I was having a moment; a restless and frustrated moment. One of my girlfriends came to my rescue with the suggestion that my problem is I need some romance in my life. What she proposed as romance was a novel entitled “Slave to Sensation”. Spare me from girlfriends bearing romance novels. I’m a cynic.
They started us early on the deception of romance. They insidiously fed us a female fantasy built on lies and happy ever after fairy tales. Why didn’t we have pragmatic, feminist literature teachers to show us the error of the romantic dream?
I remember being a starry-eyed school girl in love with heroes like Charlotte Bronte’s Mr Rochester with his incomparably manly demeanour, sitting astride a big black horse. Ah, the symbolism! Or Heathcliff; I longed to be carried off by Emily Bronte’s Heathcliff, the bad boy of the Bronte novels; a dark brooding lost soul; impossibly handsome, haunted, passionate, and intense. And, who can forget Rhett Butler, the irresistibly charismatic and charming rogue.
That was when we were first introduced. What did they turn into? Heathcliff became a miserable abusive drunk. Mr Rochester turned out to be lying adulterer with bigamist ambitions and Rhett Butler proved an egotistical philandering slaver. It always ends in disappointment; but the pursuit of that romantic illusion continues.
The early teens were Mills and Boon addiction; where each story is the same. They hate each other in the beginning. They love each other in the end. We never fell in love with the over bearing arrogant Alpha-minor men who, later, passed through our lives. It doesn’t happen like that. Our innocence gets lost. Real life makes you cynical. Sylvia Plath is real. Barbara Cartland is myth.
I remember the song ‘it’s raining men’. We girls used to dance around singing with joy. And then, there was the grief and disappointment of betrayal we felt the first time we saw the video and realized that it wasn’t raining men at all; it was actually raining speedo clad nancy-boys in trench coats doing perfect ballerina pirouettes.
So now I have “Slave to Sensation” the story of a woman of icy character with dark honey toned skin and “hair that curls so wildly that she is forced to pull it into a severe plait every morning”. Obvious imagery – this chick is suppressing or concealing a passion to which, no doubt, she will later give full vent. She encounters “the most dangerous man she’s ever seen”. What makes him so dangerous? He is Alpha; “pure lean muscle and tensile strength”.
See what I mean? Who has tensile strength? Is that any way to describe a human being? Oh, and “her first impression of him is as something wild, barely leashed”. So, he’s also passion repressed and will later give vent, and I suspect that it will take two hundred long, tedious, questionably written pages of thin, repetitive storyline before full vent is eventually given. I don’t think I can stand it.
The blurb on the back of the book describes our protagonist as “a woman who will sacrifice everything for a taste of darkest temptation”.
That’s the story? Yep, that’s it, a sexually repressed ice maiden who meets a dangerous, barely leashed man with tensile strength who leads her into darkest temptation. It just makes me impatient. Besides, it’s ridiculous. Do people get led you into things like ‘a taste of darkest temptation’? Actually, if they’re talking about the name of a chocolate bar, I was led there last week. It was Belgian chocolate. It was delicious.
Half way into the first chapter of “Slave to Sensation” and I’m aggravated. This sort of book creates and then feeds aggravation. There are elements of such incomparable silliness. The heroine has a bottom that is ‘a heart shaped enticement’, for heavens sake’. Who describes a woman’s bottom? Is that the semi-literary parallel of tensile strength? Anyway, no one’s bottom is like that. Bums are peachy, or pear shaped or big. That’s bums.
And then, to all of our incredulity, it is revealed that this man isn’t even a man. Men, our author seems to have realised on her walk through life, cannot be romantic heroes any more. Men are flawed. Men are Mr Rochesters, Heathcliffs, and Rhett Butlers. So, now we need something above men and our author has come up with a thing called ‘a changeling’. He is half man, half beast; the ultimate Alpha.
Our male protagonist morphs between man and panther which I’m sure, accounts for all that tensile strength. And to add insult to intelligence he is a metro-sexual half man half beast. He wears cologne, designer gear and drives a sports car. I’ll bet when he’s panther he pees on the carpet, leaves fur on the sofa, and chews the toes off her Jimmy Choos. I am thoroughly unconvinced. I can’t read on.
Restlessness and frustration are restored. I’m in need of psychic regeneration and truth; something befitting my mood. I’m reaching for Sylvia Plath. She’s full of poetic madness, depression, perversity; and other stuff that a person can believe in.