I like Delilah Marvelle historical romances because they aren’t the usual run of the mill regency love stories. There’s always something just a little bit more sensual, just a little bit darker and this author I not afraid to embrace out of the norm themes. As soon as I opened Master of Pleasure and read the prologue I knew this might just be one of the darkest of hers I’ve read.
The hero of this story is Malcolm Thayer, the Earl of Brayton, friend and companion of Nasser from Night of Pleasure. While I knew Malcolm would be a complex character I don’t think I had any inkling just how complex he would turn out to be right from the beginning. When the story opens he is a young man who has shut himself away at a monastery hoping that they will help him with his very dark sexual desires. Instead he is subjected to whippings and beatings and is forced to witness many varied forms of depravity. But this is also where he meets Nasser, a Persian prince who has traveled to the monastery from his homeland because he wants to cure himself of his love for other men. The two strike up a once in a lifetime friendship and after Nasser rescues Malcolm from yet another punishment, they travel together back to Nasser’s homeland. From then on our hero lives a chaste life based on his religious beliefs and never lets his need for pain with his pleasure out again.
Leona Webster is a down on her luck unwed, single mother just trying to get through life and raise her son into a good man. Malcolm blows into her world when he steps in as she is being hassled by a creditor in the process of repossessing all her worldly goods. Her hero is big and scarred and tough, but he’s also kind and protective. He offers her a job as a housekeeper for an amount of money that will secure her future and enable her to move her young son out of the city. She really doesn’t know what to think about his offer. Or him for that matter. On one hand he keeps rescuing her and they seem to have a connection, however he’s confusing and keeps giving her mixed signals and pushing her away. What exactly is it that he wants?
Hmmm…. I took me a while to figure out exactly how I felt about this romance. First off, it moves fast. And when I say fast I mean that while I think the timeline goes on for a couple of weeks, most of that time is off page with only a few days at a time on of actual interaction between this couple. Secondly, this is no ordinary a little bit of pain with their pleasure romance. It takes some serious hurt to get Malcolm off. There is one scene that just a little bit crazy, although I was strangely riveted to the page while reading. At that point I HAD to keep reading to figure out how in he world these two would work out their sexual differences. It’s not until Madame de Maitenon, founder of The School of Gallantry, steps in and teaches Malcolm to embrace his desires that things start to move forward between he and Leona.
Leona has sexual experience, but no idea about the kind of pleasure that mixes blood and pain with sex. Malcolm likes to both give and receive pain to achieve maximum enjoyment, but he hates that side of himself and has refrained from indulging in it for his entire adult life. He falls for Leona pretty quickly, and his desires come roaring to the surface when he realize she would like nothing better than to fall into bed with him. There is a big chasm that they have to cross to find out if they will suit and the small matter of Leona’s son and Malcolm wanting them to go with him to Persia to be a family. Malcolm is just as confused about how to make it work as Leona is about what exactly he wants and why he wants it. I think what ended up making this work for me in the end is Malcolm’s intense desire to embrace himself and Leona’s willingness to understand and accept him. Malcolm is sweet and someone you can’t help but root for and Leona is strong, extremely protective of her son and completely believable in her emotions as she is trying to understand she situation she currently finds herself in. I liked the way Ms. Marvelle brought these two together in the end.
The secondary characters (especially Nasser) add richness and vibrancy to the storyline. I find myself hoping Ms. Marvelle will tell his story in full as I would really love for this wonderful, supportive man to find a gentleman worthy of his affections and fall in love. Final Grade- B-
“If you stay,” he rasped into her ear, “I won’t sleep. Especially after hearing you say what you just did. Because now I… I only want to think of all the ways that I can get you to love me. Because I want you to, Leon. I want you to love me so fucking much, you’d be willing to accept what I am. Can’t you? Won’t you?”