I honestly cannot remember how I happened upon Megan Hart. I know it was somewhere on Amazon, where I came across Pleasure and Purpose and saw it paired with No Greater Pleasure. I bought both of them on a whim, and I do remember my distinct thought of “It sounds like A Handmaid’s Tale” on Viagra — and Atwood was already pushing the envelop with her sexcapades in that book.
When I finished both of the books, I genuinely felt sad. Sad because there wasn’t another one that I could pick up RIGHT THAT INSTANT and continue reading. Although I requested a prompt publishing of a new Order of Solace book, alas — it was to no avail. Who knew that you couldn’t bang out a book and get it published in less than 48 hours anyway?
Personally, I am a fan of fantasy novels that bend the rules of society, just like Atwood did. While Hart is not writing in some post-apocalyptic time, she does create this new society surrounded with a new religion and merges them with the conventional, organic details of what seems to be a medieval world — if not medieval, it definitely relates on the level of kings, princes, lords and ladies.
And then there is the dedicated group of Handmaidens whose sole purpose is to help others, male or female, find their way to true solace. Their name? The Order of Solace. Imagine that!
Naturally, I started with the first installment, Pleasure and Purpose, which is split between the stories of three friends, a prince and his two companions; and their own, respective Handmaidens. I didn’t realize, at first, that the book would be separated in three parts, and on top of that, the points of view switch back and forth between the stars of each section: The Handmaiden and her patron.
Despite these shifts, Hart handles her design well. The transitions were smooth, and never once did I feel like I had to backtrack to find out where I was and who I was following. This decision must have been a hard one, and I can almost hear an editor making their “eeeeeeeeeh” sound at first sight of the head-hopping. As a writer, I am most in awe with this aspect — Hart has mastered the art of point of view, and she’s not afraid to let you see that.
No Greater Pleasure is just one story, versus the three different character sections of the first novel. Again, it follows a Handmaiden and her patron, and it only switches between these two points of view. What also gripped me as a writer, especially in No Greater Pleasure, was the characterization. All of her male characters, in particular, popped for me as being unique and individual. Their traits and flaws are so well-balanced and at times very overwhelming, that as a reader, you cringe at their frailties and get angry at their mistakes.
The second novel is also less erotic than the first, though I do not mean this in a negative way. I think the second novel focuses more on the story and less on the sex, allowing for the reader to see it when it is there, but not expect it in every chapter. Because Pleasure and Purpose is written like three different short stories (though all three of them are connected through character and plot), sex is prevalent, hot and (jealously) amazing.
The true test of good romance to me is…if I would recommend the books to my mom. And I did! And hopefully she will read them soon, now that I am willing to let them out of my grip.
But, for those of you who have not read Megan Hart’s Order of Solace books, I strongly suggest that you get on Amazon RIGHT THIS INSTANT and buy them. I will know if you don’t! Don’t test me!