S.E.C.R.E.T. – L Marie Adeline: As Safe & Bland as Vanilla

I first heard about S.E.C.R.E.T. in online forums discussing (and bashing) 50 Shades of Grey. 50 Shades, of course, had achieved cult status, a sort of adult Twilight for our times. Its terrible nature notwithstanding, 50 Shades may have brought the genre of sexual writing into popular and acceptable bookshelves. S.E.C.R.E.T., the commenter said, was a far better example of the genre and unlike its predecessor, more female empowering. I thought it better to order the book online. Erotica & Pornography are still awkward words to be associated with (even if only reading) in India. It only took me a single night to finish the book.

S.E.C.R.E.T. 2

Cassie Robichaud, the protagonist, is a 35-year-old widow and the survivor of an early, abusive marriage. After her husband’s death, she has closed off the world, shunning intimacy of any sort and relegating herself to the sparse life of a waitressing job and evenings in with her books. One of her customers leaves a notebook behind, that Cassie picks up and reads. The book is a sex diary of sorts and Cassie is eventually led to a secret society (called S.E.C.R.E.T.). The aim of this society is to help women realize their unfulfilled sexual fantasies. The book deals with S.E.C.R.E.T.’s work with her.

The Erotica genre probably requires the suspension of disbelief that ChickLit and Fantasy do. It’s writing about sex after all, and I’d imagine just like the real thing, you know it’s great if it sweeps you up and there’s no room for any other thought. One distinction that appears to come up often between Erotica and Pornography is that the latter may be degrading to women while the former, focusing on aesthetics, could actually be empowering.Β  S.E.C.R.E.T. had the potential to do all of this, tell a wonderful story of escape through the glorious liberation of a woman’s sexuality. But after an interesting blurb pulled me in, the plotline left me vaguely dissatisfied. Too much foreplay with no climax.

While S.E.C.R.E.T. didn’t get perverse with the rape/abuse overtones of 50 Shades of Grey, it didn’t really do anything mind-blowing either. Considering this is sex we’re talking about and even if different things appeal to different people, one imagines blandness is not to anybody’s taste. The fantasies are lame, almost adolescent but without the heavy hormone overdrive. The writing is coy, rather than passionate. All of which makes the reader yawn and start thinking about the logic of the story.

There is a certain earnest good-girlness about the writing. So it reads more like a motivation book with the requisite feelgood quips. The attempt to fit life lessons into sexual experiences is a tad forced. In some ways, this felt like one of the early Richard Bach books – an introspection about life and self, except using sex for self-discovery instead of flight.

If 50 Shades of Grey felt like Pornography that got erroneously categorized Romance, S.E.C.R.E.T. is Romance/Self-help that got put in Erotica. S.E.C.R.E.T. makes for a light, zero-stress read, maybe something you could carry along on a long flight. Just don’t look for fireworks.

My review on Goodreads:

S.E.C.R.E.T. (Secret, #1)S.E.C.R.E.T. by L. Marie Adeline
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I picked up this book when I heard that it was a great improvement over 50 Shades of Grey (which I hated)in the genre. It didn’t make me want to throw something like 50 Shades did but I wouldn’t call this a great book.

The protagonist is a lonely 35-year-old widow with an empty life. She stumbles onto a secret organisation that promises to help her explore her repressed sexuality and realise her fantasies. The book is about S.E.C.R.E.T’s work with her. As I described it so to a friend, I realised how tacky, how flimsy the plotline was.

S.E.C.R.E.T. mercifully has none of the rape/abuse overtones of 50 Shades. However it swings the other way by being utterly bland and all too safe. For a book that is about a woman in her sexual prime, finally opening up after 5 years to her sexual side, the fantasies are terribly tame. The writing in the sex scenes is coy, rather than passionate. If you’re the shy sort, you won’t need to be embarrassed to be seen reading this book in public.

That said, there’s nothing terribly wrong with the book either. It reads easy and has the occasional feel-good/inspirational quip that keep good Romance/ChickLit novels coasting. In some ways, this felt like one of the early Richard Bach books – an introspection about life and self, except using sex for self-discovery instead of flight.

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