Potent Pleasures (Pleasures Trilogy Series #1)

Potent Pleasures (Pleasures Trilogy Series #1)

by Eloisa James

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440234562
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/28/2000
Series: Pleasures Trilogy Series , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 225,868
Product dimensions: 6.84(w) x 4.12(h) x 1.08(d)

About the Author

Eloisa James is a professor of English literature who lives with her family in New Jersey. Potent Pleasures is her first novel. Her second novel, Midnight Pleasures, will be available from Delacorte Press in August 2000.

Read an Excerpt

Kent, England
March 1798


Charlotte was one week short of seventeen when her life  changed, falling into two halves like a shiny child's ball:  before and after. In the time before, Charlotte was staying  with Julia Brentorton, her dearest friend from school. Julia and she survived  boarding school together: the dreary grind of everyday Latin instruction, music  instruction, dance instruction, art class, etiquette with the school mistress,  Lady Sipperstein. Etiquette was really the only unpleasant class.

"Julia!" Lady Sipperstein would suddenly appear behind her left  shoulder. "Cross your legs at the ankle when you sit in a low sofa.

"Walk up the stairs again, Charlotte, and do not sway your  hips this time! You are wiggling in an inappropriate fashion."

Lady Sipperstein was a terrifying woman with a bosom that extended  forward like the prow of a ship. She knew to a hair how low one must bow to a  duchess as opposed to a king, and she drilled her students as if they would do  so every day.

She was full of maxims: "One dismisses a servant as if he were a young child: with firmness, brevity, and uninterest. . . . The appropriate gifts for the sick depend on where they live: If they live on your estate, instruct the cook to make bone-marrow jelly and bring it yourself, with fruit; if they live in the village, instruct the servants to deliver an uncooked chicken instead. And of course be sure to ascertain that any illness is not contagious before you enter a house: While it is important to show feeling, one must not be foolish."

Etiquette was an hour of unnerving questions. "Julia! If a footman enters the breakfast room with an obviously swollen jaw, what is the appropriate response?"

"Send him home?" Julia would suggest tentatively.

"No! Information first. Is the swelling the result of a distressed tooth or an improper brawl the night before? If he has been brawling, dismiss him. If not? Julia?"

"Ah, send him to a doctor?" Julia stammered.

"Incorrect. Inform the butler that he should be put on duties that will keep him out of public view. There is no point in coddling servants."

For Charlotte, art class was the focus of the day. She was happiest in the white square room furnished only with twelve easels. They painted the same groupings over and over: two oranges, one lemon; two peaches, one pear. Charlotte didn't mind.

Julia did. "A pumpkin today!" she would chortle, mimicking Miss Frollip's excited tone when she introduced the latest still life.

For Julia, there was dance class--and that not because of dance, but because of Mr. Luskie. He was a rather hairy man, a family man: robust, friendly, not a bit of danger with the girls, the teachers all agreed. But Julia thought his whiskers were dashing, and she read messages in the gentle pressure of his hand as he directed her through the steps of a cotillion. "I adore him," she whispered to Charlotte at night.

Charlotte would wrinkle her nose: "I don't know, Julia, he's rather . . . well, he's not . . ." It was hard to put into words. He was common. But how not to insult Julia? She thought a bit uneasily of Julia's passionate vows of love: She wouldn't do anything, would she? Of course, Mr. Luskie wouldn't . . . but Julia was so beautiful. She was like a peach, Charlotte thought: golden and sweet-smelling and soft-looking. Would Mr. Luskie?

One of Charlotte's governesses had been stridently opinionated about men: "They want one thing, Lady Charlotte!" she would say. "One thing, and don't you forget it and get yourself ruined, now!" Charlotte would nod, wondering what the one thing was.

So she would whisper back, "I don't think he's so  handsome, Julia. Did you see that he has red veins in his cheeks?"

"No!" said Julia. "He doesn't!"

"Yes, he does," said Charlotte.

"How do you notice so much?" Julia said crossly.

Finally school drew to a close, and one by one the girls were taken off by titled relatives, or simply by maids: taken off to be fitted and prinked and "tarted up," Julia said. It was time to start a process that would end in settlements and dowries, balls and weddings.

As the daughter of a duke, Charlotte was regarded enviously. Her coming out would be magnificent. Her elder sister Violetta had made her bow to society in a ballroom draped from top to bottom with white lilies.

It was only Charlotte who didn't care much. She longed, if the truth be told, to stay in the white square room and paint another apple, or (if the market was particularly exciting that week) even a persimmon. She was good, really good, she knew she was, and Miss Frollip knew she was, but that was the end of it.

She had to come out; Julia had to come out; there would be little time for persimmons.

So when her mother picked her up at Lady Chatterton's School for Young Gentlewomen, Charlotte felt resigned, but not excited. Her mother arrived in full armor, in Charlotte's private opinion: in the ducal coach with four footmen behind. The duchess was shy and quailed at the thought of an interview with the formidable Lady Sipperstein. Poor Mama, Charlotte thought. She must have been in a terrible tizzy.

Finally Charlotte and her mother were regally dismissed by Lady Sipperstein and escaped in the coach. The duchess grinned in a most unduchesslike fashion, leaned back against the satin cushions, and said, "Thank goodness, you're finished, Charlotte! I never have to see Lady Sipperstein again! We can be comfortable. How did the last picture go, darling--oranges, wasn't it?" For Charlotte's mama was a devoted parent, who lovingly kept track of her children's latest exploits, even if in Charlotte's case that had simply turned into a long progression of watercolor fruits.

"All right, Mama," Charlotte said. "I'll show you when we get home." Charlotte frowned a bit. Her mama treated all her work the same: with reverence, delight, and a noncritical eye.

"Good," said Adelaide comfortably. "I shall send it off immediately to Saxony. We're doing quite well on that hallway, dearest. Why, two or three more and the walls will be full!"


"Now, Charlotte," Adelaide said with resolution. "We must start planning for your come out immediately. Why, I happen to know that Lady Riddleford--Isabella's mother--has already taken the weekend of April nineteenth, which was precisely when I was planning your ball, dearest. So we must choose a time immediately and make it known. I was thinking of the weekend after. What do you think, darling?" -->

Kent, England
April 1798


Charlotte was one week short of seventeen when her life changed, falling into two halves like a shiny child's ball: before and after. In the time before, Charlotte was staying with Julia Brentorton, her dearest friend from school. Julia and she survived boarding school together: the dreary grind of everyday Latin instruction, music instruction, dance instruction, art class, etiquette with the school mistress, Lady Sipperstein. Etiquette was really the only unpleasant class.

"Julia!" Lady Sipperstein would hiss, suddenly appearing behind her left shoulder. "Cross your legs at the ankle when you sit in a low sofa."

"Walk up the stairs again, Charlotte, and do not sway your hips this time! You are wiggling in an inappropriate fashion."

Lady Sipperstein was a terrifying woman with a bosom thatextended forward like the prow of a ship. She knew to a hair how low one must bow to a duchess as opposed to a king, and she drilled her students as if they would do so every day.

She was full of maxims: "One dismisses a servant as if he were a young child: with firmness, brevity, and uninterest. . . . The appropriate gifts for the sick depend on where they live: If they live on your estate, instruct the cook to make bone-marrow jelly and bring it yourself, with fruit; if they live in the village, instruct the servants to deliver an uncooked chicken instead. And of course be sure to ascertain that any illness is not contagious before you enter a house: While it is important to show feeling, one must not be foolish."

Etiquette was an hour of unnerving questions. "Julia! If a footman enters the breakfast room with an obviously swollen jaw, what is the appropriate response?"

"Send him home?" Julia would suggest tentatively.

"No! Information first. Is the swelling the result of a distressed tooth or an improper brawl the night before? If he has been brawling, dismiss him. If not? Julia?"

"Ah, send him to a doctor?" Julia stammered.

"Incorrect. Inform the butler that he should be put on duties that will keep him out of public view. There is no point in mollycoddling servants."

For Charlotte, art class was the focus of the day. She was happiest in the white square room furnished only with twelve easels. They painted the same groupings over and over: two oranges, one lemon; two peaches, one pear. Charlotte didn't mind.

Julia did. "A pumpkin today!" she would chortle, mimicking Miss Frollip's excited tone when she introduced the latest still life.


For Julia, there was dance class--and that not because of dance, but because of Mr. Luskie. He was a rather hairy man, a family man: robust, friendly, not a bit of danger with the girls, the teachers all agreed. But Julia thought his whiskers were dashing, and she read messages in the gentle pressure of his hand as he directed her through the steps of a quadrille. "I adore him," she whispered to Charlotte at night.

Charlotte would wrinkle her nose: "I don't know, Julia, he's rather . . . well, he's not . . . " It was hard to put into words. He was common; but how not to insult Julia? She thought a bit uneasily of Julia's passionate vows of love: She wouldn't do anything, would she? Of course, Mr. Luskie wouldn't . . . but Julia was so beautiful. She was like a peach, Charlotte thought: golden and sweet-smelling and soft-looking. Would Mr. Luskie?

One of Charlotte's governesses had been stridently opinionated about men: "They want one thing, Lady Charlotte!" she would say. "One thing, and don't you forget it and get yourself ruined, now!" Charlotte would nod, wondering what the one thing was.

So she would whisper back, "I don't think he's so  handsome, Julia: Did you see that he has red veins in his cheeks?"

"No!" said Julia. "He doesn't!"

"Yes, he does," said Charlotte.

"How do you notice so much?" Julia said crossly.


Finally school drew to a close, and one by one the girls were taken off by titled relatives, or simply by maids: taken off to be fitted and prinked and "tarted up," Julia said, for their debuts. It was time to start a process that would end in settlements and dowries, balls and weddings.

As the daughter of a duke, Charlotte was regarded enviously. Her debut would be magnificent. Her elder sister Violetta had made her bow to society in a ballroom draped from top to bottom with white lilies.

It was only Charlotte who didn't care much. She longed, if the truth be told, to stay in the white square room and paint another apple, or (if the market was particularly exciting that week) even a persimmon. She was good, really good, she knew she was, and Miss Frollip knew she was, but that was the end of it.

She had to debut; Julia had to debut; there would be little time for persimmons.

So when her mother picked her up at Lady Chatterton's School for Girls, Charlotte felt resigned, but not excited. Her mother arrived in full armor, in Charlotte's private opinion: in the ducal coach with four footmen behind, all in livery! The duchess was shy and quailed at the thought of an interview with the formidable Lady Sipperstein. Poor Mama, Charlotte thought. She must have been in a terrible tizzy.

Finally Charlotte and her mother were regally dismissed by Lady Sipperstein and escaped in the coach. The duchess grinned in a most unduchesslike fashion, leaned back against the satin cushions, and said, "Thank goodness, you're finished, Charlotte! I never have to see Lady Sipperstein again! We can be comfortable. How did the last picture go, darling--oranges, wasn't it?" For Charlotte's mama was a devoted parent, who lovingly kept track of her children's latest exploits, even if in Charlotte's case that had simply turned into a long progression of watercolor fruits.

"All right, Mama," Charlotte said. "I'll show you when we get home." Charlotte frowned a bit. Her mama treated all her work the same: with reverence, delight, and a noncritical eye.

"Good," said Adelaide comfortably. "I shall send it off immediately to Saxony. We're doing quite well on that hallway, dearest. Why, two or three more and the walls will be full!"

Table of Contents

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Potent Pleasures (Pleasures Trilogy Series #1) 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 115 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could get past the historical inaccuracies if the hero hadn't been so emotionally and verbally abusive. That isn't love and I don't care what kind of past a man has that gives him an excuse in his mind for that kind of behavior. He obviously didn't like or respect women in general. Then he leaves his very young daughter, who has such extreme separation anxiety that he won't leave her for one waking moment, and heads to Scotland without even telling her goodbye. What a great dad. But all of this behavior is okay because he feels really bad about it afterward. Typical abuser mentality which is only reinforced by his doormat of a wife who keeps instantly forgiving him for his abuse. This is not a romance, it is a sad cautionary tale on dysfunctional relationships. Ms. James has written many books that I do like but this is not one of them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought the book was too long. I'm actually a very big fan of longer books, especially Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. But the problem with this book is that too much time is spent on periphery characters who don't matter. The first few pages are spent describing Charlotte's friend Julia, which would be fine if she were more integral to the story. But she's just the catalyst that allows Charlotte and Alex to meet. Also, the beginning is just a bit hard to get into. Charlotte was so restless and all she cared about was painting her fruit. It was only when she knew her life needed a change that the book started to really pick up. The sparks between Alex and Charlotte were so amazing. It was such an intensely dramatic story. It wasn't as romantic as I would have liked because Alex had such a terrible distrust of women. Some of the things he said to Charlotte were awful. But he was a really tormented soul. Charlotte may have forgiven him a bit too easily but that's the nature of love. And he does feel intensely guilty once he knows he was wrong about her.
TMBreck More than 1 year ago
While this was an enjoyable read, there was far too much in the way of easily-avoidable misunderstandings and contrivances to warrant anything about two stars, in my opinion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really like some of Eloisa James' other works, but I couldn't get into this one. It started out strong, but I found myself unable to like or care about Charlotte or Alex. Their relationship was too contrived, too unbelievable. Disappointing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I gave this two stars, not one, because I thought the writing was excellent. I couldn't give it any more than that because the hero was repellant--vile outbursts of verbal abuse, always willing, even eager, to believe the worst of the heroine--and she just kept coming back for more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful story! Only downfall was that Charlotte's quick forgiveness, not once but twice, is a bit unbelievable. I still loved the book! Eloisa James is an incredible author!
c21joanneb More than 1 year ago
Potent Pleasures is a great read!!!!! A page turner, romance, sensual, funny, characters are great!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a definite page-turner, but the hero, Alexander Foakes, whom I tried to like,was just so mean. Charlotte was clearly terrified of him, as any woman would have been. Charlotte, however, was lovely.
Anonymous 5 months ago
I have read and enjoyed this book two times. The characters are all lovable and fun. One-year-old Pippa is a sweetheart and the loving relationships that ensue throughout the book are heartwarming. LORRAINE
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story was interesting. The H was alpha male and the h was reasonable. The writing was detailed and the romance was good. I was frustrated because the h could have easily identified herself to the H. Overall I enjoyed the story. Lot of info with secondary characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a little slow getting into but turned around and I really liked the ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this book. Roller coaster ride of emotion from hating Alex to loving him. Charlotte the most forgiving lady ever.
Rhodes123 More than 1 year ago
I am a fan of Eloisa James but this book just did not do it for me. The H/H is interesting separately but together, just causes me to clench my fists. Secondary characters are much more interesting. The writing is good, the plot IMO is predictable. A lot of angst, luckily no cliff hanger.
gaele More than 1 year ago
AudioBook Review:  Stars: Overall: 3 Narration: 2 Story:  4 I’m a huge fan of Eloisa James, and had read this title when it was first released in 2009.  A bit of a mashed-up premise in this Regency era romance, with plenty of drama, angst, secondary characters to enjoy and some  frequent head-hopping, it is not a difficult story to follow, but does require attention.  Charlotte is the heroine, we meet her at 17 during a very successful debut season. A masquerade ball is the highlight of the young season, and Charlotte is busily making an impression, and some questionable choices.  Alexander and Patrick are twins, fast gaining the reputation as hellions and pranksters. After the masquerade ball, their father, Earl of Sheffield and Downs ships the boys off for some growing up time.  But Alexander can’t forget the young woman he shared a passionate encounter with, even going to great lengths to imagine her  visage beneath the never-removed domino.  Fast forward five years and Alexander has returned, young daughter in tow. Reeling from his wife’s faithless behaviors, he’s only searching for a new mother for his child, and does not recognize the young woman with short dark curls and a bevy of suitors as the one he shared his evening with long ago. Rumors of his life in Italy and the supposed reason for the annulment of his marriage are keeping mamas of the tonne from pouncing on  this very eligible man.  Charlotte starts strong and determined, but has a streak of too ready to accept bad behavior and allow others to  steer her in odd directions without reason.  Patrick, Alex’s brother is little more than a manipulator, and only rivals Alex in loathsome behaviors.  Neither of these men is particularly compelling, even after they realize their behavior is horrid.  Other secondary characters are amusing and compelling, and we are introduced to several that will feature in other installments of the story.  Rather typically Regency in feel, this is a bit more overt in the  manipulations and social hypocrisy than say, Austen, but carries the conventions, restricted potential for women and the overt chauvinism of the men.  Narration in this story is provided by Susan Duerden. I’ve got a mix of good and bad in this: she is the narrative  voice for several of my favorite historic romance authors, and I’ve heard great things about her work. But, I think  the combination of multiple points of view and a rather strained/exaggerated half-whisper, half-growl breathy delivery of the male character’s voices was off-putting at best, distracting and comical at worst.  While the voices for each character were distinct and easy to differentiate, there was a loss in emotional content and oomph that I  had hoped for, that was easier to infer from the written text.   Production for the audio is from Blackstone Audio and the volume is well-modulated with no apparent breaks  for edits or splicing. Normal speed narration is paced steadily, while increasing to 1.5 (my normal listening  speed) didn’t feel rushed.   While it wasn’t my favorite of this author’s books, or my favorite narrative performance, it was a nice chance to  get back into a series that I have been meaning to revisit.  I received an AudioBook copy of the title from the publisher via AudioBook Jukebox.  I was not compensated for  this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility. 
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Eileen0606 More than 1 year ago
A masked ball,a young woman,alcohol,and a masked gentleman. Perfect ingredients for love. Just takes a while... All 3 books in the series are FABULOUS!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just when you think things are going well -- things get complicated again! I'm looking forward to reading the next two books in this series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago