Robin Schone’s The Lady’s Tutor is, to say the least, an interesting, albeit difficult, read. Interesting enough to finish up in a short amount of time, but difficult because of some of the horrifying subject matter that is brought up. When warned by other readers that it is not for the faint of heart, one should heed such warning.
Elizabeth Petre is the daughter of the Prime Minister and wife to the Chancellor of the Exchequer – the two most powerful positions in the British government. Married at 17, she is a complete innocent even after bearing two sons. Twelve years later, married to an unfeeling and uninterested husband, and tired of being alone and sexless (yes, she has been celibate for TWELVE years!), she seeks Lord Safyre, or the Bastard Sheikh, as he was widely referred. Elizabeth believes that Ramiel (Lord Safyre), with his renowned experience in the art of sexual pleasure, or erotology, can help her divert her husband’s interest away from his mistress and come to her bed. Despite the uninteresting sex that her husband had performed for the purpose of begetting children, Elizabeth yearns for the intimacies that only the marriage bed can provide. Prim, proper and dictated by the social strictures of the Victorian era, Elizabeth never thought to stray from her marriage vows to seek the “love” that she wanted out of her marriage.
Ramiel is the son of an Arab sheik and an English countess, who have long since been estranged. At the age of 12, Ramiel had been sent from his mother’s home to live with his father in Arabia, only to be exiled back to England in his later years. Despite a loving and supportive mother, he lacked respectability due to his heritage; though his mother has never really been accepted due to her association with a sheikh, she was still English and titled and therefore had certain liberties within society. As a response to Elizabeth’s strange request of tutoring her in the art of making love without actually making love to her, he gives Elizabeth the book, The Perfumed Garden, and suggest that they meet every morning to discuss her “reading assignments”. What happens next is more of a discussion of the book, with the reader wishing a copy of The Perfumed Garden were handy for referencing; their discussion would have made great cliff notes. Through their early morning meetings, however, they learn more about each other and begin to fall in love. They also make each other really hot – and they never even have sex.
What follows are a bunch of disturbing assumptions and revelations that involve sexual perversity, at which point the book becomes difficult to read. Schone then is to be credited with talent such that even with these disturbing events a reader wants to continue with the narrative. This particular reader was burning with curiosity as to how Ramiel and a married Elizabeth can get together and still maintain a certain amount of respectability – the requisite happily ever after. The answer to that was a bit contrived – the “disturbing” events that take place make it easier for them to be together. It also makes Ramiel and Elizabeth’s relationship a cut above, probably to provide the reader a sense of relief, because everything else is downright disgusting, not to mention illegal.
Despite the disturbing and explicit sexual content (not including the sexual relationship between the hero and heroine), Schone does a great job telling a story that keeps the reader on its toes. But however good the storyteller is, The Lady’s Tutor is definitely not for everyone who enjoys romance and/or erotic fiction.