Monday, May 27, 2013

#BookReview 'Master: An Erotic Novel of the Count of Monte Cristo' by Colette Gale

Nobody stands in between me and my dead French man, 'cause it's me and Mr. Alexandre Dumas pere. If I may briefly recap my history with Dumas' classic The Count of Monte Cristo:

1) I saw the Jim Caviezel movie, loved it, read a summary of the book on Wikipedia and decided I would not like to read it.

2) I got The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss from Amazon Vine. I read it, loved it, and decided I would read the Dumas novel.

3) I read The Count of Monte Cristo (an abridged version, unfortunately) in January 2013 and thought it was awesome. Afterward, I had withdrawals.

4) In the midst of my withdrawals, I read The Sultan of Monte Cristo, which I found quite disappointing.

5) I found out about Colette Gale's Master: An Erotic Novel of the Count of Monte Cristo.

Readers, I'm happy to announce that Master met all of my expectations. I was extremely pleased with this retelling of the the Dumas novel, largely from the point of view of Mercedes. This novel does some things that I really appreciate, including:

1) It gives Haydee, a character I like, a happy ending with someone other than the Count. In Gale's telling, Haydee is in the love with Ali, the Nubian man whose life the Count saved, and who therefore put himself in servitude to the Count for ten years to repay the debt. I should have seen it before - Haydee and Ali are a perfect couple! She's a Greek princess of the Ottoman Empire, and he's a Nubian prince. She's also a virgin, and Ali is too honorable to take her virginity. She engages in a relentless seduction campaign.

Near the beginning, Haydee does attempt to seduce The Count, but he clearly has very little interest in her. He's too rattled by all his feelings when he sees Mercedes again.

2) It gives us some moments of stolen passion between Max and Valentine. There are a couple of nice scenes in which they meet, can only speak and touch through the small holes in her father's garden wall, and have to conduct their secret romance through the iron fence Pyramus and Thisby-style.

3) Like the movie, it allows Mercedes and the Count/Edmond the possibility of living together happily ever after. Assuredly, there are many angsty moments along the way. By the final chapter, however, they've come to forgive each other for everything that's happened since Edmond's unjust imprisonment. The implication is that they'll be permanently reunited in Marseilles, in the little cottage Mercedes inherited from her father.

The best erotic scenes in this book are the ones in which the reader can feel the love. One of the least sexy erotic scenes is the sort of threesome involving the Count, Mercedes and Fernand. Nobody loves Fernand, not even when he is portrayed by the lovely Guy Pearce, because he's a slimy, evil bastard. In this retelling, Gale follows a traditional romance novel convention you can read about in Beyond Heaving Bosoms: that gay male character = evil character. Fernard, although wanting Mercedes is part of his motivation for betraying Edmond Dantes, prefers men.

We do not love this convention, obvs. But in Gale's defense, Fernand Mondego Comte de Morcerf is evil gay, straight or bi.

It also feeds into another convention: that if your heroine is married to someone other than your hero, you must go out of your way to assure the reader that the marriage is loveless and, for the most part, sexless. You want all the true love and mind-blowing sex to be between your hero and heroine. (Just because we know these are the conventions, this doesn't mean we don't enjoy the romantic ones.)

Just ignore the small mistake in this video I made, in which I refer to Colette Gale as "Colleen."

When I first heard of the name "Colette Gale," I assumed it was a pseudonym, an homage to the French writer Colette and to beloved fictional character Dorothy Gale. I was at least partially right. Colette Gale, I learned from someone on Goodreads, is a pen name for NYT bestselling author Colleen Gleason, who also writes under the pen name Joss Ware.

Disclosure: I purchased this book with my own money from Better World Books. My review is completely voluntary, not influenced by any person or organization, and represents my own opinion.

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