My copy of Undone arrived with strict instructions from the author herself:
‘Promise that you’ll read it in order.’
Well, of course, Kristina. How else would I read it? Do I look like the kind of person who trawls books looking for an immaculately written blow job or any hint of anal? Maybe don’t answer that.
Kristina has her reasons for not trusting me. Her second novel, Asking for Trouble, is my favourite erotica novel ever. It never leaves my bedside table, and it rarely leaves my actual bed. I lent it to the boy when I wanted him to understand what turns me on. I use it when I need reminding how to write well. It’s a superb work of erotica, but it more than holds its own as a piece of fiction outside of the genre. It’s taught me how to write characters, how to describe place … wait, I’m reviewing the wrong book.
Anyway. Asking for Trouble is the reason Kristina doesn’t trust me. When we first started chatting via Twitter, I confessed that I’d owned it for months, years even, before I fully pieced the plot together. Why? Because the sex in it is so hot that I’d been ‘reading’ (wanking over) the sex scenes time and time again, and figuring out the plot using a mixture of guesswork and logical deduction. That’s how you have great orgasms. It’s *not* how you read a book.
So, good girl that I am, I obediently started Undone at the beginning. Like, right at the beginning. With the dedication.
I’m not totally sure what the etiquette is regarding mentioning the dedication in a review. It sort of feels like it’s not fair game because it’s not part of the story: the story is *not* about Kristina’s life, the dedication presumably *is.* But anyway, here’s what it says:
For Ewan, for being generous with the measures.
For that to make sense, you kind of have to know that the book is set in a cocktail bar, and, bad reviewer that I am, I haven’t filled you in on the plot. But the cocktails aren’t really my point. Lana and Sol, the characters in Undone, aren’t Kristina and (presumably) her partner. What they do have though is affection and respect for each other that underpins all the sex in the book and proves the publishing industry wrong about everything it holds true about erotic romance. And for me, the stunning simplicity with which Kristina writes emotion and affection is captured wholeheartedly in that dedication.
Unlike most of what Black Lace publish these days, Undone is described as ‘erotic thriller,’ rather than ‘erotic romance.’ It really, really bothers me that we’ve come to understand erotic romance as being synonymous with billionaires, helicopters and fifteen-million page contracts. The reason I picked the dedication as an example of Kristina being so much more than just a sex writer is because it’s too hard to pull out an individual quote from the novel itself that proves that this is romance too: the whole text is shot through with the depth of Sol and Lana’s feelings for one another.
Not that those feelings cast any kind of soft focus glow over the sex scenes. When I first started reading Kristina’s work, I picked it up by chance: in those days I’d read pretty much any Black Lace book. Since then, I’ve learnt a lot more about my own kinks and consequently, become a lot more discerning in what I read, erotica-wise. Even in a year and half’s worth of blogging I’ve discovered that I’m not as vanilla as I thought I was: I identify as submissive far more strongly than I did at the start, but I know more about what kind of sub I am, too. What I’d call ‘formalised kink’ – beautiful rope work, toys, spankings, the word ‘Sir’ – none of that really works for me. I like improvised bondage, bruising, shame – and Undone is very much about the last of those things. Not that it doesn’t have stunning S&M kit in it – Kristina has certainly done her research into handcuffs – but it feels much more about the psychological aspects of kink than her last novel, Thrill Seeker, did.
It’s a massively intelligently-written book, but if I flick through my copy now and find the bits I underlined, it’s the visceral quality of the sex that means I’ll probably return to this as wank-fodder almost as often as I do to Asking for Trouble. Again, it’s difficult to the pluck the best bits out of context, but I particularly loved the following:
Specks of purple and green glitter shone where he’d rubbed against my make-up. I thought of the ways in which we become each other’s bodies, how a punch becomes a bruise, how fluids mingle in kisses and how I take him inside me, the boundaries of our selves no longer sealed and whole.
And then, a little later, this:
He raised himself over me, his cock bumping at my entrance. He grabbed my wrist, pinning my arm awkwardly above my head as he drove into me. His bulky shaft pushed me open, my heavy, wet insides clinging to his thickness. I cried out, as thrilled by the hand squeezing my arm as I was by the cock surging into me. He shoved high and hard, his fingers tight around my wrist.
So, do I recommend it? Hell yes. But do yourself a favour and take Kristina’s advice. Read Undone in order, as much for the thriller plot as for the sex. Don’t look for (or post!) spoilers on Amazon. It’s better that way. If you must know though, the super hot anal starts on page 221.