Book Review- The Idea of You by Robinne Lee

Art-gallery owner and newly divorced single mum Solene Marchard expectedly finds herself escorting her daughter to see August Moon, her favourite band, in Vegas. But it’s during VIP meet and greet backstage, that Solene meets band member Hayes Campbell.

An instant attraction between the two leads to an agreement to lockup, only for Hayes and Solene to embark on a globe trotting love affair. Solene more reluctantly so, with the weight of their age gap and the lack of privacy that comes with dating someone famous, weighing heavily on her.

I remember rolling my eyes when I first read the blurb for this book. It sounded cheesy as hell and not my usual kind of read. But any preconceptions I had were soon dispelled when I found myself finishing the book in two days.

Like the novel’s protagonist, The Idea of You is a classy, sexy affair. Despite the outlandish premise of an older woman dating a famous musician and following him around the world, it all felt very believable, which is no small feat.

The sexual tension between Solene and Hayes was some of the best I’ve ever read. Its never cheesy or smutty, just adult descriptions of two people enjoying sex.

What I loved was the way the book used this relationship to explore societies double standards when it comes to an older woman dating a young man. This is held in contrast to Solene’s ex-husband’s relationship with a younger woman, one that goes unquestioned. It showed the price Solene pays an older woman, the judgements and the extremes of fandom.

The band, August Moon, reminded me of One Direction, and Hayes is a Harry Styles doppelganger, particularly his early relationship with an older woman, Caroline Flack and the abuse she received.

Undoubtedly, The Idea of You has become one of my favourite books of 2021 and one of the hottest, at that.

Rating: 5/5
Spice rating 5/5

BOOK REVIEW: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Thirty year old Stella is under pressure from her mother to settle down. Stella has Aspergers which makes her socially awkward and sex is uncomfortable for her.

“Husbands meant boyfriends. Boyfriends meant dating. Dating meant sex. She shuddered.”

But it’s a passing comment by Philip, a colleague, and just the type of man that her mum wants her to marry, that starts her thinking. He says,” a word of advice from a man who’s been around the block a few times: Get some practice. When you’re good at it, you like it better, and when you like it better, men like you better.”

If practice makes perfect, she thinks, “then maybe sex was just another interpersonal thing she needed to exert extra effort on.”

So she comes up with the idea of hiring Michael, a male escort, to teach her about sex and how to be a good girlfriend.

The premise of a Pretty Woman style role reversal (which they even joke about at one point) was what drew me to this novel.

The Kiss Quotient has quickly become one of my favourite novels this year. Not only is it a heartwarming story but boy is it steamy! I have to hand it to Helen Hoang, this book had some of the hottest sex scenes I’ve read in a while. The girl knows how to write a good sex scene, or five.

As a former teacher, I laughed out loud at Stella’s “lesson plans” with Micheal which included, ‘hand job lecture and demonstration’, ‘hand job practice’ and ‘performance review’.

The only reason I didn’t give this a full 5/5 was that i didnt quite buy into Stella suddenly losing some of autistic traits, such as those to do with the way Micheal smells and being touched by him.

What I did love, besides the smut, was the sense of community when exploring Michael’s Vietnamese heritage and the lighthearted scenes with his family and this is probably where the book works best.
Spice rating: 5/5

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence, a classic erotic novel

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

A classic I never get tired of re-reading is D.H.Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

This sexually explicit novel caused a scandal in Britain at the time and saw the publishers Penguin Books put on trial for obscenity.

It became notorious for its explicit descriptions of sex, its use of then-unprintable four-letter words and a reference to anal sex, which was illegal at the time.

Lawrence’s 1928 novel tells the story of a love affair between an upper class woman and a working class man. 

Constance Chatterley’s husband is paralysed from the waist down due to a war injury. Sexually and emotionally unfulfilled in her marriage, she begins an affair with the gamekeeper Mellors.

Lawrence,in this book, writes some of the best descriptions of sexual experience in the English language. He maps the full erotic experience by talking openly and honestly about it.

Lawrence, rather than writing a work of pornography, as some claimed (and still claim) has produced an passionately erotic novel that shows sex should be about pleasure and not shame.

Sex in literature still provokes strong reactions and it was one of the reasons why I wanted to set up this account, to address society’s continued discomfort with these kinds of books.

My TBR pile for August

August to-be-read pile

I’ve been on a bit of a book buying spree this week so i thought I’d share with you guys some of the reads I’ve picked up.

First up is Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman. I seem to be one of the few people who hasn’t seen the film, but I’ve heard great reviews so I decided to start with the novel it’s based on. I’m going in blind, knowing very little about the story other than it involves a relationship that develops between a teenage boy and his father’s assistant.

As I shared on my stories, A Curious History of Sex by Kate Lister has been one I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I’m a few chapters in and it doesnt disappoint.

I’ve been looking for an easy read to balance out some of the heavier books I’ve been reading lately so I opted for The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. I was never a big reader of romance novels until lockdown when all I wanted was light reads. I also find I zip through them quite quickly which makes me feel like I’m getting a lot read.

Finally, a book by R. J. McBrien called Reckless. I saw another bookstagrammer reading this and was intrigued to see if it was any good.

Has anyone read any of these or plan to?

Learning about Tantric Sex

I picked up this book, Secrets of Tantric Sex by Claudia Blake, from my local Waterstones just before I got pregnant. I only managed to read a few pages before I had to swap tantra for baby books and now I’m keen to start dipping back into it.

Tantra isn’t something I know a great deal about so I’m fascinated to learn what’s involved. This book seemed like a great place to start.

What books would you recommend for someone wanting to know more about?

Secrets of Tantric Sex by Claudia Blake

Those Naughty Reads – Wetlands by Charlotte Roche

I’ve decided to kick off my first ever erotic reads book review here on The Secret World of Cydney, with a taboo-busting work that heavily divided readers and critics when it was released in 2009.

Wetlands by Charlotte Roche

Wetlands by Charlotte Roche (image is my own)

Wetlands by Charlotte Roach opens with a discussion of haemorrhoids and lets face it, who doesn’t love a good chat about haemorrhoids and the perils of attempting anal sex with them? With such a provocative opening, it’s fair to say that the book continues in the vain. There’s very little the narrator, Helen Memel, won’t talk about. After all, you’ve got to give brownie points to a woman who, “can come with just a cock up my ass, not being touched anywhere else.” If sex chat and body fluid talk makes you squeamish then this certainly isn’t the book for you.

What it is, is a novel that sets about exposing the intimacies of the human body and all its bodily functions. It’s about a woman exploring sex and what it means to her all from a hospital bed, whilst simultaneously trying to reunite her divorced parents.

We quickly discover the reason for her stint in hospital, an anal lesion caused by her ‘modern shaving regime’. She jokes that as a result of her legion, she’ll ‘never be an ass model,’ and wonders what she has to eat ‘to help the skin of your ass grow? Mackerel?’ Roche is incredibly witty and there were so many lines throughout the novel that I couldn’t help laughing out loud at.

At times the witty and playful gives way to the slightly bizarre, the case in point being the significance of the avocado on the front cover of the book. Rest assured these aren’t the kinds of avocados you’ll want to eat. We learn that besides sex, growing avocados is one of the narrator’s hobbies. Why avocado growing? Well to use them as organic dildos of course! That’s right, she uses the avocado seed as a dildo.

In fact the novel is littered with references to fruit and veg, from the cauliflower like haemorrhoids, the avocado dildo to the fruit and veg seller she meets who requests to shave her. It’s here that she makes one of the more serious points in the novel, our ‘modern shaving regime’ and the obsession we have with a hairless, childlike bodies. The narrator isn’t exempt from this either. What she does say is that,

“I think that, if men want shaved women, they should take over the shaving. Don’t saddle the women with all the work. In the absence of men, women wouldn’t care about how hairy they were/. The best arrangement I can imagine would be for men and women to shave each other in whatever way they find most pleasing.”

The narrator sets about revealing how we’ve become trained to fear and loathe our bodies and their natural smells and functions. So much so that,

“Most people have just been alienated from their bodies and trained to think that anything natural stinks and anything artificial smells nice.”

Wetlands makes full use of the senses to bring us back in touch with our bodies.  Language is used in the novel in a raw, unfiltered way to describe everything from her having sex and cunnilingus on her period, to her homemade tampons, visiting brothels, shitting and tasting and smelling her own vagina. The later she justifies by saying,

“There’s no way I can spread my legs for some guy – to get thoroughly eaten out, for instance – without knowing myself how everything looks, tastes and smells down there. “

She makes the interesting observation that by and large, men see more of a woman than a woman does because the vagina especially is hidden out of view.

Roche is right about the distaste and revulsion women feel towards their own bodies and it’s bodily fluids. Nor can I think of any work of fiction that deals with this kind of subject matter in the way she does.

The negative reaction to the novel proves Roche’s point about how uncomfortable we feel as a society discussing the most intimate workings of our bodies, especially women’s bodies. I feel as if we’re only really now starting to talk about periods, for example.

If you’re looking for a novel with complex plotting and an intricately woven storyline. Wetlands isn’t for you. What it is, is a character study of one woman, Helen and her obsessions. It’s refreshing to read a novel that’s so uninhibited. It really is unlike anything else I’ve ever read.

I can see why it was labelled as ‘controversial’ and that concerns me. That a novel should be labelled as such because it seeks to explore the female body and female sexuality in all it’s explicit intimacy shows have far we still need to go when discussing such topics. After all, men have been writing about their body and bodily functions since the dawn of time.

It is daring and at times you do want to look at anything but the words on the page and for that reason, this is a book well worth reading.

Wetlands by Charlotte Roche. Translated by Tim Mohr. Published by Fourth Estate. 2009.

A link to the publisher can be found here: Wetlands by Charlotte Roche – publisher