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I’ve read more of the genre after I read S.E.C.R.E.T. so I’m inclined to be a little kinder in my assessment of this book. There is a lot of crass bilge passed off as erotica and this is not it. S.E.C.R.E.T. felt a little tame to me. With this, I can see where the writer may have been going. S.E.C.R.E.T. Shared falls somewhere between Self-help, Pop Feminism, Erotica and Romance.
In S.E.C.R.E.T., a depressed (and repressed) widow is inducted into a secret society that helps women explore and express their sexual side. By the end of that story, she decides to join the organisation, having completed her own personal journey. In S.E.C.R.E.T. Shared, the sequel, she takes on life with her parallel job as a Guide to another similarly stuck woman.
The book flits between Cassie, the original protagonist, and Dauphine, the newest member of S.E.C.R.E.T. The stories are written in first person voice with chapters alternating between the two women. I found this a bit disorienting because the voices of the two women are not very distinct (possibly because they are very similar when they start with S.E.C.R.E.T.). It gets better later in the book but the transition to Dauphine finding her resolution and Cassie maturing felt too abrupt for me. The ending, just like the first book, is surprising. The sex element, just like S.E.C.R.E.T., felt a bit tame to me. But considering everything else that was going on with the story, I wouldn’t hold it against the book.
It’s not a story about sex or even a story that uses sex as a plot device or a self-help metaphor (like the first book did). It’s just a story set in a sexual context. Read that way, it might be more enjoyable.
I read an uncorrected proof of this book on NetGalley, a few weeks before its launch. That may explain the spellos and some of the rawness of writing that I saw. S.E.C.R.E.T. was considerably polished and I expect its sequel to be equally so, when it hits the stands.
I first heard about S.E.C.R.E.T. in online forums discussing (and bashing) 50 Shades of Grey. 50 Shades, of course, had achieved cult status, a sort of adult Twilight for our times. Its terrible nature notwithstanding, 50 Shades may have brought the genre of sexual writing into popular and acceptable bookshelves. S.E.C.R.E.T., the commenter said, was a far better example of the genre and unlike its predecessor, more female empowering. I thought it better to order the book online. Erotica & Pornography are still awkward words to be associated with (even if only reading) in India. It only took me a single night to finish the book.
Cassie Robichaud, the protagonist, is a 35-year-old widow and the survivor of an early, abusive marriage. After her husband’s death, she has closed off the world, shunning intimacy of any sort and relegating herself to the sparse life of a waitressing job and evenings in with her books. One of her customers leaves a notebook behind, that Cassie picks up and reads. The book is a sex diary of sorts and Cassie is eventually led to a secret society (called S.E.C.R.E.T.). The aim of this society is to help women realize their unfulfilled sexual fantasies. The book deals with S.E.C.R.E.T.’s work with her.
The Erotica genre probably requires the suspension of disbelief that ChickLit and Fantasy do. It’s writing about sex after all, and I’d imagine just like the real thing, you know it’s great if it sweeps you up and there’s no room for any other thought. One distinction that appears to come up often between Erotica and Pornography is that the latter may be degrading to women while the former, focusing on aesthetics, could actually be empowering. S.E.C.R.E.T. had the potential to do all of this, tell a wonderful story of escape through the glorious liberation of a woman’s sexuality. But after an interesting blurb pulled me in, the plotline left me vaguely dissatisfied. Too much foreplay with no climax.
While S.E.C.R.E.T. didn’t get perverse with the rape/abuse overtones of 50 Shades of Grey, it didn’t really do anything mind-blowing either. Considering this is sex we’re talking about and even if different things appeal to different people, one imagines blandness is not to anybody’s taste. The fantasies are lame, almost adolescent but without the heavy hormone overdrive. The writing is coy, rather than passionate. All of which makes the reader yawn and start thinking about the logic of the story.
There is a certain earnest good-girlness about the writing. So it reads more like a motivation book with the requisite feelgood quips. The attempt to fit life lessons into sexual experiences is a tad forced. In some ways, this felt like one of the early Richard Bach books – an introspection about life and self, except using sex for self-discovery instead of flight.
If 50 Shades of Grey felt like Pornography that got erroneously categorized Romance, S.E.C.R.E.T. is Romance/Self-help that got put in Erotica. S.E.C.R.E.T. makes for a light, zero-stress read, maybe something you could carry along on a long flight. Just don’t look for fireworks.
I picked up this book when I heard that it was a great improvement over 50 Shades of Grey (which I hated)in the genre. It didn’t make me want to throw something like 50 Shades did but I wouldn’t call this a great book.
The protagonist is a lonely 35-year-old widow with an empty life. She stumbles onto a secret organisation that promises to help her explore her repressed sexuality and realise her fantasies. The book is about S.E.C.R.E.T’s work with her. As I described it so to a friend, I realised how tacky, how flimsy the plotline was.
S.E.C.R.E.T. mercifully has none of the rape/abuse overtones of 50 Shades. However it swings the other way by being utterly bland and all too safe. For a book that is about a woman in her sexual prime, finally opening up after 5 years to her sexual side, the fantasies are terribly tame. The writing in the sex scenes is coy, rather than passionate. If you’re the shy sort, you won’t need to be embarrassed to be seen reading this book in public.
That said, there’s nothing terribly wrong with the book either. It reads easy and has the occasional feel-good/inspirational quip that keep good Romance/ChickLit novels coasting. In some ways, this felt like one of the early Richard Bach books – an introspection about life and self, except using sex for self-discovery instead of flight.
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This book is described as Erotic Fiction. Having read ‘Eros Unbound’ (Nin’s erotica short stories, enjoyed greatly), I began with the expectation of lyricism in the writing too. There was far less sex than I imagined, not enough for me to think of this as erotica at all. Unfortunately, that showed the lack of cohesiveness in the writing too.
Sabina is a radical 1950s woman, so categorized because of her inability to stay faithful to her husband. The book, while written in third person, still sits tightly within her mind. The chaos in her head that makes Sabina behave as she does, spills over into the writing and instead of enriching it, makes the plot confusing and unsatisfactory. Sabina’s many men are different from each other and in being with them, she dons different personas. At some point, she loses sight of herself. This is the core thought that unfortunately, gets lost in the constantly second- and third-guessing games that Sabina plays.
There is poetic beauty in the words, no doubt. It might work in a shorter form of writing such as poetry or a short story. Unfortunately, in a longer story, it doesn’t serve to cover the patches of poor characterisation, plot integrity and lack of focus.
That said, I’m still captivated by Anais Nin’s poetic expression and will try another of her books to see if it fares any better.
I’ve just discovered a kink in my sexual make-up. I have a thing for gender role switching. That’s not men dressing in lingerie (eww, gross!). It’s a woman who’s sexy because she’s wearing a guy’s long tee-shirt that comes down to mid-thigh. It’s the breath-catching oomph of a rolled-up cuff revealing a slender arm. Or ooh…a chunky, sporty man’s watch on a delicate female wrist.
How about the reverse? Hrithik Roshan gliding across an airport, pink tee-shirt, coloured sunglasses glory, the cool criminal in Dhoom 2. Oh he kills me, he kills me.
But the true master, the one that transcends gender, who takes sexuality beyond female or male has to be Sting. A voice that feels like a caress…of a man’s tongue. When he lifts one foot to step forward and a field of golden corn springs up within him, it makes me think…that’s the kind of sex that makes life, it makes you come alive.
How come all the lead guitarists, the famous ones, the images you have of a rockstar…are all male? There’s obviously something vaguely sexy about a guitar. The curvaceous soundbox, the long phallic arm and what about the strumming? I’ve played the guitar and I know it doesn’t have to be held at crotch-level. And yet, why not? It goes from song-making to love-making.
I’d love to be straddling a guitar with my torso, strumming in tune to the master, letting his melody caress my song.
Oh, it’s my phone. That buzz in my pocket feels so good.
Down with flu. Can’t make it to practice today.
My mother’s grim throat-clearing conveys that she is very, very angry about my checking my phone in church.
It’s about choir practice.
Her thin-line mouth is a pointed reminder that we are still in church and I’m talking. I drop my gaze and shut up.
Twenty minutes later, I am settled in as comfortably as is possible in the confessional. Why do they make these seats so uncomfortable? Probably to punish the confessors for the sins they confess to.
Yes, my child.
Father, I have sinned.
Tell me about this thing you have done.
It’s not something I did. I’ve been having…wrong thoughts.
Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep brooding silence. Presumably to make me ponder on my wrongdoing. Shame me into confessing all and purging my sins.
The silence is music. The silence is sexy in its own way.
About what, child?
About three notes too low. But low is good. It takes me higher. Go down, down further, go down on me.
I’ve been thinking of quitting the choir.
The silence is different now. Taut tension knife-edge sharp like the orchestra falling away to leave just that one high-pitched note behind.
I want to be in a rock band instead.
I take a bow.
The participants were asked to write down one secret, drop it into a box. These were shuffled and everyone was given an anonymous secret and asked to write something about it.
The secret I received was,
Always dreamed of being a lead guitarist and performing with Sting.
The exercise made me think about the kinds of secrets we keep, the smaller ones that may become life-changing decisions some day…or just stay as that random debris in our minds, occasionally seeping over like the stench of sewage into our dreams.