October 2004

Julie Boulanger

la marquise

Choose Your Own Sex Adventure

When I first received these two Create Your Own Erotic Fantasy novels, I quickly and simply figured I would write of them as a genre. I guess I started off with a bias, one long-engrained in me from when I first started reading Choose Your Own Adventure books. This childhood perception was never corrected or altered by an adolescent point of view because when I was a teen I (snobbishly) avoided these types of books, thinking that they along with mystery, fantasy, science fiction and horror books were “guy” things. In my personal lexical, all “guy” things were devoid of “true human” meaning. Hindsight being 20/20, I now realize how many great novels I missed out on and find myself needing to catch up. These Create Your Own Erotic Fantasy books were a great reality check.

As far as genre is concerned, the point is rather self-descriptive. Each book follows one character who finds him/herself in a new city, prone to meet new people and find themselves in new situations. Needless to say, these encounters and experiences revolve around the erotic and the sexual. For the reader, these books are a wealth of short stories revolving around the same characters, and these stories vary from day to day depending on your mood. You can play it safe, fearful, sluttish, kinky, submissive, dominant or completely over-the-board curious, depending on what you’re into that particular day. To write these books off as all one and the same is limiting, to say the least.

I first read The Classics Professor by Michael Hemmingson. Mark arrives in New York from Chicago and has a year to prove his intellectual worth in order to get a permanent position at the university. This premise is coupled with adapting to his new co-workers, some of whom “can” have a lot in store for him. The characters are quite rich. I appreciated how the author did not pigeonhold them into set personalities, but allowed them to change depending on the role the reader chose for Mark. On the down side, I was a bit surprised about how many erotic scenes were rushed through, lacking in detail and sexual energy. Then I decided to change my reading pattern. Regardless of the narrative, I just picked a page and took it from there (besides, by then I already knew Mark and his entourage pretty well). That’s how I fell unto some heavy-duty kinky material that pushed more than one of my buttons. I never figured out how to get there (Am I just not naturally kinky enough? Maybe there’s a secret passage in the book? I am an amateur to the genre…), but got there I did and can only say that this book, or parts of it, will surely be reread.

Then came Kathryn in the City by Mary Ann Mohanraj. Kathryn is a good girl from Greendale, Indiana, who suddenly decides to break-off with her all-too-safe (i.e. boring) fiancé and heads to San Francisco with the hopes of recreating her life. She has mid-length blond hair, huge breasts and a flat ass (“Wait, didn’t I see this in a porn flick once?”). Being in San Francisco, Kathryn is confronted with bisexuals and half-naked roommates from all around, and though her mother would be totally freaked by all this, she decides that the “new her” can deal with it (because if the reader decides that she can’t deal with it, the story ends rather quickly). So onwards and forwards into this new life that is so different from life in Indiana, with Kathryn repeating ad nausum how she would never do this in Indiana, and what would the people in Indiana think, and if only her ex saw her now; yet every single time she meats a new man the reader is reminded how much she can just image his big strong hands over her body, touching her and feeling up her big breasts. This novel’s downfall is the character with which the reader must share his/her journey. Kathryn feels like she is cut out of cardboard to the fittings of some imaginary porn-tooting male audience (yet, don’t men tend to watch porn more than read it?). This fake-ness seeps into the whole narrative. The erotic scenes are bland and because Kathryn comes off as being quite stupid, which made me feel that the book was also. Worse, I had the impression that the author just wasn’t taking her audience seriously when she wrote these pages. I kept reading it out of frustration, searching for improvements, but alas, none arose so I put it down, unsatisfied.

The Create Your Own Erotic Fantasy concept is definitely interesting. You can be honest, choosing what you would in actual life, or honestly choose what you would actually never do! And that’s the fun of it. Plus, I’ve realized that in the end, depending on your choices, you always get what you deserve. I find designed conclusions in the world of sex/erotic fiction (or any other, for that matter) to be refreshing. But don’t let the genre fool you. As in all genres, some books are better than others.

The Classics Professor by Michael Hemmingson
Gotham
ISBN: 1592400310
236 Pages

Kathryn in the City by Mary Ann Mohanraj
Gotham
ISBN: B0002Z00JY
235 Pages