The Tutor, by Portia Da Costa

>> Monday, January 23, 2006

It was Wendy who made me want to read The Tutor, by Portia Da Costa (see her blog post about it here). Her description sounded just wonderful.

It took a while, because Black Lace books are never particularly easy or cheap to find, but I finally managed to get myself a copy.

When Rosalind Howard becomes Julian Hadey's private librarian, she soon finds herself attracted by his persuasive charms and distinguished appearance. He is an unashamed sensualist, a man of wealth and intellect who, together with his libidinous wife, Celeste, has hatched an intriguing challenge for their new employee.

As well as cataloguing their extensive archive of erotica, Rosie is expected to educate Celeste's young and beautiful cousin in the arts of erotic love. Having led a sheltered life, the young man is simmering with youthful passion. In luxurious surroundings, they find themselves drawn into increasingly decadent scenarios where experimental sex is on the menu and likeminded libertines reap the rewards of unbridled desire.
Oh, yeah, this one's as good as Wendy said it was. A B+.

After her boyfriend leaves her for a more dynamic and upwardly-mobile woman, librarian Rosie Howard wants a radical change. A new wardrobe and a new job seem like a good start, so she goes shopping and accepts a job organizing the private library of rich and sexy Julian Hadey. But Julian soon makes clear that, in addition to her duties in his libraries, he'd very much like Rosie to take on the task of introducing his wife's 19-year-old nephew to sex.

David has spent all his life living with his grandparents in the country, so he's had no sexual experience at all. It's become clear to both Julian and his wife, Celeste, that David's hormones have began to drive him crazy, but it seems he doesn't quite know how to go about solving his problem. Most of the women in Julian and Celeste's acquaintance are much too experienced and sophisticated for David to feel comfortable about approaching, so Julian thinks Rosie, who's still somewhat of a beginner herself (though a passionate, enthusiastic one, as Julian finds out soon enough), would be a wonderful choice. Rosie's a bit taken aback by all this, but after meeting David and finding him very attractive, she's quite happy to do it.

There's quite a bit of mix-and-match sex going on here (Julian with Rosie, Rosie with the masseuse, Ladybird, Julian with Celeste, Julian with the chauffer, Stephen and so on, and so forth). Those scenes were nicely enough written, but really, they didn't affect me particularly. Mostly, I wanted the action to get back to Rosie and David.

Now, that was where the really emotionally powerful stuff was, in David's fascination with Rosie and his journey of discovery of his sexuality, and in Rosie's increasing tenderness and fondness for him, and her rediscovery of her own sexuality. Their scenes were pretty vanilla, compared to the going-ons around them, but they had a heart, and that made them just wonderful to read.

Actually, I've come to realize lately that I'm just not that much into kink. I like hot books, the steamier the better, but it seems I much prefer vanilla hot. Books by people like, say Linda Howard, or Suzanne Brockmann (not really well known for her love scenes, but I think she does them wonderfully), or my new discoveries Shannon McKenna, Lisa Marie Rice and Stephanie Vaughan (her two gay romance novels, at least, which I don't consider to be kink), have been hotter to me than a great many ebooks I've read featuring complex permutations and positions and toys and sex acts.

I guess the thing is that what tends to arouse me are the emotions described in a love scene. You can add all the bells and whistles you want, but if I have to choose between an orgy between relatively flattish characters and a love scene involving just two people in the missonary position, but with real emotion in it, it would be the second that gets me, every time.

Of course, you'll say, there's nothing keeping kinky stuff from being as emotionally powerful as the type of scenes I say I like. Sure, I'd agree. Emma Holly could be Exhibit A for that. Thing is, I get the impression that quite a few of the people who write kinky seem to think that it's enough to have, say, a threesome, or whips and chains for a scene to be arousing. It's not, it needs more than that.

Er, ok, where was I? The Tutor, right. Musn't go on detours like that. And I have to say, Julian and Celeste and the rest weren't flattish at all, it's just that David and Rosie interested me more, both because of the emotion (as I've explained at GREAT length), and because I don't think I've read this before. Books about an an experienced older man initiating a virgin woman are a dime a dozen, and I have read a few in which it's the guy who's the virgin and the woman is more experienced (not as many as I would like, but I've found a couple). In the latter, however, hero and heroine are usually equals in everything other than sexual experience. Not here. David is not really a boy, but he's 19 and quite innocent. I was really surprised at how much I liked this, because I usually much prefer equality in bed, but I truly enjoyed it.

The ending was perfect. Sure, my romance-novel-reading little heart did wish for a HEA, but the happy ending we got was really more appropriate to the circumstances than eternal promises of love, and still left a window open for that. And speaking of endings, I loved how Rosie turned the tables on the idiot who was her boyfriend at the beginning of the book!

Any Portia da Costa recs? I'm glad to have found another author to glom!


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