Review: A Taste of Honey by Christiane France

Antoine Auguste, Marquis de Vernnay, is twenty-four and bored. Bored with women at the house he frequents on la rue Charles V, and bored with the elaborate rituals and devices he must use in order to achieve an orgasm. But then he meets Honey at an exclusive men’s club, and has his first sexual experience with another man. One taste of this beautiful, young creole man with the golden skin and Antoine’s life is forever changed. Honey is the only person he can think about and the only person he wants. Honey, however, is a servant of the lowest class, and also the property of another man. Can Antoine discover a way he can separate the two and keep Honey all to himself?

Review by Erastes

We are introduced to our hero on the first page, trying to wank (and failing) in his mother’s bedroom.  This was not a good start, as I found this rather distasteful and not a little icky.  Be warned for those of you who run screaming at the mention of heterosexual practices, that–up to now–Antoine has been shagging women and hasn’t found it very fulfilling (although he’s tried damned hard!), and his mastubatory fantasies are all about women.  He’s friends with the Maquis de Sade who has initiated him into the “delights” of causing pain-and Antoine is disgusted that the women he’s tried these on aren’t properly grateful.

he would have thought they understood a little pain increased their mutual pleasure a thousand-fold. But no, the merest touch of the whip on their delicate little backsides, the sight of the tiniest drop of blood, or the odor of burning pussy-hair from the brush of a hot poker, and they were screaming for madame, and madame was doubling, and sometimes even tripling her fees, then threatening to send for the police if it happened again.

Plus the fact he’s not a young man. He’s twenty four, (almost middle aged in the 18th/19th century and at his age you’d think he’d be a little more grown up instead of behaving like a sulky 17 year old.  All this sadly put me at odds against him, but I hoped that’s what the author was attempting to achieve.

His dissatisfied thoughts lead him–rather oddly, I thought–to wondering whether he’d have more luck with men (lucky men! /sarcasm)   He doesn’t do this because he considers himself to have desires in that direction, though.  It’s just he wants:

…something new and different—new friends and new amusements, and different avenues of pleasure to pursue.

However, help is at hand. His manservant needs no more than a hint that his master wants something less boring and immediately he suggests a club for men of that sort.

I found it rather staggering that, when the inevitable hook-up between the first man who approaches Antoine (coincidentally the man who is going to be the love of his life) happens, it happens in the middle of the room of the club!  They have each others’ cocks out in seconds, Honey’s finger is half way inside Antoine and they aren’t even in a booth or a private room.

Within minutes of them actually going to a private room, Honey is pushing his cock into Antoine. No preparation, no lubricant nothing.  While I know that, from discussions on various blogs, this is possible–I found it idiotic that a marquis would 1. allow it and the loss of status it entailed and 2. not be screaming in pain as he’s a virgin.

Of course the painful experience is hugely enjoyable.

[Honey]…was now pumping in and out of Antoine’s back entrance with a powerful thrust Antoine found more satisfying than anything he’d experienced with a woman.

Which I found odd because surely the women didn’t shag Antoine? Perhaps that’s what he actually wanted all along.

He returns again wanting to be touched by Honey and no-one but Honey.  Why? I wondered – how does he know “only Honey” can give him what he needs?  It all seemed rather odd.  There’s a seemingly huge angst section afterwards before the plot moves along and more than that I won’t spoil you – the book is less than 70 pages (on Microsoft Reader) so there’s not much plot to spoil.

However, I have to say I didn’t enjoy the book at all.  While not being badly written (apart from the sex scenes which struck me as rather bleak, clinical and non-erotic in the extreme) I couldn’t warm to Antoine in the slightest. He lurches from spoiled brat to frustrated spoiled brat and that’s about it, and I wasn’t won over by him and the way he thought he was in love after one painful shag.  There’s a lot of repetitive angst and sections which simply ask for suspension of disbelief.  One minute he’s worrying about how dangerous France is, politically, the next he’s getting his cock out in public. We are told that Honey is the “property” of an English lord which is errant bilge–although I think the author didn’t actually mean to imply that Honey is a slave, that’s how it comes over in the book and the blurb.

The denouement is little better, and considers more suspension of belief, I’m afraid, and I really felt that I’d wasted an hour of my time, so apart from the actual writing which isn’t that bad, I can’t find anything in this book to recommend, as the plot is weak, the history pretty much non-existent and the erotica not very erotic.

Amber Allure

4 Responses

  1. Perfect review, Erastes. You have enscapulated perfectly everything I thought about this story – although I would have given it one star.

    Last year, as a newcomer to the world of m/m historicals, I’m afraid I lashed out and bought piles of them… having been stung with quite a few of them, all I can say is, thank god for Speak Its Name. I’ve learnt to be far more discerning. Life is too short to read crap.

    When I read on your livejournal about “reading something horrible” and the mention of the hero wanking in his mother’s bed, I knew immediately that you were referring to this story.

    That scene disturbed me too. I thought I had forgotten it; seemingly not.

    I’ve deleted this story from my files. I wish it were as easy to delete the memory of THAT scene from my mind.

    • That scene is never explained either. Why was he wanking there? Had he had a row with his mother and it was a form of rebellion to mess up his mother’s room? Or – more disturbingly – the only place he felt he could get off? *shudder*

      I’m glad you enjoyed the review though – although I’m sorry it brought back bad memories.

  2. Ugh, I know this is slightly late, but I have to comment! 24 in the 1700s was not particularly old, and certainly not ‘almost middle aged.’ The life span of the time looks low because of the ridiculous infant mortality rates back then, but once you were an adult you could reasonably expect to live for quite some time. Middle-aged was middle-aged; 24 was still a relatively young adult.

    There were plenty of childish 24 year olds back then (and plenty of childish 54 year olds, haha).

    • Really? Do you have sources to back this up? All of the research I’ve done has the life expectancy at about 45 on average and people going to work very young and marrying very young. 24 would certainly be an average middle age. Figures for America are generally higher, but not Europe.

      Have a look at the life expectancy table on this page, it’s rather chilling.

      http://www.cambridge.org/uk/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521808781&ss=exc

      Obviously aristocrats were more unlikely to “grow up” but 24 is certainly of an age where he wouldn’t be behaving like a 13 year old girl.

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