Potent Pleasures

Enchanting Pleasures by Eloisa James
(Delacorte, $21.95, PG) ISBN 0-385-33362-5
Generally speaking, I like my romances with a minimum of fuss. By that I mean no big misunderstandings, no cliffhangers, no moustache twirling villains. Just good old-fashioned romance and plenty of it. If you’re like me, you will definitely enjoy Enchanting Pleasures. It’s a lighthearted, spirited romp with likeable characters, a zesty sense of humor, and, of course, plenty of breathtaking chemistry. Being perfectly honest, the romance is so captivating the author should be applauded for avoiding the usual clichés and not filling the chapters with kidnappings or renegade pirate shipwrecks, or a plethora of secondary characters straight out of central casting.

As it is, the book’s minor characters, what little we see of them, just get in the way. That’s because the romance between Gabrielle Jerningham and Quill Dewland is so, well, enchanting, that we don’t want to see or hear from anyone else.

It is 1806 when Gabrielle arrives in London from India bearing a picture of her betrothed, Peter Dewland, the son of her father’s old friend. For months, Gabby has spent her days and nights fantasizing about the handsome Peter and what their fairytale life together will be like. What she doesn’t know is that Peter is far less enthusiastic about the upcoming nuptials than Gabby. Quite frankly Peter is fop, and a rather effeminate one at that. The duty to wed Gabby has been passed to him due to his older brother’s infirmity (and a strange one it is.) It seems Viscount Erskine Dewland, or Quill as he is called, suffers from a three day migraine following any sort of repetitive motion - like horseback riding or…well, sex. The headaches are so painful that he has forsaken the hope of ever having a physical relationship with a woman. That is until he meets Gabby and is instantly smitten.

And who can blame him. Gabby isn’t like the other pale and powered women of the ton who spend their time blushing behind fans and forgetting that they actually have brains. Gabby has been raised in a completely different society, and her honesty and openness are both a surprise and a breath of fresh air to Quill. Unfortunately, Gabby’s appearance and personality absolutely horrify her fiancé Peter. She isn’t at all the poised, svelte gentlewoman of fashion - she’s voluptuous and outspoken and, frankly, a bit of a klutz. Peter forbids Gabby to enter society until she is outfitted by the most fashionable modiste in London - which means a month at home with her future brother-in-law Quill.

Almost immediately Quill recognizes Gabby’s individuality as something to be celebrated and cherished rather than hidden from the gossips of the ton. The relationship between Quill and Gabby blossoms quickly, and it isn’t long before Quill decides, headaches be damned, he’s got to have Gabby for his own.

As a character-driven romance, Enchanting Pleasures goes a long way towards satisfying the reader’s desire. Author Eloisa James draws beautiful, light pictures with her words and creates a simple, yet thoroughly enjoyable tale. As mentioned previously, the subplots are so small as to be almost inconsequential. My only other real criticism, and it is slight, pertains to the rather silly nature of Quill’s injury and his stubborn resolve not to find a cure. It creates the only real tension that exists between the hero and heroine and feels contrived.

But that hardly bears mentioning. Overall, Enchanting Pleasures is one of the nicer romances I’ve read in quite some time.

--Ann McGuire

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