Samhain Publishing, $3.50, ISBN 978-1-60504-949-6
Contemporary Erotica, 2010
Juniper Bell’s Training the Receptionist makes it clear that when an author wants to write something that is completely out of this world where realism is concerned, she has better let me know in advance, preferably on the first page, instead of playing it straight only to catch me by surprise in the following pages.
Picture this: Dana Arthur has had a series of poorly-paying jobs and she applies to be a receptionist at a “consulting firm” called Cowell & Dirk. Despite being not qualified and sounding like an idiotic miscreant during the interview, she gets the job. Knowing that she is going to start working in a potentially conservative environment, Dana proceeds to celebrate by getting a big-ass tattoo at the back of her neck.
And then, on the first day of her job, she gets her uniform:
Wrong. So wrong. I opened the box and dug through layers of white tissue until I found the assigned outfit for my first day on the job. Lingerie. Not just any lingerie, but expensive, high-class, call-girl-type lingerie. It was a teddy made of black lace. I’d never seen anything so artfully beautiful in my life. The way it felt in my hands as I lifted it out of the box, it was like stepping into a fancy restaurant or onto a Caribbean cruise ship. Maybe it sounds crazy, but that was the feeling I got. Lingerie like that makes you feel precious and cared-for.
We are about a quarter into this story when I finally realize, oh, this is not a “real” story, this is a set-up for a pornographic movie.
A black leather ribbon ran under my breasts and crisscrossed between them, forming the shoulder straps. The openwork lace left lots of space for skin to show through. The biggest gaps in the fabric were in the area covering my nipples. Covering being an exaggeration. My nipples, big and dark, showed through like two bull’s-eyes. Every time I moved, the lace slid against them and gave me a little teasing rub. Bigger and darker they grew, even in the few moments I balanced there on the toilet seat. The rest of the teddy, the part below the breasts, was loose and silky. The crotch had a cotton lining, perhaps to soak up the moisture inspired by the movement of lace-on-nipple.
Instead of suing the company for sexual harassment, Dana decides to “see” her sexy boss Simon Dirk’s “bet” and “maybe even raise him”. Soon, she is touching herself and letting all kinds of sleazeballs in this story have a go at her. By the last page, she decides that she has found her dream job. What a wonderful life it is to be a receptionist!
There is nothing romantic about this story, so it’s best that readers treat this one as a work of pure erotica. I mean, any pretty girl would do for Simon and his buddy as long as they get to jump her, so it’s not as if there is anything special about Dana that earns her their affections beyond the fact that she is pretty enough to be humped by them.
Still, there isn’t anything wrong with fantasies like this one where I am concerned. The only problem I have with this one is how the author starts the story adopting the tone of a chick-lit author only to pull that crazy porn premise on me out of the blue. Because I am led to believe that the story has its roots in reality, I find myself wondering how Simon and his buddy can get away with what they do without being bankrupted by a series of sexual harassment lawsuits. Dana’s reaction doesn’t feel real either. She never pauses to wonder about the outlandish situation she’s in. She’s just go, “Oh, I’d put on the lingerie and when the boss asks me to show him my breasts, I feel that I have to obey, hee-hee-hee!”
Yes, this is a work of erotica, but being a work of erotica doesn’t automatically mean that the story by default has the right to be as outlandish and unrealistic as possible. If the author wants to do that, set the appropriate tone on the first page. Because Training the Receptionist jumps straight into the realm of outlandish fantasies without letting me know in advance, I experience a sense of disorientation that I can never recover from during the rest of the story.