Exit to Eden (1985)
Anne Rice writing as Anne Rampling
Sex scenes: Oh, I don't know ... erotic, perhaps?
This cover is so blatantly phallic it's painful to look at while I type. While most erotica covers now tend to feature naked people twisted around each other in anatomically awkward (not to mention uncomfortable) positions, I find this cover much more painful to look at.
This is my first foray into erotica, though to be honest, it wasn't as explicit as I was expecting something classed under this genre to be. Considering this is twenty-seven years old, it is to be expected that authors have got more ... adventurous is one way of putting it, with the sexual exploits of their characters. Or maybe I just have a high tolerance to the issues that this book does deal with and my expectations were more in line with a modern erotica novel. Anyway, more about the book's eroticism (or lack of it) later.
I only picked this up because I was looking for Rice's Sleeping Beauty books in my library after reading about them here. I love retellings of fairytales (Robin McKinley's Beauty is one of my favourite books) but alas, it was on loan. The library catalogue told me it was located in the 'Hot Stuff' section, and I was just walking away (not wanting particuarly to be seen lingering) that this caught my eye. I went through a huge vampire/paranormal romance phase a few years ago, but I had never read any of Anne Rice's stuff. Seeing as I couldn't get The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, I decided I might as well try some Rice, whatever it was.
Basically, Lisa runs 'The Club' - an exclusive, high-end island where members pay extortionate fees to get every sexual whim and fantasy catered for. Elliott is a world-renowned photographer, yet has a secret sexual life. He signs up for a contract at The Club as a 'slave'; 'slaves' are 'taught' by a 'Master' how to please the guests at The Club. Lisa is instantly attracted to Elliott as soon as she read his profile and as majordomo at The Club, gets first pick of all the new slaves to train.
Elliott breaks a lot of rules as soon as he arrives, including refusing to be entirely subservient to Lisa's command. Part of the reason for The Club's huge success and slick (hah) running is the way that Lisa abides by the rules and oversees everything. But as soon as she meets Elliott, Lisa goes against all the rules in place to ensure safety and order at The Club and takes Elliott out of there.
The pair go to New Orleans, amongst other places and do lots of other tourist-y, lovers-on-holiday type things. But they aren't. Lovers on holiday, that is. In breaching The Club's biggest rule in relation to slaves (letting them off the island before their contract is up) as well as allowing Elliott access to his stuff and doing away with the strict master-slave relationship, Lisa has jeopardised her job. The reason? To put it crudely in my own words: she's gone crazy. The Club (naturally, being in control of all aspects of a slave's life) has it's own special word for people who have gone crazy like Lisa - not that I remember it. She's just spent too much time living under its rules and lifestyle and needs some time away.
Naturally, Lisa and Elliott fall in love.
I don't get it. Really - I just don't. I didn't like or connect with any of the characters, I didn't understand the point of the story - which doesn't mean to say that I didn't find it compelling, because I did. I neglected a lot of work to read this book and get to the end of it, but I still didn't like it. That there was still something to keep me reading is the reason I didn't give it a D. Maybe it's because it's my first erotica novel: I'm unaccustomed to the lifestyle and the way of things in BDSM relationships and to be honest, this book didn't make it that much clearer for me since it's about someone trying to get away from it all. Neither Lisa or Elliott seemed to fit the 'type' that I had imagined people living such lifestyles are like = lots of confusion on my part.
As to the sex: I guess I had imagined just scene after endless scene of orgasmic orgys. The book does live up in this respect - there was more insight to the characters than I had expected, and I enjoyed learning about their respective pasts and how they had got into the lifestyle. There is some elements of BDSM and lots of master/slave stuff at the beginning, but otherwise a lot less 'taboo' stuff than I had expected. Really not that many sex scenes and nothing hotter than some other historical romances I've read. I was a little disappointed, actually.
So I'm not sure whether I should recommend this or not. It didn't really (for me, at least) clear up anything about the BDSM lifestyle or have much of a focus on it as I was expecting. I don't really think it lived up to its 'erotica' label, but that's just a personal thing as I imagine that people who've read no erotica/romance would probably take the opposite view. I don't know where I am. I'm still confused.