The life and times of the legendary seducer, here imagined as a historical character whose diary has come into the possession of “editor” Abrams.
It’s not entirely a departure from the New Age–inflected nonfiction considerations of “love, sexuality, and spirituality” co-authored by Abrams (The Multi-Orgasmic Couple, 2002, etc.). For this Don Juan is an intellectual libertine given to debating the legitimacy of sexual experience with the women who enchant and gratify him, and with agents of the Spanish Inquisition. Juan grows to manhood in the latter years of the 16th century, during Spain’s Golden Age. In his own suave, measured voice, we learn of his upbringing in a convent (after his unmarried mother had abandoned her infant), brief tenure in a monastery and commitment to a life of sensual pleasure and robust adventure—as a member of a jovial gang of robbers, and the tool of Machiavellian Marquis de la Mota (who employs Juan’s bedroom expertise to cuckold and embarrass his political enemies). In a brisk narrative that nevertheless consists less of developing action than of multiple repetitions of essentially similar episodes, two themes are emphasized: Juan’s heartfelt opposition to the Inquisition’s punitive malevolence, and his genuine love for Doña Ana, the beautiful noblewoman threatened with an unwanted marriage (to the aforementioned Marquis). Period detail is deftly handled, and the story is nicely fleshed out with vivid supporting characters (e.g., a randy Duchess who justifies her dalliance with Juan by pretending he is her absent husband; a legendary courtesan who equals him in skill and appetite; and Juan’s ingenuous coachman Cristobal, who utters the novel’s plaintive final words). And the sex scenes are juicy, if occasionally risibly florid.
Perhaps not a novel to be loved, but a dependably entertaining one.