Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “No judgment. No limits. No shame.”
Cassie Robichaud’s life is at a stand still. Grief and guilt over her husband’s death has put her in a prison of her own making. A prison of loneliness and sorrow. When she finds a notebook a customer leaves behind, her curiosity leads her to read it and suddenly she finds herself shocked and titillated by its erotic telling of a secret society and the fantasies the author has enjoyed. When the author comes back to retrieve her journal, Cassie learns that the mystery woman is part of a secret club called, appropriately, S.E.C.R.E.T. A club for women to explore their sexually in a safe and controlled environment. Cassie is invited to join the club and soon embarks on her own personal journey towards self fulfillment and empowerment through a series of individual fantasies.
S.E.C.R.E.T. is a coming of age novel that while erotic in essence, concentrates more on the emotional, mental, and sexual awakening of our protagonist, Cassie. Told in the first person, we are given insight into her personal thoughts and feelings throughout her journey. She is told to write down ten fantasies and they will be made possible by the club. Each fantasy revolves around the concept of acceptance and healing.
Step One: Surrender
Step Two: Courage
Step Three: Trust
Step Four: Generosity
Step Five: Fearlessness
Step Six: Confidence
Step Seven: Curiosity
Step Eight: Bravery
Step Nine: Exuberance
Step Ten: The Choice
This was a difficult book for me to review. On one hand, I enjoyed the premise of a secret society that focuses purely on catering to women’s needs, both on a sexual and emotional level. A secret society that embraces the notion that exploration of your sexuality can empower you and elevate different aspects of your life. I also enjoyed the notion of a sisterhood that embraces you for who you are. These women came to support Cassie on many levels, without judgment. Its strong characterization is well developed and stays steady throughout the story. Cassie’s metamorphosis rings true and the overall story’s fast pacing kept my attention.
Part of me, though, wasn’t convinced. While reading, I never connected with the characters or the storyline. I felt as though I was an outsider, looking in. Cassie always seems a bit uncomfortable with the whole journey and that in turn made me uncomfortable. I don’t buy the aspect that sexual fulfillment with multiple partners is the way to build self esteem. It can free you but can it truly make you happy? Furthermore the author never convinces me that Cassie is happy. I see her awakening sexually, and coming out of her shell, yet in regards to her dealings with those outside of S.E.C.R.E.T., I don’t see a huge change in her personality. She still seems so self contained. She still allows certain characters to be rude and dismissive of her. We are told she is stronger but I never really saw it.
The erotic scenes are sexy and well done in relation to the ten steps but that is all. It is merely a series of brief sexual encounters. They are short and sweet with no real emotional backing, once again confirming my belief that Cassie isn’t really enjoying the encounters beyond a superficial level. I was also dismayed to find we don’t learn as to why the men are part of it and what they get out it it. I can’t believe it’s merely for sex yet nothing is given to challenge this belief. I would have loved some one on one time with one of the men, just to hear what their motivation is.
I admit I spoke to another author who had read the book and her thoughts opened my eyes to what I am struggling to say here. She helped me realize that I started the book with the expectation that this would be a romance and it’s not. I equate sex with love. Not a very enlightened opinion but it is as such. I expected Cassie’s path to eventually lead her to a singular romantic entanglement and when I was essentially denied that, it colored my perceptions of the book. That is all on me. The ending Ms. Adeline choose was not to my liking; it is abrupt and leaves us hanging on the edge with many unanswered questions. I felt Cassie’s decision was more reactionary than truly what she wanted. Yet, it was a bold move and speaks well of the overall storyline’s intentions.
There is a sequel that is slated to release in October 15, 2013. I am very interested in seeing where Ms. Adeline takes us this time and if my thoughts and feelings will change with this next installment.
Overall Rating: C+