After the pleasures of E.L. James’s naughty-sweet Fifty Shades trilogy, are you now seeking a “spanking” new read? Publishers across the world have, er, come out with what can only be dubbed fifty shades of after-novels, one even proudly announcing on the cover: “Devoured Fifty Shades? You’re now ready to enter the... Haven of Obedience”! Here’s a round-up of the romp reads on the racks.
Destined to Play by Indigo Bloome [HarperCollins, Rs 299.]
The summary says it’s “an intensely charged erotic journey, perfect for anyone who was seduced by Fifty Shades of Grey”.
The story: Alexandra Blake is a psychologist in her mid-30s, a wife and a mom. While delivering a series of lectures, she meets her old flame, Jeremy Quinn, and ends up in his hotel penthouse. If Christian Grey had a contract for Ana, Jeremy has a proposition. Despite her inhibitions, Alexandra finds herself seduced to smithereens and surrenders to desire and danger. Destined to Play is the first book in the Avalon trilogy.
The author: Like E.L. James, Indigo Bloome too is a debutante author. Like James, she’s married with two kids. After a career in finance, she’s recently relocated to regional Australia to explore her “previously undiscovered creative side”.
Haven of Obedience by Marina Anderson [Hachette, Rs 350.]
The book: Twenty-something Natalie Bowen is a successful magazine editor in London, envied by many. But her personal life is a disaster. Men can’t cope with her successful career and Natalie thinks she’ll never find “real happiness”. She hears about an exclusive retreat called The Haven, a place that specialises in introducing you to pleasures you could never have imagined. Shocked at the idea, but unable to resist her growing curiosity, Natalie decides to try it out. At The Haven, she meets the enigmatic and disciplined Simon, a man who is used to getting what he wants.
t2 says: Is it a sex manual? Is it a bedroom guide? Yes, the action between the sheets and the BDSM everywhere else is quite mindboggling but one thing’s for sure, a love story this is not. No wonder on goodreads.com, reader QiJia says: “This book should be titled ‘Just Sex, Through and Through’”.
The Mammoth Book of The Best of Best New Erotica, edited by Maxim Jakubowski [Robinson, Rs 399]
After pleasuring millions of readers with his 10 volumes in The Mammoth Book of Erotica series of short stories, editor Maxim Jakubowski has cherry-picked 30 of his favourites for a “best of the best” compilation. And what we have is a “Jagerbomb” of erotica — from the bittersweet to the bizarre. It has every kind of sex — gay, lesbian, bi, twosome, threesome, orgy, toys, whips, cuffs... even ghost sex! Even as you get breathless from the hot, hot, hot stuff, what lingers are the beautiful stories of love, longing and desire.
t2 pick: The last story in the book, The Erotica Writer’s Husband by Jennifer D. Munro. Do writers of smut practise what they, ahem, preach? What about their partners, those lucky, lucky blokes?
“His buddies and neighbours, jealous of a man married to a scribbler of lewd tales, imagine his rampant and orgiastic sex life. His wife is obsessed with sex manuals and adult websites, they think, not home decor catalogues like theirs.”
Quiver by Tobsha Learner [Piatkus, Rs 399]
The book: It’s a collection of 12 explicit short stories on love, lust and obsession. Often blurring the line between fantasy and reality, each story captures the wild experiences of a group of professional acquaintances, in all sorts of combinations — heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, exhibitionist and sadomasochistic, the woman’s view, the man’s view, the participants’ views and the voyeur’s view. Learner has two other erotic compilations to her name, titillatingly titled Yearn and Tremble.
Gabriel’s Inferno by Sylvain Reynard [Berkley Publishing, Rs 913; E-book Rs 587]
The story: Gabriel Emerson is a respected Dante specialist by day, but by night the sexy professor devotes himself to uninhibited pleasures. He uses his good looks and sophisticated charm to get sex, of all kinds. Much like Fifty Shades’s Christian Grey, Gabriel has a dark past and is consumed by his own demons. Then he meets the sweet and innocent Ana, oops... Julia, his student. What follows is an unbridled tale of seduction, forbidden love and redemption. This book is followed by Gabriel’s Rapture (2012).
t2 says: It’s all about the chemistry… the crackling, sizzling, scorching chemistry between an arrogant yet vulnerable man and his clumsy yet lovable student! The book is sensual and seductive and what we love best is that it manages to sizzle without resorting to graphic sex scenes. On a review website, reader Katya writes: “The details of the kisses were slow and passionate, to where the hands are placed on the body or in the hair... was very erotic to read.”
Anything He Wants (Dominated by the Billionaire) by Sara Fawkes [To be released in paperback in November
The story: Lucy Delacourt is a temp, unhappy with her job. The highlight of her day is meeting a handsome stranger in the elevator every morning. He’s way out of her league, but so she thought. The hunk seduces Lucy, first in the elevator, then in the parking lot. Though stunned, she lets him sweep her off her feet, only to find out that he’s Jeremiah Hamilton, the billionaire CEO of Hamilton Industries. (Remember Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc?) Dominated by the Billionaire is not a trilogy but a pentalogy! Yes, there are five books in the series.
If you want exactly the same setting as Fifty Shades and can’t get enough of the Christian-Ana chemistry, pick up Sylvia Day’s Bared to You [Penguin, Rs 299]. Within the first few pages of the book, the first of the Crossfire trilogy, you will know why.
The story: The guy is of course a multi-zillionaire, a gorgeous hunk with a tortured past called Gideon Cross (Gideon Cross... Christian, geddit?). He meets Eva Tramell, also a victim of personal tragedy, in front of his office building, where she ends up falling down. What ensues is a tumultuous affair fraught with insecurities, tension and loads of hot sex.
Shades of Grey: Like Christian, Gideon knows a lot more about Eva than is healthy, has an ex he is friendly with and is as annoyingly dominating. The separation between them, caused by some misunderstandings, is for four days. Ditto with Christian and Ana. There is even a phone-tracking stalker in the book, only here it’s Eva’s mother who does the stalking.
What we like: But where the book is different and goes one up on Fifty Shades is the way it handles its characters. Eva, unlike Ana, is not the whimpering, doe-eyed, naive virgin. She is as much a sexual person as Gideon and makes no bones about taking things in her own hands, so to speak. And she has easily more gumption than Ana. The side characters in Bared to You are interesting and well fleshed-out, though not all of them are all that central to the plot, at least in Book 1. Also, the story addresses issues of homosexuality and bisexuality. It is definitely refreshing to not have the heroine go “oh my” or having the hero remind her to breathe every time he is close. Oh, and it is definitely a relief not to have the hero force-feed the heroine!
What we don’t: Even though the duo are painfully vulnerable owing to their tragic past, they somehow fail to connect with the reader, making it quite an impersonal affair. The sex, though far tamer than in Fifty Shades, is more in-your-face. The language used when the two are doing it or talking about doing it is a little crass and may offend the sensibilities of the faint-hearted.
All in all, Bared to You is a fairly steamy read to fill up that space left empty by the Fifty Shades saga. No wonder it’s shot up to No. 8 on The New York Times bestseller list for fiction!
Book 2, Reflected in You, comes out later this month.
Over eight months after its publication, E.L. James’s Fifty Shades trilogy continues to rule the charts — the three books are currently occupying slots 2, 3, and 4 on the NYT bestseller list — and raise the hackles of the “literary” world. Salman Rushdie has declared that Fifty Shades is so bad that it makes Stephenie Meyer’s vampire saga Twilight (another favourite target of the literati) seem like the Tolstoy classic War and Peace.
Speaking at the New York Festival last weekend, the Booker-winning novelist said he had read a couple of pages of the erotic novel on Amazon. “I’ve never read anything so badly written that got published. It made Twilight look like War and Peace.”
Just for the record, E.L. James’s Fifty Shades has sold over 40 million copies.