My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
Carnal Devices was another short story that I was meaning to read for sometimes now. It’s my first Helena Harker read, and I liked the author’s writing. If you’re looking for smut, you’ve got it 100% but unfortunately, there’s no story with substantial plot. It’s a good thing that I found the characters very interesting.
India, the h of the story, is a prostitute. She was forced to take up on this profession due to her poverty stricken state. It’s very unfortunate that she doesn’t enjoy sex. When it’s her vocation, forced or not, disliking the act is taking its toll.The brothel owner of Carnal Pleasures who took India in from the streets is unhappy about her performance because the customers are leaving negative reviews. When the Madam comes to her to have a chat, India reveals that she hates how every encounter leaves her feeling used and discarded and how she feels disgusted by it all. Apparently, the Madam seems to understand, even having a solution for India’s ‘ailment’.
Enter Phineas; an expert on sexology, who studied in it, researches it with an unmatched vigor... Well, he loves having sex and the subject is undoubtedly something he excels in. While I was reading, I found that Phineas is the Madam’s lover. Since he needs to ‘research’, he also sleeps with various other women on a daily basis, a big portion of whom pay him for pleasuring them. This makes Phineas a... gigolo scholar? A scholarly gigolo? Ummmm.........
Doesn’t matter because it seemed like his passion about the subject of sex is very genuine. No wonder he frequents brothels like going to the balls. And no wonder the Madam thought of him to bring out India’s inner-hussy, not only to make her feel comfortable with her job but also (of course) to lure in more customers because other than her disappointing performance, India is beautiful with dark hair and eyes and exotic darker skin which makes her look like a gypsy… or someone who has South Asian heritage.
The first encounter with Phineas is a revelation for India. The instant attraction helps. India feels quite at ease with his slightly graying hair that exudes experience and his scholarly appearance. Phineas tries to talk to her to get to the bottom of her problem... and introducing to her the Victoria-era version of a dildo, an invention of his own. Phineas, in fact, invented quite a few of such devices that work for both men and women, hence they’re called ‘carnal devices’. What I found funny was India’s discovery later, as they prepare to have sex, that the dildo was formed as the size and shape of Phineas’s own manly parts. LOL Men! It’s good that he’s very well-endowed but I wasn’t surprised.
The next part of the story goes to show India’s transformation from the scared-of-sex prostitute to the sophisticated courtesan named ‘India of Rajasthan’ literally overnight. There’s also a ménage at the end with a guy they met at a men’s club with some M/M actions going in it. This was all to convince us that now that India’s inner-hussy is happily ‘out there’, the Madam can rest easy and begin contemplating more customers and fat load of coins in the coming months.
Just do not expect any HEA or even HFN cause there’s none. At least not the traditional kind. 3.5 stars (5+ stars for the gorgeous cover).