Master of Pleasure is the fifth in the School of Gallantry series by Delilah Marvelle. All of the books take place at more or less the same time, some of them intersecting more than others, so reading order doesn't really matter but you will understand the characters better if you read them all.
I've been eagerly awaiting Brayton's story since the first book. For most of the series we've known very little about him aside from that he's an extremely unlikely-looking virgin. In Night of Pleasure we learned that he works for Prince Nasser of Persia. Here we learn that he has dedicated himself to a life of celibacy since having spent time in a monastery trying to learn how to control his attraction to pain. (Considering that most of his scars are from punishment he received in the monastery, this may not have been the best place for him.)
Miss Leona Webster was left alone and pregnant after her fiance abandoned her, and his now struggling to keep a roof over her and her child's head. Brayton first sees her facing off against men sent by her creditors who are carting off her possessions, including her son's stuffed bear she had specifically paid them to leave. He intervenes and offers her a job. It doesn't take long for them to realize that each could complete the family the other needs, but conflicting duties and fears create obstacles to their learning how they can be together.
In the last book, Night of Pleasure, I thought the school's role was too peripheral. I felt this book improved on that count although it still wasn't as central as it was in the first three stories. There's only one scene actually in the school but Madame appears earlier and one gets the impression that Brayton has been attending regularly before the scene there.
At times both main characters are frustrating. Brayton can be overly domineering and Webster difficult to understand. (To put it vaguely, she'll go along with something that's quite extreme but then be unwilling to consider something much milder.) But by the end I was genuinely convinced that they had both learned the error of their ways, so I'll chalk their earlier mistakes up to both of them being works in process.
Overall I loved everything about this book except for the ending feeling slightly rushed. The plot thread about the father of Webster's son trying to take him back is put aside for most of the book before very abruptly being brought back and then resolved. It felt like either the book could have been longer and that plot thread could have been more developed or it could have been completely forgotten following Brayton having secured the prince's intervention.
This review is based on an e-galley received from the publisher.
We Are Pirates is a brief novel in which a group of teenagers and an old man suffering from dementia set sale as pirates in San Francisco Bay. I felt it took a bit longer to get moving than The Basic Eight or Watch Your Mouth. However, about half way in, things start to pick up. The result is a perfect combination of absurdity and realism. Our pirate band sets out for the most outrageous undertakings, but the horror and the consequences of them are never ignored.
We Are Pirates will be available February 3.
The Turning Season is the third book in Sharon Shinn's Shifting Circle series.
Karadel is a country veterinarian and a shape shifter, experimenting with drugs to help her and her friends be able to control how often they shift and into what. Some shape shifters have more control or a more regular schedule naturally, or always change into the same animal, but for others it's more random. Her best friend is nearly raped and forced to shift in public in order to defend herself, leading to a series of events in which Karadel's friends are forced to make hard decisions about how to protect each other, and how far, when they are also trying to protect their dangerous secret.
I love how this series is built on love of all kinds, between friends and lovers and family, and its original approach to shape shifting.
Cup of Blood is a sort of prequel to the Medieval Noir series. I say a sort of prequel because it was actually written first. As Westerson explains, this was the first book that she wrote, but by the time it was being submitted, The Da Vinci Code had come out and everybody was sick of Knights Templar and the Holy Grail. She was asked if she had another book with the same characters, so the series began with the next story, Veil of Lies. For those who have read the others: this is the story of the case through which Crispin and Jack met.
A man whose purse Jack had lifted in Crispin's favorite tavern turns out not to be dead drunk, but simply dead. The corpse turns out to be a Templar Knight, an order which is not supposed to have existed in seventy-five years. Before long, Crispin is caught between the dead man's Templar colleagues, knights in service of the anti-pope, and two women with secrets of their own, one of whom was his fiancée before his disgrace. How many of the different threads are linked, and how many of those involved knew the whereabouts of a cup alleged to be the Holy Grail?
I continue to love this series, this one no less than the rest. I'm not sure how much it may have been revised now that it's a prequel rather than the official first book in the series, and I'm not sure if it's the best place to start or if it's better to read after getting to know the characters.
Just another nerdy librarian