Friday, February 15, 2013

Addicted by Charlotte Stein

Why I read it:  I pre-ordered this one and snuck it in between review books.

What it's about: (from Goodreads)  Kit Connor has always led a safe, cautious life. But when her friend points out that her erotic writing lacks something, she decides to attend a Sexual Healing group to improve her knowledge.

Kit expects to find the gritty underbelly of sex, and instead finds louche, laidback, sex-loving Dillon Holt.

He makes a suggestion to her: that he will tell tales of his sexual excess, and help her book get the realism it needs. She agrees, but hasn't the least idea of what she's getting into.

Dillon doesn't have simple advice in mind … he has lessons to teach her. Lessons on everything she's never dared to experience, from kink to real passion.

Now Kit is never sure: is Dillon the addict, or is she just addicted to him?

What worked for me (and what didn't): First off, this book is funny.  Kit made me laugh and so, what she felt was pathetic about herself didn't come across as whiny.  She's self aware and self deprecating but not sad with it.  
After all, what do I know about sex? Nothing. Less than nothing. Every sexual encounter I’ve ever had has occurred beneath the sheets, under a double layer of darkness. Once I started kissing some guy’s elbow, thinking I’d found his cock. And as for the pleasure I’ve just described to her, in my twisted tale of kinky delights …
Well, I guess that’s disingenuous of me, at best. I should have written:
Sex for her was sort of like being vaccinated, by a big pink finger.
There are moments in the book where she allows the reader to see her real vulnerability but by then, her character was much more than her vulnerable places and I was disposed to think of her as brave rather than pitiable.  Because she could have been pathetic.  She thinks of herself as the stereotypical librarian (of the non-sexy variety), lonely and dried up and not good at sex or relationships.  She writes erotic fiction and her "friend" laughs at it.  Which is why I don't think she's much of a friend. Her critique was thoughtless and aimed at making Kit feel small and I think a better friend would have taken more care.  In any event, her (alleged) friend sends Kit off to a "Sexual Healing" group and Kit, because she does what she is told, goes.  At the group, she meets various people suffering from some kind of sex addiction or perceived sexual issue (one woman can't say "vagina") and she feels shamed because she has no excess to share. Her own story, she feels, is boring and embarrassing because of it.  But at the group, she meets Dillon.  He's big and built and gorgeous in a slightly non traditional but real kind of way.  He has tattoos and a cheeky smile and he's watching her.
His arms are folded jauntily over his chest, and I immediately notice two things because of this:
First, his arms and his general chest area are absolutely enormous. They’re so enormous that they briefly blot out all light in the universe, and cause a cataclysm the likes of which the world has never known.
Those earth-destroying arms are covered in tattoos.
Though maybe all of that is just a slight exaggeration.
He tells a story of being caught with no pants after a sexcapade and she is mesmerised.  
"...And by this point, I really want to go lower down. I’ll say it right now – I love eating pussy. I could eat pussy all day every day until the end of time, just to get a girl all flushed the way she gets, and hear those little soft, desperate moans or maybe even the loud, aggressive ones … I don’t mind. Pull my hair, call me names, sit on my face, I’ll take it and come back for more, I swear I –’
Dillon is everything Kit feels she is not and pretty soon, Dillon is giving her a very specific critique of her book in an entirely different way than her friend (on a number of levels actually).

The sex scenes are hot and messy and dirty in the best way and there is plenty of funny in there too.   Because the book is told from Kit's POV and in large part is her journey of self discovery, there isn't a lot of Dillon.  He acts as her sexual mentor and fantasy-bringer, but remains largely unknown and it is that which forms the conflict of the end of the book.

I thought it was very clever the way Ms. Stein used exaggeration to heighten the sense of fun - only to then make me lose my breath when the sucker punch of the deep down vulnerabilities of these two people were suddenly revealed.  There were a number of times in the book where I was fresh from laughing only to be jerked back by some revelation of pain or fear.   
Everywhere I look, there’s more of him. He’s kind of hunching his shoulders against the cold, and they’re still taking up my entire world.
And now he’s saying things. Revealing, warm sorts of things.
‘I guess I just wanted to find out why I feel this way.’
Oh, Lord. He’s talking about feelings. He’s looking at me with those eyes and talking about feelings. Shouldn’t a guy like him be mashing a beer can to his head while mooning the Prime Minister? I’m sure that should be his MO.
But apparently it’s not.
‘And how do you feel?’ I ask, still expecting something stupid. I feel like lighting my own farts, he’ll say, and then he’ll snort and probably run off to find some guy to punch. I’ll see him on an episode of Street Cops two months from now, and never regret jumping over a hedge to escape him.
Though all of that nonsense just makes it more of a shock when he answers:
Kit realises that, despite appearances, Dillon is just as vulnerable as she and together, they realise that they are good for each other and their mutual addiction is not a health hazard. But it takes a while and a lot of bravery from both of them to get there; to strip naked emotionally.
We’ve made a mess. A really big mess.
But I couldn’t care less. In fact, I can’t keep the grin off my face when I see the havoc we wrought. I’m no longer Kit Connor, cautious librarian. I’m Kit Connor, destroyer of worlds. I raised my mighty fists and clobbered my own reality into smithereens, and now I have to live amongst the remains.
The journey is sexy and fun and brave and I loved how Dillon used humour to help Kit relax, how he made it easy for her to be with him and how he didn't let her slide away or out from under while at the same time not applying undue pressure.
 Oh, I like that deadpan, Kit. I like that a lot. How did you know my weakness?’
‘Your weakness is a woman using deadpan humour?’
‘My weakness is brunettes with bee-stung lips and big round asses. The humour’s just a bonus.’

‘Well … thank you. But, no. I wasn’t talking about myself. I was talking about –’
‘Angelina Jolie?’
‘Yeah – I hear she’s a real deadpan hoot,’ he says, sarcasm so thick I almost gag on it. I have to swallow quickly and compose myself, because then he comes out with this: ‘I’m talking about you, you idiot. You have seen you, right?’
And after he has, my world turns upside down.
‘Of course I have. I saw myself last Wednesday. My hair was doing this woo-woo thing,'  I say, but only because I’m panicking. My palms have gone all sweaty and my mouth has dried to a crisp. It’s like my saliva has disappeared down into my hands.
And all because he said I had nice lips.
‘Can you give me a demonstration of this woo-woo?’
‘Well, my fringe was kind of going out here like – Christ, what am I doing? Don’t ask me to do stupid things.’
‘Because I might do them.’
 and here:
 'So it does get you off to see me making a fool out of myself. I knew it.’
I roll my eyes, only I don’t truly mean it. I don’t mean it, because he’s not what I thought at all. Instead, he’s the kind of person who laughs, and says:
‘No, baby. It gets me off to see you not knowing a single damned thing about yourself, and getting to be the guy who makes sure you learn. Because I am going to be that guy, I promise you that.’ He pauses – probably to give me time to faint. ‘And we’re going to start with a much-needed lesson in orgasms.’
And there are moments where something poignant and special is hidden for the reader to find - like an Easter egg.
‘Here then. Here. Rest in this convenient nook I seem to have, right where my shoulder meets my chest.’
What else? The end disappointed me but I'm not sure I can entirely articulate why.  It was certainly abrupt.  But the story was told so what did I want instead?  And that's what I'm having difficulty with.  It kind of felt like it cut off mid-sentence (although it didn't) it was that sudden for me.  But other than to say that I wanted it less sudden, less like a guillotine slice, I can't say what I did want. I felt like Dillons' revelations came so late in the book that I didn't have time to reconcile myself to them and feel better and because of that, the ending was kind of a let down.  Actually, now I think about it, Sarah Wendell said something apropos in the recent DBSA podcast - to the effect of; when a trauma is revealed late in a book, even if there is plenty of foreshadowing, the reader experiences the loss then. And the reader needs time to get over it.  I think that's maybe what happened to me here.  I felt a bit like "here's the loss, it happened a while ago and it's better now" was just too quick a transition for me to make in such a short space of words and it did affect my grade.

However, I can see that my highlights go over to 2 pages and I cannot express to you how sexy the sex scenes were. 

There was a recent Twitter discussion about the difference between erotic romance and romance.  One side of the debate seemed to say that e-rom is merely sexed up romance - take the sex out and there would still be a plot and a story.  But I don't favour that definition.  I lean to the definition that the sex in an e-rom is essential - that the story is told (largely) through the sex. And here is my proof.  If you take the sex out of Addicted, there would be virtually no book - certainly not one of any great sense or emotion.  But this is not a book for mere titillation.  It tells a story of two flawed and vulnerable people finding that person with whom they can truly be themselves, unafraid and unadorned and be accepted and loved for just who they are. And that's why I read Charlotte Stein.

Grade: B


Marg said...

Okay, so I thought I had my Friday night reading agenda sorted but I actually think that I am going to get this and read it!

Kaetrin said...

I'm always happy to mess with your agenda Marg! Let me know what you think :)

Wendy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wendy said...

Yours is the second review I've seen that mentions the abrupt ending - and now I'm wondering why that didn't bother me more. I suspect because this is written in first person, from Kit's POV? I came think of it as "her journey" moreso than Dillion's - although certainly he plays a big part ;)

Not that erotica can't have an emotional connection - but erotic romance really hinges on it. Without that - you have just sex on the page, which hey can be fun to read, but is a rather empty experience after a while....

Kaetrin said...

@Wendy - definitely mainly Kit's journey. I would have liked Dillon's issues to be introduced earlier though.

I loved their emotional connection - the story was so very sexy but it wasn't there for no reason and it highlighted their emotional journey so well.