I received this book from Crown Publishing through NetGalley and rated it 4.5 stars.
“No judgments, No Limits, No Shame.”
Thirty-five year old Cassie Robichaud is very good at anticipating and meeting everybody’s needs except her own. Four years after her alcoholic husband died she is waiting for life to start while working as a waitress. By the time the story starts it has been five year since Cassie had sex, five years of which she feels every minute. And while a part of her still hopes that maybe it is not too late for her, most of Cassie has given up on love and happiness. In fact, Cassie is so convinced that she has nothing to offer that she has rejected the advances of her very attractive and interested boss, Will.
Cassie’s favourite customers are a couple who come in regularly and seem very happy and intimate together. Cassie can’t keep her eyes of them, taking in how easy they are together and how connected. When the woman accidentally leaves behind a beautiful notebook Cassie can’t quite help herself. Although she only reads a page or two she sees enough to realise that this is some sort of diary, detailing erotic encounters.
And so Cassie is introduced to the world of S.E.C.R.E.T.; a group of women dedicated to liberating women who find themselves in an emotional and sexual vacuum.
“What we do here, Cassie, is we help women get back in touch with their sexual side. And in so doing, they get back in touch with the most powerful part of themselves. One step at a time.”
Soon Cassie starts her voyage of discovery; a quest of nine steps that will empower her, introduce her to unsuspected pleasures and ultimately liberate her.
This was a fascinating book. I absolutely adore the idea behind it. Whenever I read or hear objections to erotic fiction the reason given will be that these stories are supposed to be degrading to women. And while I don’t agree with that sentiment in general, nobody will ever be able to make such an accusation against S.E.C.R.E.T. In this book the women are in charge and those who are empowered use their insight to bring the same sort of liberation to other women. It is a very attractive idea. And if anybody is objectified or used in this book it is the various men Cassie encounters on her way to (sexual) liberation. Their only purpose is to serve the women in such a way that they can develop their best qualities. A purpose they appear to serve with pleasure, but under strict rules set by the women who run S.E.C.R.E.T.
I also liked that there were no quick, overnight, transformations in this book. Cassie (as any other woman accepting the assistance of the group) has to go through nine steps which will bring her to surrender, courage, fearlessness and trust, to name just a few qualities. And it isn’t until Cassie has gone through all the steps that she is ready let go of her fear and to fully embrace who she is, and that she is enough.
“Fear is the only thing that stands between you and your real life.”
Now this is a work of erotic fiction which means that the liberation of Cassie is achieved through nine different sexual encounters.
“Our whole reason for being is liberation through complete submission to your sexual fantasies.”
Cassie’s nine encounters are all based on fantasies she has admitted to at the start of the process and we follow her as she is introduced to oral pleasures both as the receiver and - much to her surprise - the provider, a mild form of submission and anal intercourse. And in the process Cassie overcomes fear, learns to trust and gains confidence.
I loved that this book points out that there is a difference between physical attraction and love. In so many works of erotic fiction it seems that the attraction between two people is based on little more than their compatibility between the sheets. And while Cassie does appear tempted to fall into that trap, the support the programme gives her makes it possible for her to distinguish between lust and love and to make her decisions accordingly.
Having said all that, this book is about so much more than just sex. This is a book about self-discovery; a story about finding the courage to create your own life, according to your own needs, desires and dreams. In fact, while sex was an important part of the story line, it is not the story. I often feel that the story itself is an after-thought in erotic novels; a means to include as much sexy scenes as possible. Not so in this book, here the sexy scenarios are an important and integral part of a much larger, and very strong story-line. And while the scenes are quite descriptive they are not, in my opinion intended to shock or embarrass.
This is a book about empowering women. This is a story that shows us that being a strong and independent woman doesn’t mean giving up on pleasure. It is good to surrender as long as it happens from a place of strength and confidence.
“Above all else sex requires surrender, the ability to simply melt with each arriving moment.”
This is a well written, well thought out and fascinating story about one woman finding her strength with the help of other women. It is sexy and inspiring and a thought-provoking read. I’m looking forward to finding out how the story continues.