Desire

Ecstacy

The Heartbreaker

The Seduction

 
Master of Temptation
by Nicole Jordan
(Ballantine, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-9041-1981-3
*
When Nicole Jordan wrote Master of Temptation, she forgot that even the most detailed, lengthy, and explicit bedroom scenes need a plot to support them. Ms. Jordan promises us plenty of plot, as her hero, Max Leighton, promises to teach Caro Evers about lovemaking. Max delivers; Ms. Jordan does not.

Caro Evers lives on Cyrene, a paradisiacal island in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Spain. When he arrives there in 1813, Max Leighton is a major in Wellington’s army who has been fighting in the Peninsular War for eight long, horror-filled years. One of his subordinates, John Yates, is badly wounded and wants only to return to his home in Cyrene to die. Max takes him home and stays for a few days to help nurse him, which is long enough to know that John will recover and for Max to make love to Caro Evers.

Like most of the gentry on Cyrene, Caro Evers’ parents were British. She has lived all of her 24 years on the island, with the exception of a short visit to London for a Season. Caro did not ‘take’ and was happy to leave London and return to Cyrene and her duties assisting the island’s aging doctor.

Besides her medical duties, unconventional as they are, Caro has an even more unconventional pursuit. She is a Guardian of the Sword, a secret order headquartered in Cyrene and dedicated to “protecting the weak, the vulnerable, the deserving. Fighting tyranny. Working for the good of mankind.” She has learned to defend herself – she is expert with the rapier - and is expected to join in hazardous expeditions.

Because of her unusual pursuits, Caro does not expect to marry and so welcomes the opportunity to lose her virginity to Max. She knows that not only will he be returning to Spain the next day, but he has also told her that he is adamantly opposed to marriage. Caro thinks the encounter will be one-and-done, but – as is to be expected in a romance – the experience is earth shattering and unforgettable.

After his brief stay in Cyrene, Max Leighton rejoins the fight against Napoleon. His experiences in battle have traumatized him – we would say he has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – and he has recurring dreams of the death of his best friend, Philip, who was killed saving him. He gets through the final year of the war only by thinking of Cara as his guardian angel, watching over him. The war ends and he returns to London, swearing never to become as attached to anyone as he was to Philip; he cannot bear to lose anyone close to him again.

The memory of Caro Evers haunts Max, however, and he is thinking seriously of visiting Cyrene to see her. Before he can persuade himself to go, however, Caro herself arrives in London, looking for Max’s friend, Christopher, Viscount Thorne. Thorne is another Guardian, and Caro has come to tell him he is needed to help search for Lady Isabella Wilde.

Lady Isabella is Caro’s dearest friend who has watched over Caro since Caro’s mother died. Lady Isabella was returning to Cyrene from a visit to Spain when her ship was taken by pirates, and she was sold into slavery. The last place she was known to be is Algiers. Caro is carrying orders for Thorne to proceed to Algiers to find her, while Caro returns to Cyrene where the Guardians will organize a rescue party. Because Max is renowned for his tactical skills, Thorne asks him to accompany Caro back to Cyrene to help with the rescue.

Surely, you are thinking, there’s enough plot here for a 408-page book? There’s Max’s problem with attachment, Caro’s unusual, and hazardous, vocations, and the rescue of Lady Isabella. In fact, Ms. Jordan even throws in a minor sub-plot involving John Yates and his inamorata, and the story still drags.

Thorne must locate Lady Isabella – off-stage – before the planning for her rescue can begin, by which time more than half the book is over. Then there are 25 pages more to go before Max, Caro, and the rest of the group embark for Algiers, and we finally get some action that isn’t horizontal. This left far too many pages for Max and Cara to engage in everything from heavy petting to anatomically detailed and athletic sexual intercourse.

I enjoy reading about sultry lovemaking as much as anyone else – J. D. Robb has caused me to hold my glass of ice water to my fevered brow a number of times - but Caro and Max’s bouts were more gynecological than sensual. I got quite tired of Caro’s nipples that kept contracting into “tight, aching buds” and of Max’s “hard, pulsing maleness.” Only one session, which involved the unusual use of a necklace, kept me reading, and then my motivation was, “I never thought to do that,” thus proving my lack of imagination.

As a How To manual, Master of Temptation succeeds. As a romance, it scrapes by, and as an adventure, it fails completely. If you are interested in researching the mechanics of sex, you may find Master of Temptation useful. Otherwise, don’t waste your time or your money.

--Nancy J. Silberstein


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