M A's Reviews > Simply Sexual

Simply Sexual by Kate Pearce
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Jun 27, 11

bookshelves: erotica, historical-fantasy, regency
Read from June 16 to 27, 2011

** spoiler alert ** 2.5 stars, rounded up.

Originally, I'd shelved "Simply Sexual" under the "erotic romance" shelf. I decided it really didn't belong there. This novel qualifies more as erotica featuring some romantic/love story elements, but the primary themes include Sara's sexual awakening and blossoming under her new husband's tutelage as well as Valentin's coming to terms with a past of slavery, sexual abuse, and rape.

I credit Pearce for a unique style, but I'm starting to feel like her style just isn't for me. I've read three Pearce books and only really liked one. "Simply Sexual" is supposed to be a historical (Regency Period) novel, and yet very little word count goes into establishing scene/setting and era. For me, good historicals convey some sense of the times in which the characters exist. The language, dialogue, and much of the characterization (thoughts, attitudes) is all very modern, or at least "era-neutral." This might appeal strongly to readers who dislike more historically correct reads, but I felt like I'd read an erotic novel, not a historical.

So far as the book's structure, I liked the beginning, the ending was okay, and a large portion of the middle was just a lot of sex scenes hooked together with a scant, lukewarm plot. Everybody seems to have a different "formula" as to how much sex versus how much plot equals a "good" erotic romance read. For me, "Simply Sexual" featured too much (uninteresting and frequenting untitillating) sex and not enough plot. Much of the book's sexual content does very little to contribute to the plot and/or to character development. Readers get a sense of Sara's trust in Valentin and her lack of sexual inhibition, and that's all very nice but it's not enough for a 200 page read.

I basically liked Sara, and many of the secondary characters. Peter Howard (introduced in one of Pearce's earlier EC books) was my motivation in buying/reading this novel and its sequel. As for Valentin ... *sighs* ... I WANTED to like him. From the start, Pearce went out of her way to depict Val's most negative traits and behaviors (womanizing, promiscuity, infidelity, and the more negative aspects of an insecure dominant personality.) I got a very clear picture of how Valentin looked (sexy and gorgeous as sin) and who Valentin was (emotionally damaged by his past, determined to hold his own in a strict society, and equally determined to explore his sexuality as a free man in his own country.) Valentin's better qualities peeked past a lot of his more dysfunctional, self-destructive traits and behaviors, but they simply weren't featured enough for me to care about Valentin. I was interested in him when the story began, but as I continued reading I found myself disliking him for all the head games he played on people close to him. Even at the story's end he seemed almost sociopathic, lacking empathy and remorse for past actions that made some of the bit characters his enemies.

I applaud Pearce for her realism with Val's character and with Peter's. Male victims of rape and sexual abuse are rarely considered in RL and given short shrift in the realm of fiction. I think Pearce made a strong effort to portray a true picture about how a man in Valentin's position would have behaved and felt. Valentin and Peter would have been would have been wonderful characters for a revenge style plotline. But Valentin's dysfunction is just too much of his character for him to come across as a desireable romantic hero. I was particularly flummoxed by the final erotic scene in the novel, where Sara submits to her husband as his own personal sex slave, so he might enjoy using/abusing another person as he was once used/abused. NOTE: I think this was realistic and believeable. It's well-established that many child victims of sexual abuse grow into abusers themselves. What I DID NOT think was that this type of sex play was a healing experience for Valentin or that it was a positive step in Val and Sara's "love."

Overall, this is a story of an extremely emotionally damaged man in denial coming to terms with his past. I found the subject matter a bit too heavy and underdeveloped to be romantic and the serious nature of Val's suffering made the sex less sexy because I felt Val used his good looks and his sexual experience to control and to manipulate people who wanted to love him.

I hope I like Peter's story better, but I'm sort of bracing myself at this point.

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Reading Progress

06/16/2011 page 91
35.0%
06/24/2011 page 97
38.0% "I have mixed feelings about this story. The erotica is very well done, but plot and characterization read a bit thin to me. I'm not emotionally engaged."
06/25/2011 page 130
50.0% "Well, if nothing else, this book lives up to its name."
06/26/2011 page 155
60.0% "I'm still underwhelmed by the plot. Does Valentin's entire life have to be such a secret? I'm finding him less exciting and less sexy the farther I read."
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