Lessons in love and a whole lot more, are in store in this saucy romp set in a European finishing school for young ladies. Packed off to a continental finishing school, 16-year-old Victoria thinks she will be taught how to be a dutiful wife for a gentleman. But she soon discovers that she has a lot to learn in the arts of pleasure at the Venus School for Young Ladies. There she encounters the strictness of Principal Madame Thackeray and her team of tutors. Under their guidance she learns the finer arts of sexual pleasure and discovers that there are plenty of fellow students and staff willing to share their carnal knowledge with this sweet young English rose. On returning to England, she finds her father in financial difficulty, and must turn her newfound education to good use to save the family estate.I have many feelings about this book and not many of them positive, sorry. I was fuming only 4% into the book and it didn't improve at all. There is no plot outside of Victoria going to the finishing school and learning about sex which I don't think that constitutes a plot at all, forgive me if I'm wrong. This one dimensional story is barely interesting, its like an erotic description of the variations on sex jumping from one sexual encounter to the next. There is no character development, I know as much about Victoria at the end that I do at the start of the novel. The only saving grace is Meadows writes erotic scenes well and if you're just wanting some erotic bit of reading with no plot then by all means, this is your novel! However, I appreciate a little more substance and plot - after all I am wanting a story not a collection of explicit scenes. Sadly, these weren't the reasons I was fuming. While "The Education of Victoria" attempts to take a feminist stance and talks about freeing women to become independent it fails horribly. I tried to give some leeway here because Meadows sets the novel during the reign of Queen Victoria but I just can't.
From the moment Victoria steps into her "supposedly liberal" finishing school everything is male focused. What she and the girls are taught is for the benefit of men. I don't want to read a book about the narrow focus on, and dominance of, men in society - I see it everyday thank you very much. Yet this novel attempts to cover the masculine focus by trying to convince readers the purpose of the sexual finishing school is to free and empower women. How can you empower women by relaying the message that all sex is for and about men? This kind of mixed message is the problem with women's sexuality in current society - there is a misguided understanding that sexual encounters are for the benefit of men and that women should aspire to be their sexual fantasy, nothing more. It shrinks women into one dimensional beings whose worth is determined by their attractiveness to males.
What I have always loved about the erotic romance genre is plethora of leading ladies who own their sexuality beyond physical appearance or the approval of men. They are confident in themselves, in what they want/need and aren't afraid to get it. But in this novel there is no mention of the academic studies the girls at the finishing school undertake and everything Victoria gains or loses is through sex. Obviously this young lady is quite intelligent but the story is consumed by her ability to have and give sexual pleasure to men. This novel confuses strong, sexual and powerful women with a heavily male focused understanding of sexuality and slaps a female empowerment sticker on top. Take this stunner of a quote "...you must learn when servicing a man, his pleasure is paramount and you should not divide your energy pleasuring yourself as well as him." There is so much wrong with that sentence I can't even. It has nothing to do with female empowerment and everything to do with men - how a woman can best please a man. BAHUMBUG! Despite the time period I just can't accept this novel.
I'll give the book two ratings for those of you who aren't concerned with plot...
1/5 as a novel 4/5 erotic scenes
xxx Literary George
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Thank you to NetGalley, Angela Meadows and Sourcebooks Casablanca for the copy in exchange for an honest review.