Zebra, $5.50, ISBN 0-8217-4995-1
Historical Erotica, 1995
Wow, why so much sex? Worse, so much sex in a book and still this book manages to be so painful and boring. This is sad, man. Secret Pleasures by Thea Devine (I thought this is a very nice pseudonym, until the back cover tells me it’s really her name) explores all the dirty underground sexual grub street in London. The heroine Genelle Tisne’s husband was murdered and the man looking for her husband’s murderer, private eye Rulan Roark, comes knocking around her door. Genelle soon realizes that her husband has a secret life, and she finds herself drawn deeper into the seedy world of prostitution and all sorts of weird, scary sex.
The plot is a bit silly, but the sordid sexual underworld is really described like some sort of super sprawling necropolis of hedonistic faceless shadows that I wonder if it is really real like that back in London in the old days or if the author is creating some fantasy-kingdom. Who would’ve thought Genelle watching a gigolo do the solo congo can be so scary? And all the description of paid, desperate sex. Dirty sheets, unwashed skin, messy stains, all described for my pleasure. I have no more appetite for dinner.
Even the first love scene between Rulan and Genelle takes place on a window ledge, against the wall, in a hall full of appreciative audience. Then Rulan becomes her butler, spinning a sexual fantasy of The Butler Does the Lady that could make even DH Lawrence blush.
I think Secret Pleasures can be a fascinating read as a tale of sordid, sometimes not-so-pretty erotica. But I’m bored after the third (or is it the four-hundredth time?) Genelle and Rulan do their go-go dance. It’s always the same thing. Argue, fight, sex, argue, fight, sex. There’s no point to it. And Rulan is always missing when Genelle is in danger – what sort of hero is that?
If Secret Pleasures stick to just sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex, I say this book will be quite a fascinating read. I mean, I’ve never read about the red light districts in old London described like this before. Wow, they actually have categorized doors in brothel – door one for male children, door two for female children, that sort of thing. It all makes some disgusting yet intriguing read. But the author wants to make it a love story also. Too bad the love story part is just plain boring.