Showing posts from June, 2016

A writer I know very well

I had to laugh when my 24-count took me to Basil by Victorian writer Wilkie Collins. Although not a book that I've read, I know the story and the author very well, having written my MA dissertation on Collins just a few years ago. 
Wilkie Collins was a contemporary and friend of the great Charles Dickens, and there are some similarities in their works. Both often wrote about character types who might have been overlooked by other authors at the time, focusing on poor or criminal characters rather than just the well-to-do. Collins went even further than Dickens, often peopling his novels with fallen women and disabled characters. While these could often be absurd or exaggerated, they were always viewed as whole people and were given a voice by Collins in a society that worked hard not to.
The plots could be as intricate and complicated as those of Dickens too, although they tended to be less sprawling in scope. Collins' most famous work is probably The Moonstone, credited as one …

Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?

Just as propositioning someone in French is meant to make it sound more classy than sleazy, Elizabeth Coldwell's His Secret Boss is an attempt to make erotic fiction a little more upmarket. Despite my earlier reservations, it largely works.

For a start, Coldwell puts as much effort into the plotting and characterisation as she does into the naughty bits. You could argue that there's too much plot if you're looking for a titillating read, with quite lengthy establishing chapters getting in the way. Once we get through that, things progress more obviously. Hotel chain boss Claudia Anthony is going on one of those undercover boss shows but, inevitably, is attracted to the hottie running the Welsh hotel. Knowing that he is falling for a woman who doesn't really exist, is it fair for her to pursue this relationship? Even if it's not, does she have the strength to refuse?

What's interesting about this plot is that it plays around with the traditional power dynamic. In …

They're sex people, Lynn!

My new arbitrary read is His Secret Boss by Elizabeth Coldwell and, as you can probably guess, we're into the realms of softcore erotica. Um, yay? 

On the positive side, I've got nothing against a bit of raunch. On the negative, it's so rarely done well. It can be bad in many different ways. You get the overly technical descriptions, where Item A is slotted into Tab B and it all sounds a bit mechanical and gross. Or you have the over-sentimentalised version where everyone's 'making love' and it's all slow and sensuous without being at all squelchy and faintly embarrassing. Or (and this is the kind that has flooded the market thanks to books like the Fifty Shades series) you have the uncomfortable sexual dynamic of the naive young woman initiated into the darker side of sex by an older man. The sexual politics often at play in such texts are less than titillating.

I guess my problem is partly that these books seem like such a crap way to get your jollies. If y…