To keep myself from obsessively checking the contest results, I decided to begin offering reviews on my blog for erotica/erotic romance authors. I think it's a great way to network, to contribute to the work of others, and also to acknowledge the effort and talent that exists out there in the mysterious realm of smut.
If that appetizer of a synopsis has you intrigued (and you ought to be), follow me after the jump for the delectable main course!
Veronica Hardy has a great system for reviewing author's works, so I'm going to use it as a template to voice my opinion on a really interesting story by erotica Haleigh Cookson Clark.
This is one of my first forays into reviewing erotica from a critical standpoint, and I was so happy to have this short story pop my proverbial cherry.
Haleigh has a charming way with language that toes the line between flowery and minimalist (think Hemingway versus Fitzgerald), making the story seem more approachable through her narration. Her written voice is something that puts the reader at ease, allowing them to relax and enjoy the contents of the story rather than spending time trying to grasp the author's intended tone. It's like having a conversation with someone you know, who doesn't judge you for your proclivities, and who seeks only to please and entertain. I think erotica needs more of this, and I was happy to find it in this work.
Something that I always look for in erotica is a novel idea. The market is over-saturated with BDSM billionaire stories right now in all shapes and sizes and various nuances, but it's rare that I find an idea that's both unique and not skirting the outer rim of sexual kinks. This piece balances well between those ideas for me, and it held my interest throughout, which is sometimes hard to do. Even if what some of Haleigh offers has been "done before" (honestly, what hasn't?), she puts a new spin on it that is all her own, and her work is the better for it.
Character Development: ★★★★
Although I felt like I had a pretty good handle on who all the characters were, the first portion of the book had a sort of unwieldy transition from what was the third-person-limited viewpoint of Brian, the (arguably) main character, and what ended up being a third-person-limited viewpoint of all characters interchangeably at somewhat random intervals. This was very jarring in the beginning, although I was able to accept it as I read more. It did not detract in any way from the characters, only from the lyrical flow of the story, but it was not irreparable damage by any means.
Haleigh is also very detailed, including small moments that illustrate and add to the tone of a scene, such as a fern being knocked over early on in the story. It's a funny event, one that barely warrants two sentences, but it adds so much to the atmosphere that it was one of my favorite parts (I really like being able to envision all aspects of a scene clearly, hence my joy).
There are one or two continuity blips that threw me a little. The first involves Brian having consumed "little blue pills" on the way over to the scene of the crime-to-be, but as a reader, we are following him during this time and in his head. We don't see this happen, and it doesn't mesh well when it comes up later on.
Still, the characters are all very enjoyable, and there is a hint of complexity to each one that - while unable to be fully explored in a short story - serve the narrative well in creating people that, while we don't know them fully, still seem familiar somehow.
Editing: ★★★★★ (4.5)
The editing was great in terms of grammar and spelling, but I did notice that the word "sun-kissed" was used five times to describe the same character, and I found myself looking for it every time anything was said about that individual. Still, if that's *really* the biggest complain that I can come up with as a former professional copyeditor and proofreader, you know that the editing had to be good. And it truly was. Haleigh exudes a level of professionalism that I predict will serve as a determining factor when her work is placed against others, and I breathed an audible sigh of relief when I realized that one of my biggest pet-peeves would not be irked that day!
The Sex: ★★★★★ (4.5)
The sex was wonderful. Haleigh was able to keep everything lively, interesting, entertaining, and hot throughout. Between Brian's smarmy comments and Mia's desperate whining (the good kind, not the bad), I was hooked. The only two corrective notes I had were that the pacing could have been tightened (it ran a bit long) and that I felt the characters did lose a bit of themselves here. Brian very quickly gets over certain surprise aspects of the scene, and I would have liked to have seen this explored more. Has he always been this open-minded? Perhaps that could have been alluded to beforehand. Linda took an awfully backseat role when she is otherwise described as being aggressive and less submissive than Mia. I would have liked to have gotten some insight as to why. That being said, it did not detract from the steaminess of the multiple scenes within, and there was also just enough smattering of emotional pull to make these scenes deeper and more meaningful than just their face value.
I would highly recommend this book to those with an open mind and a yearning for something new and different, but who aren't quite comfortable with some of the more "out there" concepts of kinks. Haleigh is good - damn good - and I am eager to see how she develops as her career progresses.
You can purchase a copy of Haleigh Cookson Clark's The Dinner Guest by clicking on the cover art in the first part of the post, or by visiting her product pages at Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble.