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Douglas Carlton Abrams – The Lost Diary of Don Juan

October 29, 2008

126. The Lost Diary of Don Juan by Douglas Carlton Abrams (2007)

Length: 322 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction; Romance

Started: 16 October 2008
Finished: 18 October 2008

The greatest lover
of all time. Can he be swayed
by monogamy?

–Book provided by the author for review–

Summary: Don Juan, the greatest lover in all of Spain (and perhaps the world) has been portrayed by history as a craven seducer and womanizing cad, intent only on increasing the number of notches on his bedpost. This novel takes a different view: Don Juan as a seducer, yes, but as a lover of all womankind, a worshiper at the altar of all that is female, a devotee of true passion, and the liberator of widows and dissatisfied housewives. Told in diary format, this novel recounts not only his history as orphan, thief, spy, and libertine, but also of the most dangerous period of his life. For Don Juan is in danger, not only from the Inquisition who views his activities as licentiousness and the deepest form of sin, but also from Doña Ana, the beautiful and independent-minded woman who may threaten everything that Don Juan thinks he stands for. The first rule of a libertine is never to fall in love; for, after all, how can a man who is devoted to lust and passion ever find satisfaction with just one woman?

Review: This book is about equal parts historical fiction and trashy romance novel (in the nicest sense of the term), mashed together to produce an enjoyable, quick-reading, and compelling story. I have to admit, I was not particularly familiar with Don Juan’s story before reading this book – I recognized the name but had no real idea of the context. Abrams does an excellent job bringing late 16th century Seville to vibrant life, and this novel has a strong sensuality to it in both the sensory and sexual sense. The prose is florid, occasionally to the point of being purple, but the thing is: in this case, it works. For example, I found it completely believable that Don Juan would use the term “Supreme Pleasure” in his diary, even though on its own, that sort of language would totally make me roll my eyes. However, The Lost Diary of Don Juan neatly walks the line between being overly coy and overly graphic about sex and seduction.

While the overarching theme of this book seems to be the relationship between lust and love, and whether one is real without the other, and how to maintain both with only one other person, I don’t think it went particularly deep – the ending’s pretty predictable, and the moral seems to be of the “wuv, twoo wuv conquers all” variety. However, I really don’t think most people are looking to this novel as a deep philosophical, historical, or moral treatise. As a bit of light, slightly fluffy, yet compelling historical romance, though, it was thoroughly entertaining. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: A good choice for folks who like their historical romance sexy but not super-graphic, or for those who are looking for a entertaining, not-too-serious book to lose themselves in for an afternoon.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Links: Douglas Carlton Abrams’s Home Page – careful, there’s auto-starting music, so turn your speakers off if you’re browsing at work, The Lost Blog of Don Juan – Hee! Also, there’s a listing of the other blog tour stops here.

Other Reviews: Literarily, Savvy Verse & Wit, Bookish Ruth, The Bluestocking Society, The Literate Housewife Review, Kathleen’s Book Reviews
Did I miss your review? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: I write in the naked pages of this diary so that the truth will be known and my fate will not be left to the rumors and lies already whispering through the streets of Sevilla.


Many thanks to Dorothy Thompson, Douglas Carlton Abrams, and Pump Up Your Book Promotion for giving me a chance to read this book!

Vocab:

  • p. 239: “She wore a simple red dress without petticoats or a farthingale, as if she were in a hurry.” – a hoop skirt or framework for expanding a woman’s skirt, worn in the 16th and 17th centuries.
    .
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10 Comments leave one →
  1. October 29, 2008 1:24 pm

    This is a great review! I know what you mean about the predictable ending. Like you said, it didn’t bother me because of the type of book. I like what you said about trashy romance novel and your haiku is fantastic!

  2. October 29, 2008 2:02 pm

    I have read Lit Housewife’s review and now yours, you have successfully sold this book to me, which I have previously shied away.

    “The Lost Diary of Don Juan neatly walks the line between being overly coy and overly graphic about sex and seduction.”

    This is exactly what makes me skeptical about it at the first place. Thanks for the great review!

  3. October 29, 2008 3:58 pm

    I really enjoyed the historical parts of this novel along with the “trashy” parts.

  4. October 30, 2008 11:47 am

    Love the haiku! I thought the language was florid too. I think I called it flowery – you’re always so good with using the correct technical terms in your reviews. Anyway, it was that way mainly when describing the sex and you’re right, it worked in this situation.

  5. October 30, 2008 1:31 pm

    LH – Thanks! This haiku was harder than normal… stupid “monogamy” having four syllables!

    Matthew – I might not always be the best judge of graphic-ness when it comes to sex – I don’t read erotica, but I’m also not particularly bothered by graphic sex in my novels, so it might not always register as to how graphic it actually is. It’s a major theme in this book, though, so I tried to pay attention.

    Serena – It was a good blend of the two, wasn’t it?

    Shana – I think “flowery” works equally well – particularly since he was talking about actual flowers more than once. ;)

  6. November 1, 2008 6:10 pm

    Usually I come via google reader so I read your whole review before popping over to comment. But today I was wondering if you had read The Heretic’s Daughter yet so I spent a few minutes scrolling down your reviews and noticed that you just have a haiku for each book as a teaser before the review. I likey!! (although before I used Google reader the “click here for full post” link used to kinda bug me…)

  7. November 1, 2008 6:19 pm

    Trish – Nope, haven’t got to The Heretic’s Daughter yet, but it’s on my shortlist for November!

    I go back and forth on the “click here for more” links… on the one hand, I can definitely see the annoyance at having to make the extra click, and it probably means I lose some casual visitors who can’t be bothered to click through. On the other hand, I keep it around because I think it makes the front page of my blog feel a little “neater” – easier for someone stopping by to get a quick feel for what I’m about and what kinds of books I read without having to scroll past pages and pages of text.

  8. November 1, 2008 8:51 pm

    Your haiku is absolutely perfect. Also, major kudos for The Princess Bride quote! (Seriously, seeing that movie quoted anywhere warms my soul.)

    I enjoyed this book a lot — as you said, it’s a very entertaining read.

    I think you’ll enjoy The Heretic’s Daughter. I read that last month and LOVED it. One of my favorites of 2008.

  9. November 2, 2008 8:47 am

    Ruth – Oh, good, I’m glad someone recognized the quote. I think I’m physically incapable of saying “true love” without pronouncing it “twoo wuv.” :)

  10. March 15, 2014 1:15 am

    I was delighted to have the chance to read this book on my way to Spain. It definitely enhanced my Spanish experience.

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