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History of a Pleasure Seeker

American Booksellers’ Association Indie Next Pick

O, Oprah Magazine, Find of the Month


Piet Barol is ‘a pure pulse of young manhood; not an everyman, but perhaps the fantasy everyman that every man would like to be’ (Times Literary Supplement). When this dashing young adventurer escapes the drabness of the provinces to enter the employ of the wealthiest family in Amsterdam, he changes their lives forever.

Piet is hired by Europe’s richest hotelier, a self-made Calvinist who has rolled the dice on the biggest gamble of his career – the building of New York’s Plaza Hotel. Maarten’s wife Jacobina loves him deeply and tries not to mind that they never have sex. His daughters, Constance and Louisa, reign as queens over their social set.

From the outside, all is enviable. But the wheels are coming off Maarten’s business empire, and his 10-year-old son Egbert refuses to leave the house. The dysfunctions of the glittering family are more alluring than Piet bargained for. In this ‘enthralling and perfectly paced novel’ (Observer) he walks a tightrope between delight and danger.

History of a Pleasure Seeker

UK edition

History of a Pleasure Seeker

US edition


  • 'As if plucked from a patisserie display case, Mr. Mason’s novel is a gorgeous confection… Piet is the rare character – the rare being – whose unfailing charm and luck only make us cheer him on more.' New York Times
  • History of a Pleasure Seeker 'is the best new work of fiction to cross my desk in many moons. Mason … has written an unabashed romance, a classic…  There is an almost magical quality to it that had me thoroughly engaged from first page to last. … Mason has an appealingly playful quality that has never been more evident than it is here; he likes all of his characters and mostly gives them what they deserve; he conjures up early-20th-century Amsterdam and, more briefly, New York, with confidence and exceptional descriptive powers.' Washington Post
  • 'Mason writes in a beautifully turned, classical style that yields pleasing phrases and psychological complexity…  Genuinely moving.' New York Times Book Review
  • 'It’s hard to imagine a better connoisseur of late 19th-century Europe’s gilded delights than Piet Barol, the bisexual hero at the heart of Richard Mason’s witty fourth novel, History of a Pleasure Seeker… Think Balzac, but lighter and sexier – an exquisitely laced corset of a novel with a sleek, modern zipper down the side.' Marie Claire
  • 'Richard Mason is the rare novelist who can write a very sexy book that never quite turns prurient… This book about pleasure is a provocative joy.' O, The Oprah Magazine. Find of the Month.
  • 'Highly recommended as an engaging portrait of an individual, a family, and time…  At once windswept historical romance and focused social commentary.' Library Journal, starred review
  • 'Some of the month’s best fiction…  An alluring stranger liberates a wealthy Dutch family’s libido in Richard Mason’s Belle Époque Valentine, History of a Pleasure Seeker.' Vogue
  • 'Delicious… as polished as the Vermeulen-Sickerts' silver, a literary guilty pleasure.' Los Angeles Times
  • 'Mason displays a sharp eye and a wit to rival Oscar Wilde.' Kirkus Reviews
  • 'The operative word… is pleasure, which comes in abundance to both the reader and the seductively handsome Piet Barol.  Mason evokes… delightful period detail… [and] writes with sensuality and humor.' Publishers Weekly
  • 'This bildrungsroman is as smart as it is seductive . . . Readers will savor final scenes aboard the gilded ocean-liner Eugénie and welcome the undercurrent that perhaps Piet’s good fortune isn’t luck at all but a lesson that pleasure exists for those who seek it.' Booklist
  • 'Mason’s rendition of motivation, however self-serving, is one of the many delectable qualities in his well-wrought tale… The style and vocabulary are perfect for the novel's setting… and Mason's use of music sets exactly the right mood for what he wants to accomplish.  The well-drawn characters of servants, daughters and friends combine to make this a thoroughly enjoyable book.' Shelf Awareness
  • 'Edith Wharton would be impressed...  Mason’s prose is lovely and rich.' Entertainment Weekly
  • 'Just try to resist Richard Mason's History of a Pleasure Seeker…  [Mason has] a keen eye for the irresistible detail… All the characters are richly drawn, but it's Piet who owns the story: a young man wildly gifted in the art of seduction… He's an adventurer who's sure to always land on his graceful feet, or in the lap of just the right fellow scamp who happens to admire "clean-smelling men with beautiful lips." That's where the book leaves him — but only temporarily. History of a Pleasure Seeker gives us a goodbye wink with perhaps the most tantalizing trio of words in the English language: "To be continued."' Seattle Times
  • 'Richard Mason evokes a lush pre-World War I Europe… [in this] elegantly written, sexy novel' – Jane Ciabattari, former head of the National Book Critics Circle, The Daily Beast
  • 'In the way of picaresque novels, the whole point is to entertain the reader. Mission accomplished.' Newark Star-Ledger
  • 'Richard Mason presides over History of a Pleasure Seeker like a benign god, rescuing his confused but well-meaning characters when they seem doomed and affectionately watching from a distance as they scramble to make satisfying lives…. Give in to the charms of his prose [and] be bewitched.' Columbus Dispatch
  • 'Mason is known for his exquisite prose and style. History of a Pleasure Seeker is a showcase for his nimble writing, but also extends his storytelling prowess.' Pittsburgh Tribune
  • 'A masterpiece. Like Henry James on Viagra. Not only gripping as hell, but brilliantly arranges that the imagined world of Maarten and Jacobina's household sits entirely within Amsterdam of the belle époque. I thought Piet was wonderfully drawn - rogueish and yet wholly sympathetic.' Alex Preston, author of This Bleeding City
  •  'Set in Amsterdam during the Belle Epoque, History of a Pleasure Seeker follows Piet Barol, the poor but cultured young tutor to a wealthy Dutch family. Piet is determined to drink life to the fullest, and this ambition alters not only his own life, but also the lives of those around him. Skillfully and evocatively rendered, this novel feels like its own guilty pleasure, redolent of lazy afternoons and late night liaisons.' Stesha Brandon, University Book Store, Seattle, WA
  • 'Think Downton Abbey, in Amsterdam, with lots of sex, and not always between the usual suspects. History of a Pleasure Seeker is pure pleasure itself, the kind of old-fashioned, perfectly paced, beautifully written, acutely observed novel you don't want to end.' Marion Abbott, Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary Arts, CA
  • 'Looking for something sexy and cultured for Valentine's Day? Slip into an elegant world of social tension, ambition, and sensuality with Richard Mason's latest novel. It's a Dutch "Upstairs,Downstairs" with pulse-raising encounters and music that will make you swoon!' Tegan Tigani, Queen Anne Books, Seattle, WA
  • ‘A hugely accomplished novel, the story of Piet Barol, a young, provincial Dutchman and the social and sexual adventure he embarks upon when he is employed as a tutor to one of the richest families in belle époque Amsterdam. Rich with period detail and characterised by pitch-perfect dialogue and a cast of carefully drawn characters, it explores themes of ambition, fidelity and class, and ratchets up the tension as our young hero walks a knife-edge between social/financial success and total ruin.’ Greg Eden, Head of Fiction,, UK
  • 'A sharply written story of love, money and erotic intrigue pulsing behind the staid canal fronts of nineteenth century Amsterdam. Mason's hero is amoral but irresistible.  I was gripped till the very last page.  Thank God there's a sequel.' Daisy Goodwin
  • 'One of the best three books of the year.’ Independent
  • 'Piet Barol is ‘a pure pulse of young manhood; not an everyman, but perhaps the fantasy everyman that every man would like to be.’ Times Literary Supplement
  • 'A hugely accomplished novel - the story of Piet Barol, a young, provincial Dutchman and the social and sexual adventures he embarks upon in belle époque Amsterdam.'  The Independent Best Summer Reads
  •  ‘A ripping literary romp about the adventures of a dashing, athletic and sexually ambiguous young man.’ The Evening Standard
  •  ‘Enthralling and perfectly paced.’ The Observer
  •  ‘A saucy, hugely entertaining romp of a young man making his fortune in 1907 Amsterdam.’ The Sunday Times
  • 'Mason tells his story with humour, charm, fine attention to detail and a healthy dose of eroticism.' The Independent on Sunday
  • ‘Readers of a sensitive disposition beware.’ The Lady
  • ‘Piet Barol is a dashing young man of the Belle Époque who seduces his way into a life of decadence in this fast-paced historical page-turner.' Easy Living, Summer Choice

The Complete Collection