Author: L. Marie Adeline
Genre: Contemporary Erotica
Purchase: (Do not recommend, not giving buy links.)
Back Cover Copy:
In S.E.C.R.E.T there are…
No Judgments. No limits. No shame.
Cassie Robichaud’s life is filled with regret and loneliness after the sudden death of her husband. She waits tables at the rundown Café Rose in New Orleans, and every night she heads home to her solitary one-bedroom apartment. But when she discovers a notebook left behind by a mysterious woman at the café, Cassie’s world is forever changed. The notebook’s stunningly explicit confessions shock and fascinate Cassie, and eventually lead her to S∙E∙C∙R∙E∙T, an underground society dedicated to helping women realize their wildest, most intimate sexual fantasies. Cassie soon immerses herself in an electrifying journey through a series of ten rapturous fantasies with gorgeous men who awaken and satisfy her like never before. As she is set free from her inhibitions, she discovers a new confidence that transforms her, giving her the courage to live passionately. Equal parts enticing, liberating and emotionally powerful, S∙E∙C∙R∙E∙T is a world where fantasy becomes reality.
Short version: Can’t recommend this book, will not be reading the sequel(s).
Long version: I blame myself for not reading the back cover blurb to get an idea of what this story was about before I picked it off the pile of books I got at a convention. I don’t usually read erotica, and probably wouldn’t have started it if I had realized this was another 50 Shades riff.
At first, the story was intriguing and very engaging. The path of self-discovery through sex with total strangers fulfilling a waitress’s deepest, darkest, distressingly vanilla fantasies, all arranged by a secret society, felt a bit… erm… hard to believe. Still, in the beginning, the writing sucked me in.
From the start, I didn’t like that Cassie, the MC, was crushing hard on her boss, Will, who owns the cafe where she works. The boss/secretary (or similar) trope squicks me out, and it was even worse because he was in a relationship with another waitress who worked for him. Note that Cassie explains in the narrative that he had asked her out first, but she turned him down–which doesn’t make me think very highly of Will, considering he uses his employees as a dating pool. It’s a point in favor of the author’s skill that she intrigued me enough to stay with the story despite my issues with that type of plot-line and the love interest being in a committed relationship with someone else.
The sexual fantasies were, at first, titillating, but at some point I felt like skimming them because it felt like more of the same. For being fantasies, there wasn’t much particularly daring or unusual aside from the fact that Cassie was getting down and dirty with perfect strangers. Once the shock and initial “tee hee!” wore off, most of the time I worried more about whether her partners had been tested for STDs before the hookups than what new aspect of her personality would shine after the latest unlikely scenario.
In the latter third of the book, the writing felt weaker and rushed, the characterization of the MC and a few of the side characters seemed inconsistent with the rest of the book, and the “rival” for the love interest’s attention became too cartoonish to take seriously. Which was a shame, because it was off to such a promising start, and there was a great deal to like about the book, such as the diversity, the descriptions of New Orleans, and the main character’s decision to take control of her life and sexuality.
Then I hit the “surprise” ending–maybe 5 to 10 pages left–and threw the book. Then picked it up and tossed it in the trash. Hence the DNF. Read below the spoiler alert line if you want to know the specifics.
Once Will breaks up with his girlfriend of 3 years and has sex with Cassie, it seems like all is well and we get the requisite HEA with no unsightly strings. However, the morning after, Cassie goes to work and Will’s ex shows up to announce that she’s pregnant and Will offered to marry her.
Yeah. I’m done.