Sunday 25 March 2018

Books: Fifty shades of white hot sex lessons

Clodagh Murphy's chicklit has loads of spice added. Photo: Thinkstock
Clodagh Murphy's chicklit has loads of spice added. Photo: Thinkstock
Clodagh Murphy: Her fifth offering is much more sexastic than what came before and could turn out to the the publishing sensation of 2014

Siobhan Hegarty

An Irish chicklit novel aims to give Fifty Shades a right good seeing to.

Women's erotic fiction has been the runaway publishing phenomenon of the 21st Century, with sales of everything 'mommy porn' giving the rest of the book world a damn good thrashing. So who can blame Dublin author Clodagh Murphy for getting in on the action by making this, her fifth offering, much more sextastic than any of her previous novels?


British writer EL James's Fifty Shades trilogy topped bestseller lists around the world, eventually selling 90 million copies and being translated into 52 languages.

Last year, Japanese-American author Sylvia Day, another tie-me-up writer, did the unthinkable and outsold EL James, knocking Dan Brown's Inferno off the top spot while she was at it. Generally accepted as being a better writer than James, Day's third book in the Crossfire series Entwined With Tou was published last June, quickly becoming one of the fastest-selling novels since records began.

Both series are notable for their explicit sex scenes with an emphasis on 'bondage, discipline, sado-masochism' (BDSM). The upshot? Ann Summers's pink fur handcuffs (also available in red or black) and their 'Fifty Days of Play' game became scarcer than hen's teeth. Or so I've been told.

The insatiable appetite for erotic fiction inevitably spawned an Irish version and last year The Pleasures of Summer and The Pleasures of Autumn by Evie Hunter were published. Evie is in fact two mature, married Irish women writing under a pseudonym. While still deliciously filthy -- and unashamedly aimed at readers of the Fifty Shades and Crossfire bonkbusters -- Hunter's plots have more substance and the sex scenes cater for more vanilla sexual tastes.

The latest Irish offering in this milieu is Some Girls Do by Dubliner Clodagh Murphy, who very cleverly has added spice to a conventional chicklit story with a lot of explicit sex.

The heroine, Claire Kennedy, is a 27-year-old English literature graduate who lives with her sixty-eight-year-old mother Espie, who suffers a range of chronic health problems.

Claire, despite having no sex life, writes a blog called Scenes of a Sexual Nature anonymously under the handle 'NiceGirl' which has extremely explicit content -- which contrasts sharply with her almost nun-like real-life existence.

Claire's blog becomes an internet sensation and through it she meets handsome London publisher Mark Bell online -- with whom she flirts outrageously on Twitter.

He flies over to meet her, offering her a book deal, while also making it clear he's interested in a romantic relationship.

Mark can make all of Claire's dreams come -- entry to the literary world of London, a steady boyfriend, and an upmarket apartment in Highgate. But Claire knows that Mark is expecting her to be very experienced between the sheets, like in her blog -- and is petrified that when she gets to play the part of 'NiceGirl' in real life she'll be exposed as a fraud.

Far from being a man-eater with numerous lovers, Claire has only had sex 'three-and-a-half times' in her entire life. So the supposedly shy, supposedly sexually-repressed Claire slaps a sex ban on Mark until date number five -- and goes about paying a man she's met only once in her life to give her energetic sex lessons. As you do.

The lucky recipient of her indecent proposal is the bohemian Luca, a struggling painter who lives in poverty -- and often in darkness when he can't afford to pay for his power. He is a self-confessed commitment-phobe, so the 'lessons' with Claire -- something he tells her he'd gladly do 'for free' -- suits him perfectly.

His background is difficult -- he was adopted from a Romanian orphanage with his younger sister Ali. He failed to bond with his adoptive mother Jacqueline and the beautifully drawn portrayal of this troubled relationship showcases the author's insight into human fragility. Now, with Claire turning out to be a talented and enthusiastic pupil, Luca's already challenging emotional life is set to get much more complicated.

Some Girls Do successfully straddles the divide between 'mommy porn' and 'chicklit', and the author could be ahead of the curve with this book which could turn out to be the publishing sensation of 2014 -- it's steaming hot chicklit and it's poised to give the book world another sore bottom.

Murphy is a laugh-out-loud, talented and insightful writer on a par with, if not better than, most of the big-name chicklit writers working in Ireland today. Some Girls Do is the funniest book in this category that I've ever read, but the slightly daft basic premise of this book lets it down. I would also wonder whether your average chicklit reader will go in for quite so much steamy sex. For Murphy's growing fan base, it'll be a case of suck it and see.

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Irish Independent

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