The basic story of The Lady's Tutor is straightforward: a woman wants to learn how to please her husband because she believes he has taken a mistress and she turns to a man who it is whispered has the knowledge she desires. The woman is the wife of the Chancellor of the Exchequer of England, and the man is a sheik, a bastard child of an English aristocratic woman and a Muslim sheik. The Lady's Tutor has all the makings of a rich, sensual story, and in the first half of the story, it delivers. However, it's the second half of the book that causes the story to become a tangled mess of too much dialogue and bizarre story lines.
Elizabeth Petre believes her husband has taken a mistress because she hasn’t satisfied him in bed. The reader learns quite early in the book that it’s been years since they’ve been together in bed, so this plot choice seems illogical. If it’s been 12 years since they’ve had sex, then it’s doubtful he’s taken a mistress because of a lack of it. She is a member of the highest society in England but she seeks out a rake named Sheik Ramiel Devington, Lord Safyre, for instruction on how to please a man since he’s exotic and Arabic, and he has the reputation for bedding a significant number of women. They meet and he agrees to be her tutor in this sexual awakening education. He provides her with a textbook out of his personal library for her education in seduction, The Perfumed Garden for the Soul's Recreation, and the author lets the reader know early on that this man has skills and enjoys sex, so the tutoring will be interesting.
The story contains vivid descriptions that appeal to the senses, and the writing is good. The two main characters are appealing, each in their own way. Elizabeth is a stereotypical Victorian woman, but she is likable because she is a loyal wife and caring mother. In addition, the reader very quickly feels sympathy for her because she is trapped in a loveless marriage and dutiful life. Ramiel, the Sheik, is the exact opposite of Elizabeth: his life is anything but cold, with sexual experiences most men would die for, and he lives a comfortable life. However, he is also sympathetic because he's an outcast in the worlds of both his parents: English society doesn't accept him because he is a bastard and the Arab world has banished him because of something he did years earlier. Elizabeth works as the slightly sad romantic heroine, and Ramiel works as the mysterious and sexually knowing romantic hero to counter her.
However, this book suffers from too much dialogue. It’s extremely unsexy to constantly have the two of them naming parts and the like. Very quickly, the reader is left thinking, “Why not just have the narration tell what’s happening and have that include the allusions to parts and positions?” This would be a major improvement on how it’s approached in this story. An example of this can be found in the film, Dangerous Liaisons. In the film, John Malkovich’s character, the Vicomte, seduces Uma Thurman’s very young, very innocent, and unwilling character, Cecile. As he begins what he refers to as her “training” for her future marriage to another man, the scene shows him kissing her stomach as he moves down toward her legs and saying with a sly grin, “Now let’s start with some Latin terms.” It’s subtle but very sexual and sensual. The viewer likely knows what he’s referring to, and even if he or she doesn’t, they can infer. The Lady’s Tutor takes the opposite approach and spells everything out—every last clinical reference, name, and position. It becomes very scientific very quickly.
When Elizabeth and Ramiel discuss sex in their tutoring sessions, the effect is quite erotic and exciting. Even though the author has them refer to sexual acts and positions in the technical, Arabic names from The Perfumed Garden, their exploration of the topic is very sexy. It is when their tutoring is over, however prematurely because Elizabeth has attempted unsuccessfully to seduce her cold husband with the Sheik's suggestions, that the dialogue becomes unsexy. As she and Ramiel begin to act on their attraction for one another, the use of the terms and nomenclature of sex makes what could be incredible sex scenes into uncomfortable descriptions of tab A being inserted into slot B (tab A being 10 inches long....).
In addition, the story suffers from a bizarre turn of events that borders on revolting. It is impossible to discuss it without giving much of that part of the story away, but suffice it to say that the bizarre turn of events is not sexy at all. As a plot device to bring Elizabeth and the Sheik together, it works, but it’s hardly necessary to go repulsive to put them together.
However awful the book becomes at times, there is one shining part to the story: the Sheik. Ramiel remains interesting and sexy throughout the story, even though the author seems to want to make him unappealing by the end of the story too. She is unsuccessful in this, however, because for the rest of the story he is a charming, romantic hero who does what is most important for a romantic hero: he takes care of the female, and he does it well. The descriptions of his burgeoning lust and then love for Elizabeth build slowly and his care in initiating her into the sexual world is the stuff of women's fantasies. He's exotic, sensual, captivating, and seductive, in addition to being a man of action when he feels he needs to protect her. That the author insists on making him sound like a sex education textbook when he finally has Elizabeth hurts him but not enough to make him unlikable. In a story that careens to a bizarre resolution and includes so many repressed English folk, the Sheik stands out as a wonderfully written romantic hero.
Overall, The Lady's Tutor is well worth reading, especially if the teacher-student fantasy works for you. It is quite explicit, with descriptions of sex that probably only happens in the minds of romance writers and on the pages of their steamy books. Even with its flaws, The Lady's Tutor is a fantastic way to escape the average (and possibly below average) happenings of one's life.
An Imaginary Arab Sheik Has Captured My Heart With Nothing More Than Imaginary Words.....
I have two things to say about this book: 1. I love it. 2. I hate it.
No, I don't have a split personality.
Robin Schone gets this story started on the right foot. Ramiel Devington (Lord Safyre), legendary for being the bastard son of an English countess and an Arab sheik, and for his knowledge of the Persian secrets of erotic love agrees to educate Mrs. Elizabeth Petre in her hopes of kindling passion in her long but loveless marriage, pre-arranged by her family in the hopes of political gain.
Schone's inclusion of Arabic was appreciated as this reader finds that language sensual and pleasing to the ear. The setting of Ramiel's home as well as his mother's were rich in Persian/Arabic influence and provided great contrast to the stuffy Victorian world Elizabeth lived in. This saturation of her senses caused by her introduction and exploration of the Ottoman world was an awakening of its own and it primed the emotional/physical awakening of the prim Mrs. Petre. I enjoyed the tension created within Elizabeth as a woman grappling with extremely conflicting worlds. On the one hand, she had been taught passionate love and loving were things a proper Victorian lady/good wife did not think about nor did she desire. Duty was required in marriage, with nothing more to be expected. Quite in contrast, Lord Safyre describes a world in which love, passion, and desire are highly valued and admirable qualities within a marriage, and which are anticipated eagerly by both husband and wife. This awakening of senses along with the intimate nature of the discussions between the Sheik and Elizabeth sets the stage for a wonderful romance, with the descriptions of body language and dialogue between the characters wonderfully delicious......hence the statement, "I love it."
Lord Safyre is a perfect blend of mature man, dangerous enemy, and skillful lover. His use of language to confer his knowledge and mix of emotions toward Elizabeth is great reading. Schone nicely opens an opportunity for the romance to become a reality as well, however, this is where the story loses much of its beauty as a well crafted romance and becomes too focused on sex ( Yes, this broad believes a book can be too focused on sex). The last third of the book lacks enchantment as it becomes far too socially scandalous with bizarre drama.....hence the statement, "I hate it."
Recommendation: Read it. Enjoy the Sheik. Empathize with Elizabeth and cheer her on. Savor the romance while it lasts.