Rules of Passion
Rules of Passion is the second in a trilogy about the Greentree sisters, who as children were kidnapped from their mother (a famous courtesan named Aphrodite), and found and adopted by Lady Greentree. Now grown, they have recently discovered the identity of their natural mother and have reestablished a relationship with her. This book tells the story of Marietta Greentree, the middle daughter who, when sixteen, eloped with a ne’er-do-well who relieved her of her virginity and left her alone at an inn on the road to Gretna Greene.
Fours years later, she is in London to bear her elder sister company during her confinement, but her ulterior motive is to seek out Aphrodite. Marietta has decided that since she is ruined, she will never find a respectable man to marry her, and besides she wants nothing more to do with this love nonsense, so she will become a famous courtesan like her mother. Ever since the reunion, Marietta has idolized her mother and thinks her life very glamorous. Independence and autonomy are big issues with her as well.
Aphrodite runs an exclusive bordello, and her employees are not prostitutes, but “protégées” who receive French and dance lessons. Aphrodite reluctantly agrees to teach her daughter The Trade (eeww) but first Marietta must take a trial lover to learn and practice on, with specific lessons and goals, for a short, agreed upon period of time. If after the affair, Marietta still wishes it, Aphrodite will take her on, though of course, she hopes she will not. Marietta’s practice lover? Max Valland.
Marietta met Max a few days previously in a hot air balloon. The operator of the balloon is Max’s best friend and happily tells Marietta Max’s life story. This seemed odd to me. With friends like these… After Max’s mother died, his cousin’s wife found a letter in the duchess’s effects which “proved” that she was pregnant with another man’s child when she married the Duke of Barwon. The duke instantly disinherited his son who left the premises in high dudgeon, and named Max’s cousin his heir. Max is now virtually penniless, save for some small property in Cornwall left him by his mother, and trying to decide what to do with his life. Other than wallow in depression, that is.
Seeking solace, he visits Aphrodite’s and, running into Marietta in the entryway, takes her for an employee and tries to buy her services. After he kisses her, he wants to purchase the whole night. Seeing the sparks that fly, Aphrodite names Max as Marietta’s lover. When he is attacked outside the bordello’s door, Marietta volunteers to nurse him, thinking it the perfect opportunity to test her skills and to get him to agree to the bargain. When she learns that Max has suffered from near-fatal “accidents” all his life, Marietta is determined to get to the bottom of it and this havy-cavy disinheriting business.
Despite Marietta’s experiences and general cynicism when it comes to love, she has managed to remain a basically happy and sunny person. I liked that she didn’t go around bemoaning her fate, and was able to cajole Max out of his depression. However, her actions early on were definitely TSTL. She wanders around London and visits brothels alone, and anyone who thinks the life of a courtesan is glamorous and carefree is most assuredly one crumpet short of a tea tray. Thankfully, she improved as the book went on and her relationship with Max deepened.
I liked Max more than Marietta. He was genuinely outraged and heartbroken by his father’s actions, and although the duke has made an attempt at rapprochement – though not reinstatement – they remain estranged and Max remains embittered. But spending time with, and falling in love with Marietta, gives him a better outlook and the will to seek out a life and a purpose independent of his family.
The mystery of who is trying to kill Max, and indeed has been trying to do so since childhood, is blatantly clear. Let’s see … who found the “proof” of Max’s illegitimacy and who profited by it? Seems a no-brainer to me. And though the way this all played out had a couple of twists to it, the idea that Max never gave this any consideration – even though Marietta immediately realized what was going on and told him – had me rolling my eyes.
Rules of Passion wasn’t a bad book or a good one. It is an average read, with the average amount of annoyances and pleasures.