Duchess in Love

Enchanting Pleasures

Fool For Love

Much Ado About You

Potent Pleasures

The Taming of the Duke

Your Wicked Ways

Pleasure for Pleasure
by Eloisa James
(Avon, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-06-078192-0
Eloisa Jamesís books combine elegance of language with energy of purpose. Itís a combination I enjoy very much.

Josie, the youngest and last Essex sister, is not having a good Season. Lord Charles Darlington, third son of a duke, has labeled the curvaceous Josie the Scottish Sausage, and no men of her own age are willing to brave the scorn of their peers (pardon the pun) to be seen in her company. Her three older sisters have to dragoon dance partners so she wonít be a complete wallflower, and Josie, an intelligent, imaginative girl, is humiliated by the situation every time she goes out.

At least two of her sisters married (happily) under scandalous circumstances, so the usually down-to-earth Josie isnít averse to the idea of tricking a man into marriage Ė if only one would get close enough to compromise.

Her guardian, the Duke of Holbrook, enlists one of his friends, the Earl of Mayne, to help Josie overcome her unfortunate image. Although Mayne has long been one of the tonís most infamous rakes, heís no threat to Josie. Mayne has at long last fallen in love, with a delicate, virginal French expatriate named Sylvie no less, and he is eager to marry her. Meanwhile, Sylvie and Josieís sisters decide that Mayneís sister, Griselda, is just the person to send in against Darlington. Since the lovely young widow is the only one of them not married or engaged, she will be free to use whatever wiles might prove necessary to convincing Darlington to stop the childish name calling.

(These characters will sound familiar if youíve read the earlier books about the Essex sisters. Theyíre certainly worth reading, but I donít think itís necessary in order to enjoy this book.)

Mayneís first act as Josieís new social advisor is to persuade her to give up the punishing corset she crams herself into in an effort to appear slim. He teaches her to walk with naturally seductive grace and promises that if she dresses to celebrate rather than hide her voluptuous figure, men of all ages will be slavering at her feet and no more will be heard of sausages.

Typical of this authorís work, Pleasure for Pleasure has a large cast of charismatic characters who bounce off each other in the most interesting and entertaining ways. Itís difficult to tell you much about why I liked it, though, without spoiling the delightful twists and turns for you. So what can I tell you to whet your appetite, without giving away the whole menu?

Well, I should mention that all of the principle characters are nicely drawn individuals whom I could understand and sympathize with, even if I didnít always like them. You should also know that there are actually two and a half romances in this book (the half takes place offstage, but it plays an important part in the Ďhappily ever afterí). The two onstage romances are the opposite of each other in nearly every way, and I was charmed by both. In fact, I was disappointed every time the story shifted between couples. For about a line and a half.

There are dramatic moments. There are funny moments. There are romantic moments and sexy moments. People change Ė more than one character learns to be careful what he or she wishes for Ė and situations change, and in between the story skims along at a nice brisk pace that makes the pages practically turn themselves.

Thereís a terrifying (well, to me, anyway) moment at the end when it appears that Josie, clever, funny Josie, will turn out to be Too Stupid To Live Ė but fear not, dear reader, you are in capable hands and the author does not take you all that way to abandon you at the end.

Really, just read it and enjoy it.

-- Judi McKee

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