A Precious Jewel

A Precious Jewel (The Ideal Wife #2) - Mary Balogh I bought the reissue as an ebook, rather than try to find a used copy of the original, and it was well worth it, despite paying a MMPB price for a category length story.A Precious Jewel is unlike any historical I've read. The heroine is a prostitute working in a brothel, the hero a beta of average intelligence and looks, and, get this, the sex is initially quite uneventful for her."What?" you say, "The heroine isn't a virtuous maiden pretending to be a prostitute? Neither is the hero a take-charge Adonis determined to rescue her?" I'm not sure a story like this could be published today. It's rather honest for a historical.Sir Gerald Stapleton is our rather average hero, and he visits Miss Blyth's brothel for predictable, no-drama sex with as much passion as someone visiting a chiropractor. When he first visits fallen gentlewoman Priscilla Wentworth he tells her:I don't like any tricks...None of the little arts you girls know to make things proceed faster. I like to take it slowly at my own speed. All I want you to do is lie still.And lie still she does. There are no fireworks, no "treacherous bodies" reacting to the heat of the other's touch, just safe, passionless missionary. So pleased by her acquiescence, Gerald becomes her regular client for months before setting her up as his mistress.As awful as this sounds, I was compelled by the honesty of it. In truth, they use each other in the beginning. Gerald gets his safe, passionless sex, and Priss gets her independence and the ability to be Priscilla the lady again. From this sturdy, amicable partnership grows a romance. That it builds so slowly makes the eventual HEA much more palatable.Gerald has been ill-used by the women in his life. His mother left him when he was quite young and his step-mother was a less than savory character. He has understandable issues with relating to and trusting women. Unlike an embittered rake with woman troubles, however, Gerald is awkward and naive, rather than selfish and dismissive. Priss, on the other hand, had wonderful relationships with her father and brother before they died. Her reluctance stems from her refusal to hope for something more. She has weathered her fall with grace and good spirits, but she's not sure she could do it again. Her facade of professional distance between them, that the sex is just a business transaction, is to keep her own sanity.Despite both their efforts to the contrary, these two form a tight bond. They offset each other's weaknesses and strengths. Priss finds herself hoping for more and Gerald begins to trust her and place her pleasure and happiness before his own.A Precious Jewel is a slow moving book. Those who prefer passion and desperate declarations of love would probably be bored with this book. It's a gradual joining of two souls who are too afraid to lay themselves open and become vulnerable, but eventually must do just that.