Erotica novels and stories are tough to critique for a number of reasons. If you remove the sexual content, do you still care about the people? The characters and writing have to be compelling in order to tell a good story. Adding to the rigor of critiquing the story itself one has the added expectation of reading exciting sexual encounters, which also must make good sense story-wise and present good descriptive writing. It’s a tall order for any author to attempt and a difficult task for a reviewer to engage in. If the characters aren’t relatable, the sex doesn’t matter. If the sex is badly-written, what’s the point of including it in the story? Selena Kitt’s Temptation: Under Mr. Nolan’s Bed managers to blend characters of sufficient depth and scintillating sexual dalliances, creating an expressive reading experience.
One issue I’ve repeatedly encountered in erotic literature in the past is wooden, one-dimensional characters. I’ve also seen and heard arguments that erotica doesn’t require characters with depth, as well as the stance that the author of such works should concern themselves with mere titillation. I would counter that argument by stating that erotica deals with sex in the context of story. If one wants only titillation, there are plenty of gonzo porn clips on the internet. For an erotica novel to work, the characters must be more that simple, rutting beasts.
Selena Kitt provides a decadent trio of characters at the center of this erotic drama. The two primary characters are Leah and Erica, lifelong friends who are young adults (at least 18 or 19 years old in the story) just about to enter full adulthood. Kitt chooses to place this story of forbidden sexual awakening in 1950s America, one of the most sexually-repressed decades in American culture. Leah fits the mold of the repressed American teen one would picture from that time period. She comes across as the innocent ingénue, a lithe ballet dancer who doesn’t fit the full-figured sex bomb image of the 1950s. Her best friend Erica, the daughter of the eponymous Mr. Nolan, is the wild child, a social butterfly who bucks convention by seeking a career in journalism. Erica’s naturally inquisitive nature meshes well with Lean’s repression, giving the characters a well-trodden but effective dynamic.
Both girls fit the standard trope of inexperienced young women who discover a world of forbidden sexuality. In this case, it’s the discovery of a hidden dark room filled with portfolios of pornographic images and early stag films. The collection of sexually graphic materials belong to Mr. Nolan, Erica’s widowed father who makes a good living as a legitimate photographer. To give an idea of how well-off Mr. Nolan’s social standing is in the repressed world of this story, he’s able to take a photograph portrait of the Pope. The material found under Mr. Nolan’s loft bed leads both Erica and Leah down a road of sexual awakening and the breaking of more than a few taboos.
Mr. Nolan is, for his part, a deftly-constructed character as well. The inevitability of a sexual relationship developing between him and Leah is a given. How they interact is important for the early-goings of the story, which establishes heated tension growing between them. The dance of awkward moments leading to outright seduction is paced properly and carried out with care and deliberation on the part of Selena Kitt. The character of Mr. Nolan walks a fine line between father-figure and sexual libertine, creating a desirable, human character. Once the sexual relationship begins in earnest, it makes both logical and storytelling sense. Mr. Nolan is seen as less of a sexual deviant and more as an equal recipient of seduction and emotional turmoil.
The first third of the novel is devoted to breaking down the deeply-rooted aversion to sexuality instilled by the rigid Catholic school upbringing Leah and Erica were put through at their specific parents’ insistence. By having all of her lead characters be products of pre-Vatican II Catholicism, Kitt is taking home-run swings at the religious suppression of sexuality. The remainder of the book deals less with the religious aspects and more with the emotional and social repercussions of the nascent relationship between Mr. Nolan and the much-younger Leah.
Since this is an erotic-romance novel, I must discuss the sex in the book. Selena Kitt has the rare ability to convey both the physical and emotional aspects of sex in enticing detail. None of the sex scenes felt superfluous. Instead Kitt guides her characters (and the audience) through a somewhat natural progression of sexual experimentation and maturation on the part of Erica and Leah. The majority of the encounters detailed involve Mr. Nolan and Leah but they never grow stale. What starts as a purely passionate, forbidden affair develops over the course of the novel into a genuine loving relationship. And then Kitt throws a twist at the end that will force the audience to reevaluate how they responded to all of the book’s encounters.
Having read several pieces of Selena Kitt’s work on literotica.com, I had a passing familiarity with her style of erotica. Kitt excels at examining the opposing forces of sexual freedom and religious and/or societal repression. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel and would recommend that anyone who enjoys smart, sexy erotica to check out her work.