Author of the lauded Neptune & Surf, founder of the Erotica Authors Association, and poplar anthology editor Marilyn Jaye Lewis offers another wonderful erotic tale in her latest novel Freak Parade.
Singer/songwriter Eugenia Sharpe calls herself a one hit wonder, but it was a full album of songs that took her to the height of fame. Then, she quit. She thought she did it for love, but when she finds her record producer boyfriend’s photo album of his sexual conquests while he’s out of town, she realizes she’s been fooling herself. In an incredibly refreshing turn (I’ve read too many books where the first thing the woman does is take a bubble bath) Eugenia goes to stay with her lesbian best friend/ former lover Wanda and enjoys a night of passionate, hot fuck-buddy sex with Wanda.
I read a lot of erotica. I write a bit too. Call me jaded, but it takes a bit to get my attention these days. Marilyn Jaye Lewis had me at that scene. I’m not sure if it was the realistic details, or the way Genie finally focused on her lover’s pleasure that did it for me, but who wants to deconstruct the mechanics of a scene when it turns you on?
Genie’s been a recluse for five years and doesn’t handle the real world well. Since she squandered away her earnings from her album, and Darryl (the cheating bf) owns everything, moving out isn’t so simple. Wanda offers Genie a job in her thrift store and a couch for as long as she needs it. She obsesses over being recognized and having to explain why she’s a lowly store clerk now, which isn’t exactly endearing. She seems almost incapable of taking care of herself. However, as most erotica novels are journeys of self-discovery, it’s pretty clear that her task is to become a functioning adult.
Moving back to the poorer part of Manhattan takes Genie back to her creative roots, which Darryl sneeringly calls the freak parade. It also surrounds her with old friends and lovers. Some of those people are good support, others are a lesson waiting to be learned. Genie might not identify as bisexual, but she has no gender hang-ups, so as she moves through her old haunts there are plenty of sexual escapades with men and women. She even gets off listening to her gay roommate dominate a closeted movie star. Not all of her experiences are positive, but they force her to grow up more.
Genie meets a Puerto Rican man named Eddie on the dance floor of a small club and is immediately enamored, but then he disappears. A week later, he calls and explains that he went out to buy flowers for her, and she was gone when he got back with them. They start an affair that wakes her muse. For the first time in years, she’s writing songs again, but even though she’s falling in love with Eddie, and the sex is great, there are problems. When they go out together, Genie’s eyes are opened to the real disparity between her poor but white world and his. His pride makes it hard for him to accept that she might be rich again after she records her new album. They can’t truly be together in New York. Either he’s treated like a criminal, or everyone speaks Spanish around her and leaves her out of the conversation. When he gets a job offer in Pennsylvania, she sees it as their chance to be together.There were some things that bothered me about this story, but they’re little nits. Genie’s friend Wanda, who was so important in the first few chapters, faded to the background. Genie’s self-absorption didn’t improve one bit in that regard from the opening chapter to the end. If she needed someone, she was all over them. If she didn’t… meh. But that’s how I saw the character. I also would have liked to have seen Genie’s realization of the disparity between white and non-white privilege lead to something other than fleeing the city to get away from it. (And how does a girl grow up in rural Kentucky without being aware of the unwritten racial rules?) Maybe it was asking for too much from Eugenia Sharpe. I know that this story is going to appeal to many readers, and the strong, macho, dominant Puerto Rican lover Eddie is going to make the closeted (and not so closeted) submissive girls of the world swoon with lust. The rest of you are going to love it because it’s everything you could want in erotic literature.