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Move over Fifty Shades...

The Pleasures of Winter

Penguin 2012

€8.99 ***

Have you never read a dirty buke a'tall? The way in which erotica has erupted into the mainstream is a bit hilarious, really, when you think that Fanny Hill has been around for literally centuries (see below). The Pleasures of Winter is being touted as the Irish Fifty Shades of Grey and herein we find another exegesis on the pleasures that lie on the darker end of the sexual spectrum.

Abbie Marshall is a reporter who finds herself running for her life out of Honduras -- the only way out is to blag her way onto the private plane containing the larger-than-life Irish actor Jack Winter. The plane crashes; they all struggle for survival; at some stage Abbie fails to do what Jack tells her to do so he takes her to a cave and gives her a spanking; she has an orgasm.

If that seems an inelegant treatment of the plot, believe me, I've done you a favour. You can now skip all the cumbersome detail and get to the good stuff.

The good stuff is mostly good; one of the sexiest parts is the email conversation between Dominant Jack and exploratorily submissive Abbie, as he sets out the agenda for their relationship.

The other stuff -- the sentences that combine to create the plot -- feels like the novel has been cobbled together from three shorter pieces. We go from the jungle to Hollywood to New York and its environs, and the transitions are not terribly graceful. The topic is timely and sexy bits register as a 6.5 on the sexy book scale, but the actual narrative is cumbersome. If you're going to tell a tale that you expect most people are unfamiliar with, then let's have more detail about that, please, and less about inexplicable fundraising events in Connecticut.

The below are riddled with the 'vanilla sex' that veteran Dom Jack Winter disdains mightily. And yet, they all are slightly infamous in their own ways -- ways that have stood the test of time.

Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland

Harper Perennial Reprint: 2009

€9.25 ***

First published in 1748, this is proof that the sexy have always been with us. Like the Pleasures of Winter, this is also somewhat hampered by structure, as seen in a sentence the like of: 'reduced us to the naked confession of all those secrets of person which dress generally hides'.

That is not exactly breaking the hot-o-meter. And yet, once he gets going, despite the archaic language, the sexy bits are good and sexy. Bonus: looks literary rather than just porny.

Forever Amber

by Kathleen Windsor

Penguin Books

Reprint: 2002

€17.15 **

You can also pretend you are learning about Restoration society with this one, but we all know you're only marking time until you get to the smut.

Thing is, though ... its supposed raciness has not worn well. Banned in 14 American states in 1944, it was fairly shocking, but now, all we're left with is a well-written romance about a 17th- century gal who sleeps her way to the top. It's good read, if not a terribly filthy one.


by Jilly Cooper

Corgi Reprint 2007,

€11.45 *****

Speaking of filth, It does not get better than this! Okay, I admit to a horsey bias -- which sounds really, really wrong -- but even if you don't care about the showjumping bits, all the other jumping is of an amazingly high standard.

This is the standard to which all others must aspire, because it's not only excellent smut, it is excellent plot and character development.

Three words: Rupert Campbell-Black! Seriously! Talk about a ride!

The Thorn Birds

by Colleen McCullogh

Virago Reprint 2007

€22.45 ***

Three more words: Ralph de Bricassart! Okay, maybe that is only two. But still, this is made all the dirtier because he is a priest.

More full of longing for sex than the actual doing of sex, it is still an incontrovertible classic of the genre. While one wished for greater quantity, one can't fault it for quality.

Nor can we overlook its cultural longevity: Sex and the City featured a sexy priest seduction attempt in 2001 episode.


by Judith Krantz

Sphere Reprint, 2008 €13.25


Ah, well, the fifth star is pure nostalgia: it's 1981, you're a teenage girl in New Jersey and this book makes the rounds of all the girls in the junior class -- twice.

First published in 1978, its raunchiness is so robust that 34 years later, this too is going to feature on our small screens soon: Natalie Portman is going to produce it as a TV show. Clothes, sex, money, sex, glamour, sex, Paris, sex, Beverly Hills, sex: what more could you ask for? So, so good.