I discovered Claudine, written by Barbara Palmer, as a recommendation through another book I recently read. I didn’t really plan on reading another erotica-themed book, but the premise of Claudine peaked my curiosity regardless, and so I decided to give it a go. I’m pleased that I did!
Claudine is about a young woman named Maria. Maria was born in Romania and orphaned at a very young age after her parents were brutally murdered by the country’s dictator. She spent a hell-ish five months in an orphanage until a wealthy American lawyer adopted her and brought her to America. She grew up with her adoptive mother in upscale New York, took piano lessons, went to the best private schools, and studied at Yale.
Now, at 26, Maria is working post-grad at Yale toward receiving her M.A. in 18th century erotic literature. However, that’s merely during the day. At night, Maria is Claudine, a high-class escort who specializes in roleplay. Through her own ingenuity and… well, talents, she’s become one of the most sought after private courtesans, giving what she refers to as “performances” to only the most elite and well-to-do clients – all over the globe.
Maria’s had her own business as Claudine for about three years, and has tremendous help from her driver and security guard Andrei, an oh-so-serious Russian who never lets down his guard of the uttermost professionalism, despite being secretly in love with Maria; and Lillian, Claudine’s stylist and Maria’s best friend and confidante. Together, the three of them maintain Claudine’s business with a smooth, professional and busy flow. That is, until a teenage prostitute who looks just like Maria is found murdered with Maria’s I.D. in her possession. The perfect, secret life of Claudine rapidly unravels as it becomes clear early on in the investigation that Maria/Claudine has a very dangerous stalker. Too stubborn to cancel her already booked appointments, Maria continues to give performances while she, Andrei and Lillian try to figure out who her stalker is and what it is he’s trying to prove, all while eluding police who can’t discover Maria’s illicit double life lest she get thrown in prison herself.
Barbara Palmer managed to write this book as an erotic romantic thriller. At first, that sounds like a complete and utter mess to me personally – I don’t like romance novels, I’m very new to erotica, and I’m rather particular about thrillers (my favourite style of novel). But she made it work fabulously! Claudine is the sort of book that hooks you the minute you start to read it. It is not written from the main character’s point of view, so you get to know Maria as a total outside observer, and I think that worked in this book’s favour because, without reading it as Maria/Claudine and having to view the scenarios from just her perspective, it was a lot harder as a reader to guess who the stalker was since nothing is hinted at through a narrating character’s inner thoughts.
And despite preferring not to read the book from Maria’s personal narrative, I liked Maria as a character very much. She is quick-witted, independent, thoughtful, and incredibly stubborn. She has many flaws due to her traumatic childhood, and it was interesting to witness her finally deal with the emotional scars she has and contemplate why she does the things she does or feels the way she often feels. I also really enjoyed the descriptions of the escort business – what it means to run such a business professionally and successfully, verifying clients, prepping for elaborate performances.
Of course, since Claudine is about an escort, it must be understood that there is some very mature language in the book. However, I should clarify that I personally didn’t find it vulgar or overdone. Those new to erotic fiction or just not sure how they feel about it – Claudine would be a great book to get started with, since the erotic scenes are actually quite sparring and not, like I said, rude for the sake of being rude.
In my opinion, there is no reason why Claudine by Barbara Palmer doesn’t deserve a five star rating.