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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Reflected In You: A BlogHer Book Club Review.

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

A surprise Thursday post means MOAR PORNY BOOKS, PEOPLE.

So, I had the delight of being sent not one, BUT TWO erotica books for this month's reading. BlogHer wanted us to review the second book in a series, so the publishers were smart and thought "Hey, maybe we should send these ladies the first book as well so they know what the heck is going on."

Rightly so, publisher, rightly so.

So while I was dying of the stomach flu last week, I plowed through Bared To You and Reflected In You by Sylvia Day. And when I say plowed, I mean it.

Anyway, the book I'm going to tell you about is Reflected In You, the second in the Crossfire series.

It has a wee bit of what I'm finding to be a formulaic approach to erotica: young woman on the cusp of post-college adulthood meets very powerful, very rich, very sexy control freak slightly older man; sexy times ensue. Lots of talks about dominance and submission (whether it's BDSM or not) and inevitable strife and internal conflict bubbles up. More sexy times. Crazy ex appears; drama. SEXY TIMES.

Rinse, repeat.

Now, that's not to say I didn't like the books -- they're the best written out of the ones I've read thus far. The story has more weight to it, as both the main characters have pasts marred by childhood abuse, so some of their seemingly adolescent and clingy behavior is legitimately explained by their survivorship. I feel like there was some real research that went into how people who have survived abuse function with their sexualities as they move forward from the abuse and try to figure out their limits and boundaries and navigate the murky waters between love and sex.

However, I had a feminist flare-up that I discussed with a real-life friend of mine who is also reading the books because she can. Eva, the main character, starts suffering from flashbacks to her abuse, which is totally normal and happens. Except, the way the story line ended up being framed, the abuse flashbacks (from when she was between 10-14 years old) are often sandwiched between two sexy times bits.

I am not okay with that.

I understand that stories have to have flow and cadence and when you're writing erotica, it's probably a little hard to find a non-sexy place to put that plot mechanism. But for me, it felt almost as if, however unintentionally, it trivialized and worse, sexualized the violence done against her, which feeds into and normalizes the rape culture we currently live in to the people who really should be the most sensitive to it -- women.

I KNOW, THESE ARE FICTIONAL CHARACTERS. But the reality is that the situations aren't fictional; they happen every day to real children and real women and dude, erotica can be sex-positive without being violent or degrading, damnit.

Part of this is just completely based out of my own experiences and my own education and I have my obvious triggers, but it was the ONE. THING. that made me cringe and would cause me to struggle momentarily with continuing reading.

Other than that, they are very well written, the characters are relatable and not too bland or empty (as I feel some erotica characters are I'm guessing so people can project their own ideas into the plots) and though it deals with high society rich people, I feel it's really not that far-fetched or fantastical.

Let's just say I'll be picking up the third book when it comes out, despite my slight misgivings.

If you're interested in what roughly 100 other ladies have to say about this book, come join the conversation on BlogHer, and because I can, if you're a survivor of ANY kind of abuse, please check out Violence Unsilenced where survivors share their stories to give a voice to the voiceless and to honor themselves and their loved ones, as well as a bevy of support, love, and resources to help with the healing.