intense sensations

Archive for the ‘Lesbian fiction’ Category

Orchid PinkOrchid Pink by Toni Sands
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book surprised me with the depth and complexity of its characterisation and, to be quite honest, with the quality of its writing. Xcite is a blatantly erotic publisher and as such could be seen as off limits for many readers of fiction. When I saw that this novel is about a well-to-do Victorian young lady who enjoys Sapphic romps with her maid, I was wary, to say the least. What drew me in were the orchids, which are my favourite flower.

And I’m so grateful to those orchids for if I had passed this book by I would have missed something quite exceptional.

This is a very well-researched book and you can feel the depth of that research in the way it is written. I have read many historical novels that have clunky dialogue and use contemporary idioms and cadences that would have been quite unavailable to their characters. This novel, in contrast, feels like it was written by a Victorian young lady and the dialogue is simple, effective and authentic.

At first I thought it clever. Then, as I was drawn into the story, I thought it profound. The author has become so immersed in her subject that everything about it rings true. She shows great empathy for the plight of her heroine, which is a very real plight that must have affected a good many young women in Victorian England. She explores Adelaide’s dilemma in detail and we can’t help but become caught up in the drama. We feel for Adelaide as she struggles to overcome the obstacles that fate, her father, her husband and history lay across her path.

Yet, let us not forget, Xcite is an erotic publisher. So, yes, the novel deals explicitly with Adelaide’s sexual feelings. It includes masturbation, seduction, penetration and a deluge of orgasms. For the kinkier reader there’s a leather dildo and dark secrets. The sexual content is explicit, erotic and tasteful. Much of it aroused me. There are many circumlocutions but they enhanced the authenticity of the experiences and I’m glad they were there. In fact I would say that the sexual content deepened the way I experienced this story. I felt I really got inside Adelaide and understood her from the inside out.

But what I enjoyed above all about this novel was the deep, literary flavour of it and the sensitivity with which it described subtle nuances of feeling. It is a thoroughly enjoyable novel, packed with surprising observations from an author steeped in the pleasures of reading and the evocative power of words.

raw recruitsLucy Faulkner sent me a message on Twitter asking me to review her slim novella about a lesbian army captain and her raw recruits. I don’t know why she chose me. Perhaps she had seen my military story Captain Sun. Or perhaps she was aware of my forthcoming lesbian anthology Lure of the Feminine. In any case, the theme caught my fancy and I decided to dive in immediately.

And immediately I was aware of an intriguing tension. The author has a well-educated voice and in a preface, which is in itself quite rare in books of this kind, she writes:

“As author of this book, I am, in effect, its main character.”

It’s autobiography, we are told. And then we are told it’s not.

“It’s a sincere interaction between me as fantasist and you as reader.”

Autobiography, then, but as fantasy. This slightly muddled thinking unfortunately continues throughout the story. That word sincere is puzzling. Are other fictions and fantasies insincere? The author appears to be setting herself apart as a writer of ‘good lesbian stories’ which, she adds on her blog, are ‘few and far between.’

Perhaps good lesbian stories are relatively rare. I don’t know. I’ve read quite a lot of them. And I’d venture to say that Lucy Faulkner should follow my example and read quite a lot of them too, preferably by women who actually are lesbians and can truly write from experience. Her writing would be far better for it.

The narrative structure of Raw Recruits is actually quite complex. There are flash backs, flash forwards and multiple points of view. In this respect it’s almost as ambitious as Nostromo or As I Lay Dying, two of the towering masterpieces of twentieth century literature. But I would not advise a raw recruit in the art of fiction to aim so high on her first literary foray.

Here is a typical paragraph:

“Meanwhile Private Lomax who had spent the whole secondary school getting off on the cat-fights she had had in school turned the corner of her own climax when her was pulled and she felt the warm spongy sensation of the orgasm seeping through the Captain’s panties.”

It’s a whole paragraph and I have typed it accurately. How many times did you read it before you understood what it meant? After the second or third reading you have probably read it more times than the author. Can you guess the missing word? What effect do these sort of mental gymnastics have on your sexual response? In my case the warm spongy sensation completely fails to materialise.

My philosophy of fiction is very simple. The writer should do all the work and the reader should have all the fun. In the case of Raw Recruits, I think the author is having more fun than the reader, which isn’t fair.

It’s a shame because the book is bursting with good ideas. It has the potential to be a really rollicking read. There is a lot of sex in it and the sexual positions, if you can figure them out, appear to be very imaginative. I’m afraid my imagination faltered frequently and the technical descriptions of the action didn’t quite work for me. But I would encourage you to check out this book for yourself. If you’re a writer, you can learn a lot from it. There is good material here even though the execution could be improved. I wonder how much more effort it would be to turn it from something rough and ready into something top-notch.

But perhaps that’s a question only the author, who appears to be quite busy with her day job, can answer.

Books by Vanessa Wu

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