Release Date: September 2, 2014
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.