First of all, TRIGGER WARNINGS abound here, as the book I’m reviewing deals with fantasies of non-consensual sex (yah, check out that title). So if this is of concern to you, check out some of my other reviews.
Now. If you’re like me, then at first the very notion of fantasising sexually about – let’s not prevaricate – rape, is extremely difficult to wrap your head around. However, just because it’s not my bag does not mean that a great many people do not have this fantasy. And Lilah Pace’s Asking For It manages to deal with what could be a shocking and disturbing premise for an erotic romantic story in an admirably thorough, careful and compelling way.
Our heroine, graduate student Vivienne, holds this non-con fantasy as her deepest sexual wish, and also as a deep source of shame. This is in large part due to the fact that a rape was perpetrated upon her as a young woman. However, when she meets the mysterious and (of course) very sexy Jonah Marks, she finds someone with whom she may be able to explore her fantasies. Because when he learns of her predilection, he offers to make her dreams a reality. They agree to embark on an affair in which they will remain near-strangers and act out sexual scenarios of faked non-consent. But as their relationship begins to tread the line between acting out fantasies and falling in love, we come to learn that Jonah hides a troubled past of his own.
OK, so. This could all sound super-seriously creepy. However, Vivienne is an intelligent woman, in therapy to help her cope with and deal with her past and the issues that her fantasies (and subsequent relationship with Jonah) bring up. She questions her motivations and her choices at every turn. Jonah is careful to set very specific boundaries for their shenanigans, with Vivienne’s consent, safety, and post-“scene” well-being held in highest regard. It is a testament to Lilah Pace’s skill as a writer that ensuing story is intriguing, oddly believable, and the growing romance between Vivienne and Jonah is steadily and compellingly handled. I really warmed to these damaged characters, and to their sexual and romantic journey. My only criticism may be, perhaps, that while the attack in Vivienne’s past is sadly all-too believable, the damage inflicted upon Jonah seemed a little far-fetched.
Regardless, I very much admire Ms Pace for allowing her characters to investigate why they want to do these things, to really ask themselves questions that most right-thinking people would. This is very much in contrast to the issue I have with many of the many, many… many erotic romances that deal with (or use the tropes of) BDSM. Female submission is a difficult one to reconcile with feminism (for me at least), but Asking for It treads this line with intelligence. It’s a fascinating read that I would definitely recommend, bearing the trigger warnings in mind.
Cringe Factor 1/5
Is it Hot in Here? 3.5/5
For the Love of Feminism! Hmm/5
Overall Tasty Goodness 4/5