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September 19, 2014

Loved It: Claudine by Barbara Palmer

Series: Stand-Alone
Format: ARC
Release Date: September 2, 2014 
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher
Genre: Contemporary | Erotica
Don’t miss what Publishers Weekly calls a “splendid exploration of sensual performance” in this enticing debut erotic thriller…

Maria Lantos is a post grad Yale student researching illicit 18th-century literature. She’s become exceptionally well-versed in the narratives of classic erotic fantasy. She’s also Claudine, an in-demand escort specializing in sexual role play for an elite clientele.

Anonymous. Satisfying. And discreet.

Until the tenuous separation between her worlds starts to crack.

It begins with the murder of a stranger. Where it leads is to two men who will test Maria's limits of control and awaken her own sexual desires. As her private nights bleed into day, Maria will discover the dangerous places that extend beyond the imagination, and secrets no longer consigned to the dark.


Yes, another erotica that's not BDSM and is suspenseful in more ways than one. CLAUDINE by Barbara Palmer is smart, fanciful, sexy, and not romantic... well I guess that's subjective. What I mean is CLAUDINE is unlike these other erotic novels where it's an explicit exploration of a romantic relationship and all its emotional trappings. This novel is NOT a story about the progression of love for another rather it's about love for oneself. 

Let me expound. 

Some college students strip, Maria Lantos aka CLAUDINE is definitely smarter and more enterprising because she turned herself into a rare commodity. For ONE NIGHT ONLY, she will fulfill your fantasy complete with much pomp and circumstance for the right exorbitant price. Claudine's scenes and performances were great productions, she sells the fantasy well and though it's sex for sex, it WASN'T lewd, forced, or cheap. BPalmer effectively laid the premise well and really wrote CLAUDINE in a way where you can empathize with Maria's character. She wasn't a victim, she took pride and ownership for what she does, took it to a whole new level and sold and presented it like any other high paying high powered profession out there. No apologies, no remorse but with a lot of conscience. It's a paradox I know but CLAUDINE totally pulled it off. 

Now surprisingly, CLAUDINE is very chaste romantically. I love how realistic the book's approach was when it came to love and relationships. As Maria wasn't acting like a victim, it only follows that she's not looking for a Knight to save her from her situation. Maria knows the stigma attached to her person because of what she does so being "happily" single became this defense mechanism. Love eventually found her but she ran away from it only to catch up with her but not til almost the end of the novel. Maria's HEA was an unwritten epilogue which bode well with the story and I'll have it no other way. 

There's a short list of characters and the secondary ones were very distinct. As I am Filipina, I had an immediate affinity towards Lillian, Maria's make-up artist and best friend who is CLAUDINE's voice of reason. I appreciate that BPalmer didn't stereotype Lillian as the bawdy best friend nor turned her into a maid or a bumbling idiot because of her nationality. Then there's Andrei, Maria's bodyguard/business manager/driver/eventual lover. His attraction to Maria was a given, she is a beautiful woman after all, and the development of their attraction was gradual and totally realistic IMO from the proposal of an affair down to the resolution. Maria and Andrei stayed true to their characters and didn't serve this fake romance for us to swoon over. 

Lastly, the suspense I like but I wasn't crazy over it. Maria's stalker was nasty, crafty, and cunning, totally deplorable. When his identity was revealed I was surprised but I felt like the build-up between the atrocities and the villain lacked something. Like there's a missing link that could've turned this element of the story from good to great. 

But comparing with the plot and how it's wonderfully written, my qualms about the conflict is of no consequence. CLAUDINE is such an intelligent novel, perhaps one of the smartest erotic novels I've read so far. BPalmer managed to keep it classy despite all the sex that's been going on. Even on instances where Maria was getting paid for sex, it didn't feel cheap, rather it felt intimate and personal. I can go wax poetic on how much I absolutely LOVE BPalmer's writing style but like most things, its best if you experience it for yourself. Even if you're sick and tired of erotica, I'm confident that BPalmer will manage to make hersel an exception.






    
      Show World Live! bore little resemblance to the infamous Times Square district Show World club; the original naughty venue was long gone except for a tattered storefront on Eighth Avenue. In contrast, the new Show World Live! was aimed at upscale customers and boasted glitzy lounges with hourly strip shows. Booth babies danced naked amid blue and pink bubbles in Plexiglas boxes. A tranny bar featured top-notch talent from the Bay area, and the porn cinema was made up to look like a grand old theater with plush upholstered seats and velvet curtains tied on either side of the screen. Claudine was booked to perform two vignettes at the coveted Saturday night show for ticket holders in the club’s famous Round Room, and after, a private performance for a select client. She’d decided on a straight old-time burlesque show for her first act, and Lillian worked wonders transforming her into a likeness of the famous burlesque queen Lili St. Cyr…….

     The lights dimmed. The performing area, a bare circle of blond hardwood, was illuminated by a spotlight that left the booths in shadow. A pink divan at center stage sat beside a table holding a fan of luxurious black ostrich feathers and an oversized perfume bottle, the old- fashioned kind with a rubber squeeze top. The master of ceremonies, a short sprite of a man dressed in tails and a white shirt, strode to center stage carrying a gold-topped cane.

     “Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you, from the white lights of Manhattan, for one night only, the exquisite, the infamous, Claudine.”

     For an instant, her stomach pitched in fear. Would her stalker be out there, watching from one of the booths? Would he be bold enough to hurt her in front of everyone, thinking to catch her off guard with a public attack? Andrei was stationed to one side of the entrance with a full view of the booths. As long as he was here she was safe. She calmed herself with that thought and the thrill that always came before a performance began to beat through her veins.

     The white-blue beam of the spot swept to the performer’s entrance. She heard the first notes of the music and stepped into the circle of dazzling light. Her platinum hair, styled in an updo, was cinched with a wide ribbon of black chiffon to match the flowing semitransparent fabric of her floor-length dress. It glowed under the lights. She wore arm-length kid leather gloves that fit like a second skin and flashy high heels.

      Parading to the music, she shimmied, pivoted, struck various cheesecake poses. She gave her audience a sinful smile, winked, and thrust out her boobs in full burlesque mode, running her hands tantalizingly over her cleavage. Turning her back to the viewers, she wiggled her ass and unhooked the skirt of her gown, tossing it aside.

     The pleasure and playfulness of the dance gave her extra zing and for a moment she felt as though she could vanquish her unseen enemy by the sheer force of her sensuality. Only the long tail of chiffon and a tiny thong covered the crease of her bottom. She stepped saucily back into the spotlight, unhitched the tail and bent over so that her buttocks were on full display……..She kicked off her high heels, unfastened her stockings from her garters and rolled them down, slowly exposing toned thighs and shapely calves. She picked up the fan from the pink divan and, holding it in front of her with one hand, undid the eyelets of the bustier at her back with the other. She tossed the bustier to the floor, and squeezing her naked breasts together, dipped the fan down, revealing generous nipples glittering with rhinestone pasties.

      The audience went crazy…….. Then, to the delight of the customers, she fanned herself as if she were too overheated to continue. She pranced around a little longer, making sure that each booth occupant got a good look at her full tits and her round tush in the tiny black thong. She returned once more to center stage, where she reclined languorously on the divan, giving herself a spray with the perfume. Every move had a comic edge but she knew the men in the audience weren’t laughing. She felt their breath halt, their eyes on her—and savored every moment of it.










17 comments:

  1. I never would have guessed this was erotica from the cover, which I love by the way!
    So glad you really liked this!! Thanks for sharing the excerpt as well and Happy Friday!

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  2. I've been seeing this book everywhere lately, but I think you're the first reviewer who's mentioned that it's erotica minus BDSM which is great news! I also like that the story has a certain level of intelligence to it by not being purely fluff. I found myself nodding enthusiastically the whole way through this post, so onto the TBR pile it goes!

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  3. I love the suspense element in here, I was thinking I never read erotic suspense, but I had forgotten all about the Inside Out trilogy by Lisa R. Jones I truly enjoyed the small suspense and mystery factor in that series, and this here sound a lot heavier in that department..Interesting!

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  4. I didn't know about this one but it's interesting to have a erotica without the BDSP aspect. You know that I don't read a lot of them but I should. I liked the ones I read. it's just it's not what I would immediatly bought and at the end I don't really buy them

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  5. That's kind of an oxymoron, isn't it? A chaste Erotica read seems unheard of. :)

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    1. EXACTLY which is one of the many reasons why I loved this a lot!

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  6. *dance* Oh I have this one and will be reading this soon!!!

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  7. I'll be honest, when I saw the cover I was like angel book? Didn't expect erotica. The story itself sounds pretty interesting though. Great review :)

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  8. I saw this one on the review offerings and passed it up, but you've made me wish I hadn't. I love the idea of a classy, intellectually-written erotic romance. I'll definitely have to give this one a whirl.

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  9. This is the first time I'm hearing of this book but I'm highly intrigued! I like that the protagonist is confident and not in need of rescuing, it makes the story a little more realistic and the suspense adds a little more depth. I'll have to check Claudine out soon, thanks for sharing Braine! I would have thought this was some kind of PNR just looking at the cover...LOL boy was I wrong :P

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  10. Dangit. Okay I'll have to suck it up on this one too. I've had it for most of the summer and just couldn't get past that cover. I know. I'm horrible and shallow. lol

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  11. Braine! Did not know you're Filipina. My sister-in-law is too. And I loved the way Lillian was written. Andrei too! And of course, Maria.

    I adored this one too. Your review is absolutely perfect and you said it all so much better than I did.

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  12. Happy to learn about this one. I like erotica but I need emotional depth and a plot to carry me through.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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  13. I totally agree with you, especially about it being one of the smartest erotica books I've read.

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  14. Oh, I can't wait to read it, Braine! So many bloggers I know really enjoyed it, and it sounds just like something I'd love. Lovely review!

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  15. This is the second review I've read about the greatness of Claudine. I really like the sound of it, Braine. It seems as though it's a refreshing entry in erotica. Particularly if it's chaste?!? I'll have to give it a whirl.

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