When J.J. places an ad seeking a mature woman to show him the ways of love, he’s sure he’s got nothing to lose. He’s a loser already, a “buddy” guy that all the girls want to dance with and talk to, but when they’re done talking about their relationships or their lives, they head home with their boyfriends and leave J.J. drunk, frustrated, and back at his apartment once again by himself. He’s a simple guy from a simple state in the city at college with no skills when it comes to the opposite sex – though he knows he’s got the right equipment for the job.
It’s also fun that Mrs. Kaufman and Me is set in the days of bell-bottoms and frizzy haired hippies. It’s not a time period I see often in erotica.
At first, the ad gets him crank calls, a prostitute, and a guy or two offering to show J.J. the ropes, but among those calls is a woman who eventually reveals her name as Elaine. J.J. feels a connection to her from the start of these phone calls, and before long, they’ve met – and in a parked car on a public street, they begin his education.
For me, it’s Elaine that steals the show. For all that we’re following J.J., Elaine has more substance to her. She is a woman married to a professor at the college where J.J. attends, and her husband is a cheating gadabout who long ago stopped being interested in her sexually and has moved on to every young woman on campus who has need of a better grade in his class. Elaine’s attitude is plausible: she rationalizes that she’s “teaching” J.J., and that since he’s not married, her own husband is contemptible, and there is no depth of emotionality to the relationship, it’s safe to have some fun and – of course – sex with J.J.
The story grows in strength as it progresses. Narratively, the first quarter of the tale or so is Elaine and J.J. meeting up on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Elaine “educating” J.J. in various ways, positions, techniques, anatomy, and grooming. Their relationship grows a little tender, which was sweet, and J.J. begins to care about this lovely woman who sets him off so easily – and is teaching him not to explode at a single touch.
Elaine has laugh lines, and her breasts are not super-pert and her stomach is not flat – she has carried a child and her body, though good, is not in the realm of science fiction. I liked that. It gave her another realistic quality that I enjoyed. Similarly, although J.J. was an athlete in high school, he hasn’t made any of the teams in college, and admits he’s getting a little soft around the edges. These are not two gorgeous people having pornographic sex, they’re two regular people having good erotic fun together. The difference is palpable.
Their connection continues throughout the story – Elaine slowly unlocks her kinkier side and her fantasies become more public and exhibitionistic as the story progresses. She comes to life for a second time and her journey is usually an empowering one. She is often “in control” but also surrenders control sometimes as well. As for J.J., as grows his confidence – and his erotic repertoire – so grows his success with girls his own age.
I will admit that I thought I saw where the tale was going, and then it went in a completely different direction. J.J. is – hormones notwithstanding – a sweet guy, and when he starts to gravitate towards a young woman his age, I was waiting for the eventual parting of the ways between him and Elaine, and a denouement that was as sweet as it might be sad. Instead, things grew more kinky, threesomes became moresomes, and although it was a satisfying tale, I did feel slightly jarred. That said, if you enjoy tales of the young and aroused opening their minds more and more to the ideas of exhibitionism, group sex, toys, shaving, partner swapping and the like, you’ll not be let down.
The sex sizzles – and sometimes fizzles in a fun and fresh way. It’s refreshing to read about a young man who isn’t immediately a natural. The occasional “No, you’re doing that wrong” from Elaine is a nice touch, and all the more satisfying as J.J. figures it out.
Descriptively, there was one obvious omission – and this could just be the gay male reader in me – when a second man becomes involved in the group dynamic, we get no real description of him whatsoever, beyond his age. And when Elaine wishes to take on both fellows at once, there’s a laugh-out-loud moment where the guys don’t want their balls to touch, and a pillowcase comes to the rescue. Really? You were both just tag teaming Elaine a few moments ago – I imagine something brushed something else once or twice already.
That’s my only real gripe, though, and overall I liked the progression of J.J. and Elaine – though I definitely enjoyed her narrative more. Randall Lang has brought a fun and sexy story here and turned the “older woman mentoring the younger man” trope just a smidgeon sideways in the process.
Abraham Lincoln was once asked to review a romantic novel.
It may seem absurd to think of a wartime president being asked to do something as trivial as reviewing a romantic novel. However, whilst America was recently at war with Iraq, George Bush appeared on the TV show Deal or No Deal, so it seems there is a tradition of America’s leaders pursuing trivial pursuits during times of national crisis.
Having read the romantic novel, Lincoln said, “People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.” These, I think, are some of the wisest words I have ever read. As a book reviewer, I consider this pithy summary to be a mantra which I keep at the forefront of my mind when I’m compiling my own thoughts about a piece of fiction.
Trailer Park Nights V: L.A. Women Don’t Wear Underwear by Randall Lang, is the fifth novel in an ongoing series of stories. There is a prefatory notice, urging readers to start enjoying the series from the beginning. However, this is followed by an explicit prologue presented as “…a brief introduction and explanation of the events leading up to the beginning of this portion of the story.”
This prologue involves Randy, Marianne, Linda and Jordan in an entanglement of swapping, swinging, group sex and strap-ons. The scene concludes with Randy worried about the homoerotic tones of an episode of explicitness that occurred between himself and Jordan.
Randall Lang does a good job of explaining his character’s motives and reactions to such developments. Randy (the character) is presented as uncomfortable with the cognitive dissonance of receiving pleasure from an experience outside his boundaries of perceived acceptability. This is shown to the reader with the thoughtful detail of the character’s subsequent confusion.
Fortunately, Randy gains perspective with the help of his old acquaintance Terri. And, from there, he is able to help Linda move out to L.A. pursuing her dream of becoming a porn movie star.
I can’t criticise Trailer Park Nights V overtly because I haven’t read Trailer Park Nights I, II, III or IV. I can say that the writing style didn’t particularly work for me. However, I suspect the readers who have been faithfully following Randy and Linda et al from the beginning will be used to Lang’s authorial voice and comfortable with the tone. The sex scenes are explicitly detailed and competently paced, to produce an arousing effect as well as to illicit sympathy for the existing characters.
If you’re a follower of the series, and wondering what happens in this instalment, I won’t run the risk of including spoilers. Instead, I’ll quote Lang from his author’s notes at the conclusion of the novel:
This fifth book was started with the intention of introducing hard core BDSM and homosexual exploration into the storyline. But, as authors always say, the author does not write the story, the characters write the story. These characters were more interested in the pure enjoyment of sex than they were in dominating or being dominated by others. Instead, in true trailer park fashion, they opened their world to new characters and embarked upon the adventure of chasing a dream, all within a tapestry of exciting sexual encounters.
Perhaps my reservations come because I’m simply not a lover of sequels. Terminator 2 aside, I have yet to see a follow-up movie, or read a follow-up novel that matched the promise or satisfaction of the original. Or perhaps, because I came to this series of stories so late, I’m missing out on a lot of the soap-opera style qualities pertinent to the developing narrative as it follows Randy and Linda’s continuing sexual adventures.
Nevertheless, to quote the ineffable Mr Lincoln:
People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.