Master is Colette Gale's erotic retelling of the Count of Monte Cristo. The original idea of the story, the revenge Edmond Dantes carries out on the men who falsely imprisoned him for years, and the characters are kept in this retelling (including the many disguises Edmond wears after he leaves prison), but those are really all that are similar to Alexandre Dumas' original story. What Gale adds to his tale is a whole lot of erotic sex and a happy ending.
Gale's story isn't a bad one, and this piece of erotica is far better than the last one we read by this author, Bound By Honor, the erotic retelling of Robin Hood's story. Master doesn't go off the rails into a vortex of freaky perversion like Bound did, although there are some wild parts in this one too. The scene in which Dantes, disguised as Sinbad the Sailor, and Mercedes, his love he lost when he was imprisoned, watch two servants of his put on a sexual show is scorchingly hot.
Quite interesting to me was the fact that most of the characters are all in their forties when the erotica really begins in this book. Gale is forced to work within the age parameters Dumas originally designed, but you don't find many romance books about women in their forties being such sexual creatures. If the reader can get past the fact that in the time period in which this story is set, a forty year old woman was basically what a sixty year old women is like today and think about what women in their forties are like now, then all is well. If not, then thinking of Mercedes doing what she's doing for most of the book is a bit of a stretch (and not a pleasant one, I guess).
In addition to the main love story between Dantes and Mercedes, Gale includes another love story between the Count of Monte Cristo's slave Haydee and another of his slaves, a mute named Ali. Haydee is in love with Ali. Even though Monte Cristo has saved her from a life of horror as a slave in an Arab harem, he does not want Haydee sexually and treats her like a ward. However, Ali won't reciprocate Haydee's affections because he sees her as his master's. It is up to Haydee to seduce Ali, which results in some pretty sexy parts of the story. Gale's telling of this love affair is a little ham handed, but in some ways it's quite nice. It's interesting that in the original book, Monte Cristo ends up with Haydee, not Mercedes, and Gale includes a statement in the beginning of the book to the effect that this book is for anyone who knew that Haydee was more a midlife crisis than a real love.
Overall, Master includes a lot of story and a lot of disguises for Edmond Dantes, in addition to a lot of sex, but it's not a bad way to spend an evening if you're looking for some erotica based in post Napoleonic France. Gale knows how to write a sex scene, no doubt. I just could do without the word quim so much.
Mercedes Hererra & Edmond Dantes are resurrected in Gale's retelling and embellishment of the classic The Count of Monte Cristo, now entitled Master.
Master follows the original novel with Dantes' false accusation and imprisonment of fourteen years before he makes his escape and calculates the revenge on his enemies, which he carefully executes with ruthless cunning. Added to the original is Mercedes' story of devastation in believing him dead, subsequent suffering, and sacrifice over the years. As Edmond carries out his vengeance, he struggles with his long buried yet resurfacing feelings for Mercedes even though he believes she has betrayed him. Their journey toward redemption and long sought after peace spans more than two decades. Ultimately, they must choose whether forgiveness or bitterness will be their legacy.
Colette Gale does earn a commendation for writing an erotic novel that is, in fact, a novel. Along with very steamy intimate scenes, the author delivered a story worth reading. The main characters are written with satisfactory depth and the supporting characters are developed nicely to create interesting layers within the story. Perhaps most surprising was the likability of Mercedes, as heroines in erotica are often (in this broad's opinion) lacking in personality beyond ridiculous feistiness. This was not the case with Mercedes. Gale's character showed a quiet patience as confusing events enfolded around her as well as a reasonable boldness and strength of will when necessary. This was no petulant, whiny girl, but instead a woman comfortable with her sexuality, who played the hand life had dealt her, and proved herself a formidable opponent in the battle of wills with the resurrected Edmond.
Obviously, when reading erotica one encounters an abundance of sex and Master is no exception to that rule. Gale's love scenes are not for the faint of heart. This author allows the characters to let their freak hair fly on more than one occasion, which at times is a bit much. Overall, Master, is ....well, masterful.
Recommendation: *** + _ (three and one-half stars)