older than Henri and much older and wiser when it comes to power. I love that Henri is the ingenue whose youthful, naive, and emotional ways earn him a place in Camille's rather icy heart, and although Camille doesn't quite fit my icy powerful woman kink, I like that she is very cognizant of the effects of power, and her reining in of her own emotions rang true to me. As such, I found the last sex scene between Camille and Henri the most powerful, even though it's the most "standard" in terms of raunchiness.

Also, Sylvie is made of awesome.

What I didn't like was how the duke was portrayed as evil because he beat his wife and had much debauched sex; it felt like a narrative shortcut, and as such, I didn't believe in the threat to Camille's life and health as much as I could have. That said, the debauched sex stereotype was poked at in ways because of all the different types of sexuality in the book (which I highly approve of).

In conclusion: still not a fan of erotic romance in general, although I like Janssen's characters and what she does with romance tropes a great deal. It would be interesting to read a straight romance from her if the publishers would let her keep the more risky elements of her writing intact, particularly her takes on power and on how power influences relationship dynamics.

Links:
- rachelmanija's review
Tags: a: janssen victoria, books, books: romance
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