Cleis Press, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-62778-181-7
Contemporary Erotica, 2016
The Janus Chamber is a direct sequel to The Juliette Society, so you may want to read that one first. This one is a more tightly paced and coherent piece of erotic… something compared to the previous book, and I have to say, despite what preconceived notions some people may have about the author’s adult movie actress career, she is turning out to be an unexpectedly compelling author. I am not sure that I’d call this one a work of art, but it is something after my heart, if I am making sense here.
The plot… well, to keep things simple, let’s just say that after the events in the previous book, Catherine is now in what seems like a blissful relationship with Jack. Jack idolizes a politician that Catherine knows very well to be corrupt and loathsome, but she and Senator DeVille are at an impasse, their lips sealed because of the secrets between them that neither wants to risk being let out into the open. As always, the Juliette Society hangs over them all like the Sword of Damocles, but the true threat to Catherine’s happiness may be something more mundane: she’s bored of the perfect, happy life with Jack. She has darker cravings that long for the kind of sexual pleasures that Jack finds repulsive.
Her restless ennui leads her to track down the fascinating story of Inana Luna, a now dead model whose life turned out to be decadent and hedonistic just the way Catherine likes it. This obsession of hers will lead her down a rabbit hole type of adventure best described as one of those European erotic thrillers from the 1980s, where sex and kink co-exist easily alongside X-rated version of Illuminati-style organizations and more. Really, there are moments in this story where I scratch my head in befuddlement, but any stories that culminate with our heroine taking two versions of the same repulsive guy at once is perfectly fine with me.
The Janus Chamber retains much of the dry sarcasm and cynical observations about everything and anything, but delivered in a tighter, more structured narrative. As a result, reading this often resembles a long but interesting conversation with a fascinating self-absorbed diva-like narrator. The author goes off on all kinds of tangents when the whim strikes her, but I am never bored. Interestingly, all the rambling divergents still manage to create a semblance of focus nonetheless. I don’t really understand what is happening here, heh, but I’m intrigued, and that’s all that matters at the end of the day.
Oh yes, the sex. The sex scenes are crude, dirty, and raw – some folks may find them repulsive rather than titillating. But I personally feel that they work very well in the context of this story. There is a seedy, tawdry vibe to the whole thing, but that’s to be expected, I feel, in a story all about how, when it comes to sex, the lines between ugliness and beauty can become very blurred instead. Catherine and Jack have some more idealized sweet sex scenes at the beginning, but she’s bored by it all, and I have to confess, so am I. Like Catherine, I’m more fascinated by the less pretty kind of sexual situations presented by the author in various other circumstances.
If I want to read a sweet and romantic erotic story, The Janus Chamber is not going to cut it one bit. The author leaves the door wide open for a next book, and I, for one, would be happy if I do not come across boring, whiny Jack again. I read this one more for the sleazy “sitting in the back row of a darkened adult movie theater” vibes, which it delivers most enjoyably in spades.