Adults only. This is the naughtiest Victorian book I’ve yet read. It surpasses (by far) that risqué porn magazine, "The Pearl."
Englishman Charles Roberts had intercourse with 24 people over his lifetime (17 women, 7 men), all detailed in this novel.
Differing from the usual Victorian theme of spanking, "Romance"’s main weapon of shock is family love. Indeed, one needs to be fairly open minded to read this.
Highlights of what goes on include incest, bisexuality (by both genders), double penetration, fellatio, cunnilingus, anal sex, orgies, rape, swinging and (this is a Victorian work) spanking.
"Romance" has been criticized for a lack of emotional interaction between the characters. While there is some, there isn’t much time for it amidst the constant, unremitting quest for sex over nearly 400 pages (in manuscript) of pursuit and tanglings. Subtlety is not a major agenda item here.
The utter illegality of many of the acts (still today, 135 years later) and the sheer craziness is reminiscent of the Marquis de Sade. Charles and his compatriots, however, never stress the pain as the Marquis does.
The present version contains 112 annotations from 2011, often translating French words, and 7 modern illustrations.
As “in your face” today as when it was written, "Romance of Lust" is an explicit, unremitting exploration of doing the deed. Have fun with the fantasy!
Issued in 4 parts (“volumes”) between 1873 and 1876 (all of which are included in this edition), the author was anonymous. William Potter and Gaw Zellon have been suggested for the role. It has also been opined the book is the work of several or many hands, perhaps a round-robin effort.
I lean towards the latter—authorship being a collaboration. There are continuity issues; times when something is said not to happen and then later in the book it does. Perhaps the editor, putting the contributions together, missed the discrepancy in the long novel. Or maybe he (or she?) was reluctant to cut any version. (The Biblical editors left in two separate accounts of the Creation (Genesis 1:1 to 2:6 and then 2:7 to 2:25.))
Or it could be that a single author, over 4 years, didn’t have a good outline or simply got confused juggling the hero’s 24 relationships!