Madame Rouge runs an unusual establishment, the House for Gentlemen of Taste, where gentleman (and ladies) with peculiar desires can find satisfaction. That is why twenty six year old Louisa Brookingston finds herself in the brothel’s parlor, asking Ruby for a favor. It seems Lady Louisa’s dearly departed husband John never consummated their marriage. Before she finds another mate, she needs to rid herself of her virginity, so as not to taint his memory. Ruby has just the man for the job. She feels thirty two year old Geoffrey Danser, the Marquess of Swanston, a man who loves to be in control, would be the proper teacher for this one night stand. With their identities shrouded, “Grace” and “Charles” find exiting ways to spend their pretend “wedding night”.
Then, somehow, both in need of a partner, the two find each other wed in earnest without being aware of their intertwined past. At first Louisa plays the docile wife while Geoffrey tries to be the conventional husband achieving mutual satisfaction in the bedroom within the realms of his role as honorable gentleman. However, neither is happy in the persona of customary mate. When the truth of their identities finally dawns upon the couple, there are a lot of questions which need answering. As Geoffrey reveals his need to dominate, while Louisa displays her own passions through submission, their love for one another deepens.
Enter Lady Ormande, the Countess, Geoffrey’s former partner in BDSM who knows all and resents being left in the lurch. She “confides” in the astonished Louisa, revealing that their shared paramour has some kinky needs, invoking the words whips and wax. These revelations are substantiated when one night Geoffrey indulges his fantasies and unexpectedly spanks his wife. Louisa, startled by this behavior, begins to wonder about his baser desires and her own reactions to them. Planning on going to Ruby to discover the truth about her husband’s proclivities, she is waylaid by the impatient Countess and given a shuddering lesson in bondage which leaves a mark both physically and mentally. Whether Louisa can ever again trust a husband whose sexual pleasure involves brutality is a question which must be resolved if the marriage is to continue.
Kent will please fans of erotica with her detailed chapters full of graphic sexual encounters. Balancing Geoffrey’s need for violence with the readers search for romance is a tight rope act which Kent readily spans, although the scenes where the Countess abuses the unwilling Louisa might horrify those who are not titillated by acts of BDSM. Despite Lady Ormande’s sadistic savagery, a reflection of her selfish cruelty, Louisa survives with only a few bruises despite a myriad of aches.
In Mastering the Marquess by Lavinia Kent, the first book in the Bound and Determined series, we get to meet numerous recurring characters who star in their own books, including Ruby (Revealing Ruby and Ravishing Ruby), and Lady Bliss Danser (Bound by Bliss). Kent reveals bits and pieces of the secondary characters backstories which are further explored in later novels involving erotica in the Regency era. However, in spite of the diversion provided by these interesting individuals, this novel is just too long and the entire plot needs to be tightened up to make it a more manageable read. While there are fascinating passages involving the couple’s sexual escapades, as well as pertinent details involving courtship and married life which sets the stage for future books in the series, the author needs to wrap it up in 300 pages or less.
For this reason I am giving the book 3 1/2 stars instead of 4.