Review: Fiction: Bared to You by Sylvia Day
Penguin, £7.99, pbk, 352 pages
Available with free P&P on www.kennys.ie or by calling 091 709350
Mommy porn -- erotic fiction for women -- has not only readers panting but publishers too as as they race to find the next Fifty Shades. All in the hope that steamy between-the-sheets action will lead to equally thrilling results on the balance sheet.
Foremost amongst them is Penguin, which is claiming to have found the answer to EL James and her Fifty Shades S&M-for-beginners phenomenon with a novel called Bared To You, written by American author Sylvia Day, a writer with a strong track record across various popular fiction genres.
Already a bestseller in the US, this book had clocked up advance orders of more than 150,000 for Britain and Ireland before this week's publication.
The novel, some admirers are saying, is what Fifty Shades would have been like if it had been written by someone who could actually write. And to be fair, being better than Fifty Shades wouldn't be difficult.
EL James's girlish prose was almost as painful to the eyes as those gruelling bondage sessions were for her heroine's behind.
Plotwise, there's certainly not much to distinguish the two narratives, as rich kid Eva arrives in Manhattan to start a new job at an ad agency and instantly falls madly in lust with the "exquisite masculinity" that is handsome billionaire Gideon Cross.
Reader, she has her wicked way with him. Of course she does. But be warned, we're a quarter of a way in before they fully get to grips with one another in the back of a limo -- and a whole three-quarters before the obligatory dominant/submissive theme is properly addressed.
Thankfully, our man hasn't been wasting any time in between. Once he gets going, Gideon is as permanently up for it as a wonky submarine whose periscope refuses to retract, and Eva is suitably receptive.
"My body didn't seem to care that he was too big. It was rippling around him, squeezing, trembling on the verge of orgasm... 'It's so good,' I sobbed, lost to it. 'You feel ... ah God, it's too good'."
Too good? Too big? Now that's what I call a cracking review.
As if that wasn't enough, Gideon has "incredible oral skills" as well -- and no, she doesn't mean his talent for public speaking. Though he's brilliant at that too. Naturally.
Eva actually declares: "I thought for a moment he might be able to make me orgasm just by talking long enough." I'm no sexpert, dear, but I would've thought that was unlikely.
Almost as unlikely, in fact, as the pair's relationship. Would a man described as a "scorching force of will" -- who starts out by declaring "romance is not in my repertoire, Eva, but a hundred ways to make you come is" -- really end up within days with her picture on his office desk and agreeing to couples therapy? Doesn't sound very master/slave to me.
Indeed, if it wasn't for the cascade of X-rated grunting, this pair's coupling couldn't be more conventional or monogamous. Perhaps Day is saving all the kinky stuff for the next two volumes in the trilogy? Either that, or there are only so many nouns and verbs a girl can call upon when faced with a blank page . . .
"He tortured me, coaxing my body to the brink of orgasm, and then letting me slide back down. Over and over. Until sweat misted my skin and my heart felt like it would burst."
Rearrange in varying combinations, throw in some deep dark secrets and plenty of shopping, and you basically have the entire book.
Bared To You is easy to mock. Sylvia Day is no great stylist, whatever the hype, and the cliché count remains high. But she does write smoothly and confidently and the story she tells is at least healthier than the dysfunctional wreck of Fifty Shades.
"In the moments of orgasm," Eva observes, "I owned him as completely as he owned me."
It's all a distinct improvement on EL James's template. The book also contains modern fiction's funniest (possibly only) use of a Monopoly-based euphemism.
All the same, I kept recalling a line from CS Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia: "Children have one kind of silliness, and grown-ups have another kind."
The new mummy porn is silly in a grown-up way and it really is hard to understand why anyone who isn't would bother reading it rather than something with (no slight intended, Gideon) a bit more meat.