L. Marie Adeline
Broadway / February 5, 2013 / $15.00 print, $9.99 digital
Cassie Robichaud’s life has been filled with regret and loneliness since the death of her husband. She waits tables at the rundown Café Rose in New Orleans, and every night she heads home to her solitary one-bedroom apartment. But when she discovers a notebook left behind by a mysterious woman at the café, Cassie’s world is forever changed. The notebook’s stunningly explicit confessions shock and fascinate Cassie, and eventually lead her to S∙E∙C∙R∙E∙T, an underground society dedicated to helping women realize their wildest, most intimate sexual fantasies. Cassie soon immerses herself in an electrifying journey through a series of ten rapturous fantasies with gorgeous men who awaken and satisfy her like never before. As she is set free from her inhibitions, she discovers a new confidence that transforms her, giving her the courage to live passionately. Equal parts enticing, liberating and emotionally powerful, S∙E∙C∙R∙E∙T is a world where fantasy becomes reality.
When L. Marie Adeline's S.E.C.R.E.T. opens, thirty-five-year-old Cassie Robichaud’s life is at a stand-still: She is widowed, hasn’t had a date—never mind sex—in years, and her days are spent waiting tables in a New Orleans café. At night, she goes home alone to her one-bedroom apartment in a building nicknamed the “spinster hotel.”
It’s not that Cassie isn’t attractive, or that she doesn’t have options. But after a miserable marriage that ended in tragedy, she is unwilling to take risks in either love or life. Despite her attraction to the café’s owner, Will, she rejected his romantic interest in her. Now, Will has moved on with one of Cassie’s co-workers, while Cassie continues with her solitary existence.
It’s not until a chic French woman becomes a regular customer that Cassie starts to think about how much she has let herself go. And the woman’s obvious chemistry with her sexy male companion makes Cassie long for the part of her life that she has forsaken. One day, the woman leaves behind a mysterious notebook, and Cassie can’t resist the temptation to look inside. What she finds shocks and titillates her: it’s a graphic recounting of sexual exploits:
Wow. First off, it was weird! I won’t lie. But yet it had this incredible filling effect. That’s the only way to describe it. Like I had it all inside me. Like I couldn’t go any further and then I found I could. I didn’t care how loud I was being. His hands were working me over all the while. It felt so incredible!
Thank God the mansion is soundproof, or so I’m told. It must be; otherwise, everyone would know what was happening in each of these rooms…
The notebook leads her to S.E.C.R.E.T, an underground society devoted to helping women experience their deepest sexual fantasies. Their motto is No judgements. No limits. No shame. When Cassie is invited into the world of S.E.C.R.E.T she is told, “What we do here, Cassie, is we help women get back in touch with the most powerful part of themselves. One step at a time. Does that interest you?”
It does. And so begins a sexual odyssey that is comprised of ten steps: surrender, courage, trust, generosity, fearlessness, confidence, curiosity, bravery, exuberance, and finally, The Choice.
Cassie finds herself seduced into a series of erotic encounters, each fulfilling a long-held fantasy of her own—and each enacted by magnificent, generous, and tempting men. But that’s all it is: fantasy. Cassie knows this, and accepts the S.E.C.R.E.T. encounters for their gifts as well as their limitations. But fantasy soon begins to color her reality, and Cassie feels more confident, happy, and alive. She also finds herself closer to Will than she ever let herself imagine, but she knows she will be forced to choose between a life of adventure with S.E.C.R.E.T, or a chance at true love.
This novel surprised and thrilled me. The original, well-developed premise, a likeable and interesting heroine, and the lush, romantic, but oh-so-slightly dangerous setting of New Orleans kept the pages turning. But my favorite aspect of this novel is that it’s provocative, and not just for its edgy sex scene. In the beginning of her journey, Cassie is told “fear is the only thing that stands between you and your real life.” She is also told, “Cassie, we are our sexual lives.” Are these things true? If so, to what extent? In the end, this novel is not, ultimately, about sex—it’s about choices. And I dare any reader to finish this book and not think hard about her own.
Jamie Brenner grew up in Main Line Philadelphia on a steady diet of Judith Krantz, Jackie Collins, and Aaron Spelling. Her latest novel, The Gin Lovers (St. Martin’s Press), will be out in paperback on February 12. Jamie writes erotic romance under the name Logan Belle, including the trilogy Blue Angel (Kensington), Bettie Page Presents: The Librarian (Pocket Star/Simon & Schuster), and the upcoming Miss Chatterley. Jamie lives in New York City. For more, please visit www.jamiebrenner.com or follow her @jamieLbrenner.