The Portrait of a Lady
by Henry James
Analysis: Steaminess Rating
Exactly how steamy is this story?
Well, sex certainly happens in this novel, but it’s not something we’re in the know about. We know that Madame Merle and Osmond carried on an adulterous affair for some time, but, by the time the novel’s events unfold, this is ancient history. Likewise, Isabel and Osmond presumably have a sexual relationship after their marriage (Isabel does give birth to a child), but, as far as we’re concerned, there’s nothing to see. The only moment of overt sexuality that we encounter is the highly-charged kiss between Caspar Goodwood and Isabel; this scene opens the door to a passionate, powerful, and overwhelming sexuality for just a moment – before slamming it shut again.