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The Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil are both focused on getting their pleasure wherever they can get them.

I couldn't believe this book was written in 1780s as I felt scandalized reading it now, so I can't imagine what it was like for people reading it then! It took a bit to get to know the characters, but once they were all straightened out in my mind I really enjoyed the story. And once you have the personalities ingrained, as a reader you really get to enjoy the satire present in every one of the letters. The only reason I gave a 4 instead of 5 stars as the ending was a bit lame. It was to tidy as all those who were naughty got 'justice', which I found to be a bit cliche. Still, this is a classic that I am extremely happy I took the time to read. I would highly recommend. I promise you won't be bored.
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Based on the 1782 novel by Choderlos de Laclos and written for the stage by Christopher Hampton, LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES debuted in England in 1985 and had several different productions, with most of the original cast, before a successful run in London’s West End. The play opened in New York in 1987, where it ran 149 performances. It was subsequently adapted for the screen as the 1988 DANGEROUS LIAISONS, a critically lauded film starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich, and Michelle Pfeiffer. The play requires a cast of six women and four men. It is set in the 1700s, not long before the French Revolution, and as such it requires period costumes and sets. The play is performed in two acts, each with nine scenes; the set changes with each scene.
The play concerns the relationship between La Marquise de Merteuil and La Vicomte de Valmont, the former a highly respected widow, the latter a raffish bachelor, both well known in the society of their era. They are discrete sociopaths who conceal their behavior behind a mask of manners, manipulating others into sexual relationships and then behaving with vicious cruelty toward their lovers.
When the play begins, Merteuil asks Valmont to seduce and thoroughly debauch Cecile Volanges, who has recently left convent school and will be married to a highly respectable who demands a virgin as a bride. Valmont declines; he is pursuing La Presidente de Tourvel, a woman noted for her high moral standards, and hopes to force to fall in love with him, and have an affair with him, in spite of her religious beliefs. These two plot lines cross as the play progresses, and the relationships between Merteuil, Valmont, and their prey spiral into a series of increasingly vicious games—that come to a climax when Merteuil and Valmont square off against each other, each determined to destroy the other.
LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES is in a certain sense as formal as a delicate, meticulously performed minuet. It has a certain beauty that highlights the nastiness of its leading characters, whose extreme behavior outstrip every subsequent melodrama right down to present day. It is both funny and awful, attractive and repellent. The script is intricate, and requires expert performers and artful designers under the leadership of a gifted director. It is also a script that reads as well on the page as it plays on the stage—and which will likely prompt readers to seek out the original novel.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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on May 17, 2014
I wrote in The Allure of Nymphets that the opening credits for Cruel Intentions (1999) revealed that the movie was “suggested” by the novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos De Laclos.

From the plot summary, we already know why Valmont seduced Cécile, who is described in the novel as "really pretty, she is only fifteen; a rosebud...[an] innocent convent-girl..." but let's take a look at how he seduced the nymphet.

1. Self-Confidence

Valmont possesses a very high level of self-confidence and he clearly practices Assumed Attraction i.e., he has no doubt in his mind that Cécile will be attracted to him and that he could seduce the maiden. Valmont boasts that Cécile, "...would be handed over to me defenseless, who could not fail to be intoxicated by a first attention...whom curiosity would probably lead more rapidly than love."

What Kerry Cohen wrote in Dirty Little Secrets: Breaking the Silence on Teenage Girls and Promiscuity supports Valmont's stance that females become intoxicated by male attention. She wrote "What they crave is attention, that moment when a boy looks at them and they can believe that they are worth something to someone. They can believe that they matter."

2. Presence\Focus Charisma

In addition, Valmont is focused, which is an essential part of charisma according to the book The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane. Madame de Volanges wrote that Valmont "...has never from his earliest youth taken one step or said one word without a purpose..." And the author of the ebook The October Man Sequence advises that pickup artists should maintain that level of moment-to-moment focus.

3. Self-Efficacy

Geoff Colvin relates in Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else that for one to be a world-class performer he should possess self-efficacy, which is a tool that can be used to help one succeed in specific situations. One aspect of self-efficacy is using Performance Outcomes (i.e., past experiences) to increase one's self-confidence.

In an attempt to humble Valmont, Marquise de Merteuil wrote, "You [Valmont] have seduced, ruined even, a number of women...Where is there in that any merit which is really yours? A handsome face, the result of mere chance; grace, which is almost always given by experience...quite praiseworthy impudence (i.e., extreme self-confidence), but probably due solely to the facility of your first successes..."

Thus, Valmont's attractive grace and impudence can be attributed to his previous Performance Outcomes.

4. Attention via Eye-Contact

Michael Ellsberg wrote in the book The Power of Eye Contact that eye contact "... doesn't create attraction. What it does do ... is reveal attraction and makes both parties unmistakably aware of it."

Consequently, Valmont used eye contact to reveal is attraction to Cécile. He made use of "tender and pressing" glances, which caused the nymphet to "lower her large, modest eyes." After looking at her "angelic face" his eyes wandered "... over all her person" He said, "... I amused myself by guessing at the curves and forms through a light but always troublesome garment. After I had descended from the head to her feet, I returned from the feet to her head. My fair friend, that soft gaze was fixed upon me...Then there was established between us...the first treaty of love..."

5. Gorilla Seduction

Valmont requested that Cécile remove the key to her bedroom door from her mother's mantle, so that he could procure a copy under the guise of making it easier for him to relay letters to Cécile from Danceny. But what Valmont really had in mind were "nocturnal rendezvous".

After making a copy of the key and making sure "everything was quiet in the chateau", armed with a dark lantern, Valmont made his way into Cécile's bedroom. Cécile, whom Valmont describes as having a, "... little person's pretty look", a "fresh mouth", and a "childish air" was asleep, but he was able to wake her without causing a stir in the chateau.

Valmont wrote, "... I promised everything for a kiss...After much bargaining, we agreed on a second...Then I guided the timid arms around my body, I held her more amorously in one of mine, and the soft kiss was indeed received...I have begun to like slow methods, I tell you. Once certain of arriving, why hurry on the journey so fast?"

But Valmont didn't wait long before moving on to the next phase of seduction. He wrote that Cécile, "yielded at first and ended up by consenting... we did not separate until we were satisfied with each other and had both agreed..." on the next rendezvous.

It's worth sharing that Valmont didn't get back to room until dawn and "...was worn out with fatigue.." but went to breakfast, because he had a "...passion for observing behaviors the morning after." And Valmont observed that the nymphet he seduced had, "... embarrassment in her countenance! Difficulty in walking! Eyes continually lowered, and so large and so tired!"

If you read the novel, it may appear that Valmont raped Cécile, but the maiden admitted she didn't thwart Valmont's advances as aggressively as she could have. She wrote, "...I am afraid I did not defend myself as much as I could have...there were moments when I was if I loved him...and I was weak enough to consent that he should come again this evening..."

After subsequent late night visits from Valmont, Cécile wrote, "... I must admit there is great pleasure in it; so I am scarcely at all unhappy...And also M. de Valmont is very charming!"

But Valmont didn't stop there. You used another seduction technique on the nymphet. One that he wrote, "... is not always necessary for seducing a girl, it is indispensable and often the most efficacious way, when you wish to deprave her.." And what seduction technique did he use? He falsely related "scandalous adventures" about Cécile's mother, for "...she who does not respect her mother will not respect herself..."

And before long Valmont had seduced the nymphet to meet in his room. He wrote, "I have received her there twice; and in this short space the scholar has become almost as learned as the master. Yes, truly, I have taught her everything, including the complaisances!"

After the scandalous novel, which the author stated was based on personal observations of French nobles, was published in 1782, it was enjoyed by the likes of Queen Marie Antoinette. And despite the fact that Les Liaisons Dangereuses involves a middle-aged man seducing, "ruining", and taking the virginity of a 15-year-old girl, it has been adapted into a number of plays, films, television shows, ballets, radio shows and operas.

For example, Dangerous Liaisons (1988) starred 17-year-old (nude) Uma Thurman as Cécile and was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture. The film won the award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
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on October 5, 2015
Five stars to Pierre Choderlos de Laclos for his brilliant book, but the text in this edition is ridiculously small. As a college student in my twenties, my eyesight is by no means failing, yet I feel that the font is so unreasonably tiny that reading this book is an actual painful experience. The other typographical problem here is that each letter starts on a new page, leaving huge gaps of white space. Firstly, this is not aesthetically pleasing. In addition, there's not really a need for this wasted space, which could have been better put to use in making the text bigger.
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on August 27, 2009
That is one of Oscar Wilde's many famous quotes, and if it was true, then Oscar would have been delighted to meet the main characters of LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES. I certainly was.

The Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont are wicked, possibly evil, and yet (and this can be attributed to Laclos's literary genius) they will probably become the characters you end up rooting for. Laclos, during his life, continued to insist that this novel was written for instructional purposes, a sort of this-could-happen-to-you type thing, but I'm not so easily fooled. Laclos, throughout the story, points out which characters are good and upstanding or plainly innocent (Tourvel, Rosemonde, Volanges) but he really wants you to hate these characters, and he uses the subtle language in their letters to achieve this. On the other hand, he makes the 'bad' characters (Valmont, Merteuil) more charming using the same technique. In other words, I believe that Laclos was trying to test his readers' principles. You know that what the Vicomte and the Marquise are doing is wrong... but you can't help wanting them to succeed and get away with it. You are bending your own morals because--while their victims are annoying and gullible--you find them to be witty, clever, and charming. And these are just fictional characters. What would happen if you met such people in real life?, Laclos seems to be asking.

Clever though they may be, Valmont and Merteuil eventually reach a point in their twisted game where they cannot control it, and though they were once unholy allies, they become sworn enemies out of spite. They have already ruined so many other people, and now the time has come to ruin each other. [SPOILER WARNING] However, Merteuil, probably the more wicked of the two, gets away with her life, which is more than can be said for Valmont. There is even a note in the back of the book which suggests that she even overcame her deformities (caused by smallpox) and continued her way of life in Amsterdam. [END SPOILERS] They are not the only ones to suffer. Their victims are all brought down by their scheme, in different ways and in varying degrees of disaster. Again, Laclos uses his deceptive writing skill to make it seem like these characters deserved their fates because of their stupidity or naivete, without actually saying this at all. The reader ends up feeling worse for Valmont and Merteuil, who undoubtedly deserved their punishments. It is almost impossible to describe what Laclos has done in a review. You must read the actual novel in order to feel the sheer genius in it, the way he conveys meaning between the lines, without actually writing anything out to that effect. It really is like nothing I've ever seen before.

If I could give this masterpiece more than five stars, I would. This is the art of literature at its finest, and Laclos will have you under his spell the whole way through.
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on September 23, 2017
I love that this book is what the movie "Cruel Intentions" is based on, and it still seems scandalous even though it was written in the 1700's! My only complaint is that I feel it is a little too long with small print for me to have enough patience to read the whole book.
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on January 19, 2016
This is my favorite novel of all time. I'm French, and an author. During a move last year, my original copy was lost. To find this one seemed a godsend.

The only problem is that the print is minuscule. It is so tiny that I have to use a magnifying glass to decipher it.
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VINE VOICEon September 28, 2006
What I love about this book, aside from the fact that it maintains a voyeuristic appeal through its epistolary form, is that it is cerebrally sexual.
Laclos' language is gorgeous and his subtlety is sublime. The book is wildly sexual but never crass or disgusting.
Marquise de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont are the absolute paragons of villainy you will love to hate.
The book is at its simplest level a study of the total destruction of naivete and innocence, but you can be sure that just desserts will be served all around.
A fantastic novel...if only de Laclos had written more!
Also, the movie version starring Glenn Close and John Malkovich is wonderful as well--but of course, I recommend reading the novel first.
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on March 31, 2017
i loved the novel very modern even though it was published in 1782.
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on June 15, 2016
First time I'm going to read it in French. I know the story and have watched a couple movies.
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