Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Digital Review: The Wicked Confessions of Lady Cecelia Stanton

Warning: Frothing at the mouth, naughty language (I swear - a lot) and spoilers abound.

It was while I was working on my monthly shopping list post of "unusual historicals" for Heroes & Heartbreakers that I ran across The Wicked Confessions of Lady Cecelia Stanton by Viveka Portman.  A novella from Harlequin Australia's Escape line, I was immediately intrigued by the description that promised me an erotic romance with a strong girl-on-girl angle.  By my count, I'm one of three erotic romance readers who thinks there isn't nearly enough f/f pairings, so whenever I see a whiff of it, especially from a "mainstream" publisher?  I'm all over that like white on rice.  So yes, I was more than eager to love this novella.  Instead it left me angry.

Very, very angry.

And in typical fashion?  Yeah, it's all ruined by the penis.  OK, maybe not the penis.  Just the asshat the penis is attached too.  Oh and the insipid brain-dead heroine who is married to the asshat attached to the penis.

A sweet young virginal Miss Thang, Lady Cecelia hasn't even had a full first Season before her Daddy pairs her up with Lord William Stanton.  The same Lord Stanton who is a notorious rake.  Seriously, no orifice is safe when Stanton's penis walks into a room - the fish even stop swimming.  So needless to say, the wedding night is a disaster since her husband is intoxicated and has all the finesse of a 16-year-old boy who gets his date in the back seat of his father's Buick.  Comforting Cecelia in her hour of need is her maid, Bess - whom she has known since childhood.  Bess assures her that sex ain't all bad and volunteers to show Cecelia the ropes.  An "education" if you will.  The idea being that once Cecelia learns how awesome-sauce sex can be, she'll welcome her randy husband's attentions.  Seriously sweetheart?  Caligula would be easier to keep up with.

Anyhoodle, things go along quite swimmingly until Cecelia gets pregnant and Stanton is told he needs to keep Little Mr. Venereal Disease Petri Dish away from his wife.  Oh, and gentle readers?  Cecelia ends up having five (count 'em five!) children over the course of this story.  And every time she gets knocked up?  Stanton wanders off to London to debauch every whore in a 50 mile radius, with rumors of his infidelity getting back to his wife in record time.

Now this is an erotic story, and the presence of multiple partners isn't exactly unheard of, let alone shocking.  The problem is that Stanton's infidelities hurt Cecelia terribly.  The emotional component of her being "hurt" makes a colossally huge difference here.  It's one thing if she knows about and "condones" his philandering.  It's something else entirely when the learned knowledge of his screwing everything that stands still for three seconds emotionally wounds her - which it does.  Stanton is crude, uncouth, and has all the polish of a cheap carnival ring that turns your finger green.  He's like the little boy who gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar, says he's sorry, but really isn't.  And why should he be truly sorry?  Why should he be remorseful?  Because during her first pregnancy he stays well and truly gone until the damn baby is three months old!  Gambling away their resources!  Screwing everything in sight!  Cecelia is lonely.  She's hurt by her husband's massive jackassery.  And then he comes waltzing back home, falls to his knees, apologizes like the little boy that he is and.....

SHE FORGIVES HIM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And then she gets pregnant four more times, the pattern repeats itself four more times and she keeps forgiving him.  Until finally, while pregnant with Baby #5, he doesn't go to London, he stays home and she gets aroused when she spies on him debauching the damn wet nurse.

I just can't even.


So what about the reason why I read this novella in the first place.  You know, the girl-on-girl action?  Well, first off - it's not exactly painted with a descriptive brush.  Honestly, it's pretty PG.  Bess and Cecelia also aren't exclusive to each other.  I mean, obviously.  Bess is a comely young lass who enjoys male attention and Cecelia is busy forgiving her jackass husband all the time.  This part of the story is almost like an after thought.  Very little time is spent here.  Instead our time is spent reading about Asshole and Doormat Girl - which....

I just can't even.

The worst though?  Yes, it gets worse - rumors start circulating that Cecelia isn't faithful and Asshole actually gets ANGRY with HER?!?!?!  She tells him off, but then STAYS!!!!!  She doesn't pack up the fifteen million babies he's gotten her pregnant with and head to London.  She doesn't kick him out of the house.  She lets him STAY?!?!?!?!?  Then when she finds out about the wet nurse he's banging under the same roof where they RAISE THEIR CHILDREN, she confesses her relationship with Bess to him.  Douchebag is, shockingly /end sarcasm, pretty OK with this confession (duh) and then Cecelia agrees that maybe it would be OK for Bess to join the husband/wife unit during Play Time.

So Douchebag Asshole Walking Venereal Disease(s) not only can whore around and have his doormat wife keep taking him back - but now he's rewarded by also getting to enjoy watching his wife with her female lover.

I just can't even.

The lesson of this story is apparently forgive your husband everything under the sun ladies, and it's OK to have your little lesbian tail on the side - just so long as in the end you let your husband know about it and let him sit in on your dalliances.

I just can't even.

You know why I'm drawn to erotic romance?  When it's done right, it has a strong feminist core.  It's about the heroine's journey.  It's about the heroine "winning."  It's about the heroine being OK with her sexuality and not being punished for it.  In a word, it's subversive.  It celebrates female sexuality in a world that often belittles, stifles and punishes woman for having even the most simple of desires.  This story?  This story is none of that.  This story rewards a "hero" who is the worst sort of asshole and the heroine loses.  Oh sure, she'll get her sexual kicks, but at what cost?  Because at the end of the day?  This guy doesn't love her, despite what he may say.  He's amoral and narcissistic.  And how exactly is a woman who puts up with this sort of nonsense a romance heroine?  I'll tell you - she's not.  She's weakShe's losing.  And the worst part is she's perfectly content to keep on losing just so long as she can have her Bess-on-the-side and partake in a little voyeurism while her husband screws the household staff.

I just can't even.

Now I'm off to find the nearest bottle of vodka.  If you'll excuse me.

Final Grade = F


A Library Girl said...

The bit you mentioned, with Bess showing Cecelia the ropes, reminded me of a short story I read a while back: My Lady's Service by Marie-Elise Bassett (or Marie-Elise Basset - the editing was bad enough that they misspelled the author's name on the cover :o( ). It's f/f and I think it counts as erotic romance (I'm not really sure about the distinction between erotica and erotic romance). Have you read it? It didn't really work for me, for multiple reasons, but it seems like a lot of people enjoy it.

willaful said...

Oh. my.

Wendy said...

LG: No, that's one I haven't read. My forays into self-publishing tend to be "hybrid authors." Those writers who publish "traditionally" as well as on their own. I find that my chances are better that way, and I've never been a huge sample reader - although I think I may have to start going that route if only to get the TBR under control!

Wendy said...

Willaful: Yeah. Oh my indeed. I kept trucking along, hoping against hope that the hero would get him comeuppance, the heroine would grow a spine, and ride off into the sunset to a better life without him. Instead my blog readers have now been treated to the ramblings of Ranty McRanty Pants.