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Claudine by Barbara Palmer

claudine

I have to admit that some of the allure about Claudine is the mystery surrounding the author. Barbara Palmer is a pseudonym and chosen by the author because she wished to distinguish Claudine from her famous body of work. She chose Barbara Palmer after a famous English courtesan who was the mistress and confidant of King Charles II. Her decision also seems to be a nod towards the traditional use of pseudonyms by classic erotica authors.

Otherwise, we are simply left with this description of her: …“a bestselling, international award-winning Canadian novelist whose work has been published in many countries.”

I’m going to go out on a limb and say I think it is Margaret Atwood.

* CONTAINS SPOILERS

THE STORY
By day, Maria Lantos is a pretty and intelligent grad student working on her erotic literature thesis at Yale. But away from campus, she transforms into the glamourous call girl known as Claudine, jet-setting around the world to satisfy the sexual appetites of her clients. The keepers of her secret include her gruff business manager/bodyguard, Andrei, and petite stylist, Lillian. Both are fiercely loyal to Claudine and to helping to protect her identity. However, Claudine’s tragic past as a Romanian orphan comes back to haunt her when the body of a prostitute that looks like her turns up, the police begin poking into her affairs and worst of all, she begins to receive anonymous threats by text. Claudine is troubled by this disruption to her life, but she refuses to let anything get in the way of her dreams. She continues her double life and even allows a handsome professor at the university to woo her. Claudine is determined to have it all, but at what cost?

THE GOOD
Like all good erotica or romance novels, Claudine is pure escapism. The story provides a tantalizing and richly detailed look into the life of a high-class courtesan as she travels to exotic destinations, parties with the stinking rich and engages in (many many) sexual acts that will make you go “hmm”. Men and women can’t get enough of Claudine and vicariously experiencing their insatiable desire for this woman certainly made for a sizzling reading experience.

THE BAD
Claudine is dedicated to author, Joseph Kessel, and his novel, Belle du Jour, which is about a happily married, but sexually frustrated housewife named Séverine who joins a brothel and gets to act out her deepest fantasies. In comparison, I can’t help thinking of how the dramatic tension of how and when Séverine’s secret will be discovered is missing from Claudine’s story. Since almost everyone, including her mother, knows that she is a call girl, Claudine doesn’t have much to lose so what does it matter? Also, while Séverine enters the dangerous world of prostitution to seek sexual fulfillment, Claudine is driven by a need for power over men and, of course, the all-mighty dollar. She becomes less of a sympathetic character when you know she hopes to fornicate her way to fortune.

CONCLUSION
While Claudine is full of sexually explicit scenes, there are plenty of tender moments for romantics too. For someone who is worshipped by countless men, I liked that Maria/Claudine realized in the end that she wanted to be loved by one person who was special to her. In her National Post article about the history of erotic novels, Barbara Palmer discusses how women both in the past and in the present flock to erotic romance to get some much needed stimulation in our monotonous sexual and emotional lives. Readers certainly can’t avoid being stimulated when reading Claudine, but the experience also includes the pleasure of falling in love.

3.5/5 Stars

NOTE: I received a review copy of Claudine thanks to Penguin Canada, but this in no way influenced the thoughts and opinions expressed in my review.

What are your thoughts on erotic romance novels?

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8 comments on “Claudine by Barbara Palmer

  1. citygirlscapes
    September 8, 2014

    Margaret Atwood — I could see that. I understand why some people would want to keep certain work away from their established pen name, but pseudonyms bother me. I feel like if you’re going to write something, own up to it even if it’s completely different than what you’re known for. To me, it comes off like they’re ashamed of the work or something.
    – ashley

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      September 9, 2014

      It is very curious why she is keeping it all hush-hush, unless it’s just a big marketing tactic.

      Like

  2. Naomi
    September 8, 2014

    I have been hearing about this book since coming back from my vacation, but your review is the first I’ve read. You’re right- I am more interested in knowing who the real author is than in the book itself, although you have made it sound pretty good. Did reading it give you any insight into the possible author, or is your guess just a whim?

    I love “fornicate her way to fortune”. Also, I think you have made me more interested in reading Belle du Jour than Claudine. Have you read that one, too?

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      September 9, 2014

      I feel like I’ve read Belle du Jour, but I’m not sure if I’m just getting mixed up with the movie which I definitely know I watched. My memory is very unreliable!

      The book doesn’t give anything away. My guess is based on the description “a bestselling, international award-winning Canadian novelist” because I can’t think of anyone else who has been that successful.

      Like

  3. Cedar Station
    September 8, 2014

    Hm, Margaret Atwood sounds like a good guess! I could see her doing something like this. Great review!

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      September 9, 2014

      Thanks! The story stayed close to a romance formula, so if it was Margaret Atwood, she didn’t want to stray away or experiment with what has worked for this genre.

      Like

  4. lauratfrey
    September 8, 2014

    I dunno, I feel like Margaret Atwood would just use her own name. Though the tradition thing does make sense.

    How would you rate the writing? Does it live up to “award winning author” standards?

    Patiently awaiting my copy!

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      September 9, 2014

      I thought about that too and she’s pretty bold, so why not just come out and say “it’s me!”. I found the story to be quite formulaic, so I wouldn’t say it’s to “award winning author” standards at all. As if, she didn’t want to stray too away from the traditional style of this genre. Hope you get your copy soon!

      Like

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