Summary: When Lindsay receives an invitation in the mail to live out her most illicit fantasies, she thinks it’s her best friend playing a joke. Little does Lindsay know, the invitation is from someone else. Someone who knows of her deepest desires…and intends to fulfill them.
Erik was the one who sent Lindsay the invitation—and the one who orchestrates a steamy weekend getaway to explore her most decadent desires. From their first night together, there is an inexplicably deep connection between them, and with Lindsay in his arms, he feels both thrilled and unnerved. The truth is, he’s hiding a deep hurt, and as Lindsay brings his fantasies to life, he’s unwilling to let her go. But can he tell her how he knows her deepest fantasies, and will stay with him if she learns the truth?
Illicit, by Opal Carew *
When I was a kid, my dad once told me what he felt was the distinction between the erotic and the pornographic: Playboy, he told me, was erotica. Penthouse, on the other hand, was porn. By then, the mid-eighties, I had already salivated over the pages of both, so I a good idea of what he meant. That comparison, although now dated, and admittedly not entirely accurate, stayed with me and has consistently informed my views since.
‘Illicit’ is porn.
I had never heard of the book, or its author, Opal Carew, before this. First published in 2005, Carew has kept busy and now has 15 novels in print and and equal amount published as e-books. The only reason I found out about this particular book is because it was selected for a book club that I recently joined. Having recently read some erotica, and enjoyed it more than expected, I was in the mood for more, and eagerly requested it from the library.
‘Illicit’ is the story of Lindsay, a woman who meets three athletic, chiseled men in an elevator and is seduced into joining them for a weekend of non-stop sucking and fucking. Evidently she has the hots for the leader of the pack and some level of romantic entanglement develops. Unfortunately, Erik is committed to the other two, Travis and Connor, and he won’t jeopardize their relationship. And yet, he can’t get Lindsay out of his mind…
That’s it. That’s the plot – for much of the 250-page+ novel. Ahem.
Frankly, ‘Illicit’ is some of the worst writing I’ve encountered in recent memory.
The dialogues are terrible right out of the starting gate: On page 3, when they are sandwiched in the elevator together, Erik says “Hey, Connor. Travis. You must be busy packing for the move”. By that point, we don’t know who’s who yet, so the names mean very little to us. And although Lindsay already has an eye on Erik, Carew doesn’t even indicate that he’s the one who’s talking. Seems to me that this would have been relevant to her. And to us.
But, no, it was just a disembodied voice.
When, two pages later, we finally realize that it was the guy she likes who was talking, we also find out that he’s actually helping the other two move; they’re not just neighbours or casual acquaintances. So… um… why was he asking them if they were busy packing, then? He already KNEW the answer! It served no purpose, even if he was somehow saying it for Lindsay’s benefit. But what would she get out knowing that, anyway?
Insipid stuff. (To make matters worse, we soon discover that they’d moved in two weeks ago. Argh! So why are they still packing?)
Later, we are reminded about Lindsay having a key card in her purse – even though this was established just a couple of paragraphs earlier. On the same page. Was it poor editing, or just terrible writing? Well, given that time is also poorly established (we jump from Leslie receiving the mysterious invitation and key card to her arriving at the rendez-vous – even though days passed in between), I would have to say that it’s probably a combination of both.
The exposition is absolutely horrid. At the top of page 13, Connor and Travis tell each other about Erik’s inheritance in ways that two friends never would (“Look, Erik inherited this place and he wants us to live with him”); obviously, there would be a shorthand involved given that they both know full well what’s going on. But Carew is clearly trying to provide context to the reader – and does so in the most ham-fisted way possible.
To make matters worse, the sex is equally devoid of subtlety.
The first scene is completely devoid of eroticism – based on the notion that the brain is the biggest erogenous zone, of course. Even though Lindsay is watching Connor and Trevor go down on each other, we have no sense of the impact this has on her. She just observes and the sex is described to us. Whoopee. What is she feeling, for goodness’ sake? What kind of effect does it have on her to watch two men have sex together?
Is she repulsed? Confused? Turned on? Thinking of baking cookies? What? What?!
The set-up is pathetic. Lindsay is in a bedroom while the two are outside by the pool. They know she’s arrived, but they speak openly and act as though she’s not there – suggesting that the window is closed. However, if it is in fact closed, then why are we hearing everything they’re saying? And if it’s open, then wouldn’t they obviously be more discrete, knowing that she’s there? Maybe they’re too far from the window. Maybe it’s closed. Who knows. We certainly don’t.
At one point, Erik and Lindsay walk from the apartment to a nearby restaurant together. There is actually no dialogue whatsoever from the apartment to there. Did they just walk in silence? Were they just keeping all the good stuff until they could finally sit down? We know they didn’t talk because they begin to introduce themselves at the restaurant. I guess they couldn’t be bothered to for the 5-10 minutes beforehand. Or maybe their pathetically trite small talk required suspense.
I just couldn’t believe how little imagination was involved in the writing of this book. At every other moment, Lindsay is being described as “quivering” inside. Surely there is another expression that Carew could have used, but I guess she decided to stick with what worked (Hey, if it ain’t broke, right?). After a few dozen “quivering”, “hard” and “wet” I just had my fill of the supposed sexual tension; it was one-tone and monotonous.
Just like this rant.
This book is so short on originality that each character is basically a model, a soap opera stereotype: the men are all chiseled with square jaws and Lindsay is blonde with blue eyes. Surprise. And not only are they rich, everything is “impressive” in a truly conventional way: ooh, they have a fireplace; ooh, they have a private pool; ooh, everything is hardwood, and the furniture is plush leather, …etc.
Give me a frickin’ break.
Instead of making the characters and locations sexy by setting a mood, by slowly teasing our brains, Carew serves up pre-packaged notions of sexiness. This isn’t sexy, it’s tacky. Seriously, I would much prefer reading about imperfect bodies fueled by passion than empty demi-gods of instant pleasure. This is intellectually and emotionally sterile stuff; there is no heat between these pages, let alone any fire. But who has time to build a fire?
There is erotica, and there is porn. ‘Illicit’ falls into this second category. If all the reader wants is a series of sexual encounters, then this will do the trick. If one wants to feel turned on, to slowly feel the tension building and the hormones kicking in, to simmer in ones juices, ‘Illicit’ is a massive failure. This is wanking material at best: read three pages, roll over and sleep. Reading a full book in one sitting would be tedious.
Personally, I found it challenging even getting through more than 10 pages at a time. I’ve read 50 and it’s enough for me. I have not and will not complete it. And, although this means that I can’t rate it (that would be dishonest), I wanted to warn you to stay away. I’m not saying that Opal Carew’s oeuvre is all bad, but ‘Illicit’ really reeks. Online reviews are very strong, but make no mistake: it truly is poorly-written tripe.
Look, I’m no writer. And I’m no literati. But I can recognize poor storytelling. Reading ‘Illicit’ is ill-advised.