The Erotic Secrets of a French Maid, by Lisa Cach

>> Thursday, May 03, 2007

From the blurb, I don't think I'd have wanted to read The Erotic Secrets of a French Maid, by Lisa Cach. But the review at Dear Author sold me on it, and I'm very glad it did.

Strapped for cash after an unsuccessful search for her dream job in architecture, Emma Mayson takes a less-than glamorous position as a maid for a wealthy entrepreneur. The bright spot? Her new employer, Russell Carrick, is the picture of male perfection—his mere presence sends Emma reeling. But he’s also a total workaholic who has lost his zest for living. Or did he just misplace it?

Emma sets aside her feather duster and her inhibitions to find out. Soon a transitory house-cleaning gig becomes a cushy role of well-paid mistress, as Emma rekindles her employer’s passion with a fantasy world of boundless pleasure. But then the unthinkable happens: She falls for Russell. Having already fulfilled his primal desires, can she make him see her as more than a plaything?
This was a one-sitting book for me. It was fun, fun, fun and very charming. And for all that, it didn't lack substance. A B+.

26-year-old Emma Mayson has a master's degree in architecture, but is having trouble finding a job in her field. Needing money to live, but not wanting to become sidetracked by another career, she goes for a job that won't tempt her to do so: cleaning houses.

Her latest client is software millionaire Russ Carrick, a man Emma finds tremendously attractive, even though he's 10 years older and in a totally different place in life. So attractive she thinks him, in fact, that she finds herself doing what she always unconsciously starts doing whenever she's attracted to a man: she brings up sex in the conversation. Emma jokes with Russ about how she sometimes thinks it might suit her to be a man's kept woman, to have all her expenses taken care of in exchange for regular sex. She's always horny these days, anyway, so as long as she finds the guy attractive...

And then, through a series of hilarious misunderstandings, Emma finds herself in just that position, set up in one of Russ' appartments and committed to giving him sex Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Russ thought he was asking Emma to cook for him on those days, but by the time he realized what Emma was thinking, the arrangements were pretty much complete, and he didn't want to embarrass her by telling her she misunderstood him so spectacularly. Russ knows it's not the decent thing to do, and keeps telling himself he needs to tell her he's changed his mind about it, but he just can't bring himself to actually do it.

I loved the sex scenes. Cach is good, really good. What happens is that Emma thinks she needs to make some kind of big production out of the sex, being a "mistress" and all, so she goes for the big bang... costumes, scripts, props, you name itl. Russ would rather just make love to Emma being Emma, so he's bemused by all the extras (which he also thinks are kind of silly), but at first he feels bad about saying anything (she worked so hard in the preparation, see) and then the outlandish scenarios start getting to him. Cach managed to make these laugh-out-loud funny (and I do mean *literally* LOL... I was laughing my head off as I read certain things), but at the same time not slap-stick in the least and tender and sweet and very, very hot.

I also loved both these characters. Russ is incredibly sweet. He's a bit geeky, with not much idea of how to "handle" women, which is sometimes really funny, like his awkward "Do you need a hug?" when he catches Emma crying. Russ isn't particularly comfortable about having such a hot woman cleaning up after him (in fact, the big sweetie keeps cleaning the house before Emma arrives, so that she doesn't find any embarrassing messes), so the mistress arrangement is even more difficult for him. That makes what could have been a sleazy situation merely exciting.

Emma was just as wonderful. She's smart and funny and an all-around likeable person. I totally got her insecurities about her creativity and her doubts about her career and where she is in life and where she wants to take things. I also understood her fear of risking herself and failing, which would seem weird, given what she does here, going to "work" as Russ' mistress, but it makes sense. Keeping Russ in that rigid role keeps her from taking a risk on a "real" relationship, so it takes even more courage for her to go out on a limb about the feelings that have developed than to actually become Russ' mistress. But she does it, she braces herself and takes the necessary steps, both personally and professionally, and I applauded her for it.

In addition to good characters and good sex, we also get some very satisfying romance developing. Both Emma and Russ start wanting more from the relationship, but each assumes the other wants what was originally agreed, and nothing more. It would be a flimsy conflict for a longer book, but since this one is extremely short (it says 288 pages at amazon, but it was 368 in my ebookwise, which means we're talking more like 200 in a normal-sized paperback. The margins and font must be huge in the print version), it works perfectly.

Something else I liked about the story was that Russ was really hung up on the 10-year age difference and their differing lives, which weirdly, made me not as freaked out about it as I might have been if he'd simply ignored it or considered it just right. What makes it work is that the fact that these things are an issue is acknowledged and dealt with, and it is made clear that Russ and Emma do, indeed, share a worldview and a way of looking at things, and get along fine. Since all these issues are properly appreciated, I got a sense of equality between them. And by the end, Emma has progressed to a point that she's in a much better place in her career (not insta-spectacular success, just on her way to becoming successful, which I thought was much better), so all remaining blocks to a relationship were removed.

I've got a few other books by Cach in my TBR, including the very interesting-sounding A Babe in Ghostland, so I think I'll just get cracking on them!

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