Wednesday, 5 August 2015

S.E.C.R.E.T. by L. Marie Adeline

I was wrong. This was the last of my reviews of books picked from bestseller lists, not The Rosie Project. I figured, given how much smack I talk about Fifty Shades of Grey without having read more than small excerpts, I should read this. Particularly given that my normal line is that it's great if people are reading erotica, but couldn't they read good erotica? So this book was on the Globe & Mail bestseller list for quite a while, and it's erotica, so why not give it a try?

On the plus side, this book is super consensual! It's all about getting explicit permission before any sexy times take place, and checking on the other person's boundaries every step along the way. The main character is a divorced widow (yeah, I had to puzzle that one out too - she only had one marriage) who has sexually shut down. But then she gets invited to join a sexytimes club run by women who are out to create situations to reawaken (or awaken) her  sexual self.

She gets nine sexual situations set up, then for the tenth charm on the bracelet (see the cover, above), gets to decide whether to leave the club behind, or join it to help other women out. As far as ideas for erotica go, not bad. And it isn't that this is bad, per se.

It just didn't do anything. I read it, sitting in the living room, and my husband across the room was disappointed that it provoked nary a reaction from me. It's just a little too nice. I like all the consensuality, but then the sex was just a little too pedestrian. Or the fantasies not my particular thing. Or the description just kind of lacking.

It's just a tiny bit coy, and that's kind of the death of erotica. There are also ways to be absurdly explicit, but too coy is not great either.

Let's take the first situation. This is so damned nice. A guy shows up to her house with a massage table and gives her a back massage and oral sex. That's lovely. In real life, I'd totally be in for that (are you reading this, honey?) (I'm kidding, he already knows.) She's never had either before, ever in her entire life. Which makes me very sad.

But the way it's written, it just didn't really...do anything for me. It's a situation that would be lovely in real life, and maybe I want my erotica to be a little further out than that, or maybe it was how it was written. On the other hand, if that's the kind of scenario that gets you going, read this book!

There's absolutely nothing objectionable about this book. No abuse of power, just situations set up in totally safe ways for the main character to relax and enjoy. No BDSM, so no perversions of kink that involve no conversations or give and take at all. It just comes down to personal preference.  I don't think I'll bother to read the sequels.

Interestingly, or perhaps weirdly, or maybe...look, I don't know if I'm cool with this or disturbed by it. Women looking great and enjoying looking great, I'm all for it. But there's this equivalency of being sexual with being a knockout, and the book spends as much time describing the outfits she's wearing as it does the sex. The fashion is as sexual as the sex, and there's this equivalency of being all dolled up with being sexual.

Which is not to say that being dolled up can't be fun. However. However. I don't know. I'm just vaguely uncomfortable with the idea that you have to be the kind of woman who just doesn't realize how beautiful she'd be in a tight dress and some makeup to have a sexual awakening. Or to really enjoy it. (I mean, there is that one scenario where she's dressed up as a soccer mom, so maybe I'm making too much of this. Still. There's enough that...oh for goodness sake. I don't know what I'd be happy with.)

I'll just say that while I haven't entirely worked out my feelings on that one, I'm still a bit uneasy. But, lamentably, not turned on. However, that is such an individual thing that this may indeed do it for other readers. Be assured that the prose is not painful, and the sexual politics not troubling.

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