E-Book Review 12: Aoife Brennan – The Cougar Diaries: Part I
Sum it up, Precious: Forty-something Aoife Brennan rediscovers dating and enjoys some hot, messy sex, while juggling kids, work and a soon-to-be ex-husband.
Review it, Baby Doll: I loved this book from start to finish – professionally written, compelling throughout and a lot of fun. The author, a well-known face in Ireland, has taken the interesting decision to use a pseudonym and give her main character the same name. It lends the story an enticing scent of realism – not surprising, really, because the author told me that the story is based on her life, only ‘squeezed through a fiction mill’.
This is a funny, yet often gritty novel with a strong, realistic, likeable central character – with, naturally, some hot, messy sex chucked in. Perhaps it’s something we could collectively opt to call ‘authentic erotica’; there are no billionaires, no dreamy Adonises, no vampires and no 20-page sex scenes where everyone screams to a gushing orgasm 14 times each. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that, but it’s refreshing to read something with genuine wit, that has a character you genuinely care about – even identify with – and sex that we can all recognise.
Aoife’s life is really pretty ordinary. In the face of the economic disaster in Ireland, she’s a working mother bringing up two sons without much in the way of help from her husband, from whom she has separated. Encouraged by best friend Trisha, she begins to think about dating again. It’s a big decision – she has enough on her plate without adding a complicated love life, but it’s clear she has been alone too long and deserves something better than Paul, her good-for-nothing spouse.
However, the first sex scene (featuring a lustful, handsome young DJ) does not occur until well into the book and thereafter the sex, while not sparse, is certainly less regular than in most erotica. In fact, I’d even describe this as a novel with some erotic parts in it rather than an erotic novel. This isn’t a criticism, mind. While I think most of us who read erotica do it because we like reading good, hot writing – and we demand a lot of sex in our erotic reading – Aoife also understands that many of us also care about things like plot and, perhaps more importantly, character. Some erotica eschews character to concentrate on the fucking – and there’s certainly a place for that kind of hard, direct style. But there’s also a place for this kind of prose, where we feel we really get to know the protagonist – her wants, her needs, her complexities – and in fact the sex scenes are all the more gratifying for that, because we become more involved, less detached.
Perhaps some erotic stories are like one night stands – hard, fast, filthy, exciting, fantasy-fulfillers, while Aoife’s novel is more like a lasting relationship – the sex may not be quite as desperately steamy, but it can mean more and be just as hot, albeit in a different way. By the time Aoife does finally have a fantastic orgasm, for example, you almost want to cheer. Even when she gets a bit of good news at work I did a little fist pump because I had so bought into her story.
I found myself constantly willing good things to happen to Aoife – and not just the sexy good things. I worried about her when she meets a slightly unhinged dom; I wanted to warn her off a possible office romance; I was desperate for her to stick it to her ex; and I loved reading about how her reintroduction to the world of dating and fucking heightened her sexuality and caused her to reach for an almost forgotten rabbit in her bedside table drawer.
But what I most liked was the authenticity; of feeling that I was reading about a real life and real sex. I wouldn’t want all erotica to be like that, of course – we all want escapism now and again, but this book is raw and honest and erotic in equal measures – quite a feat to pull off.
Perhaps my only real concern is the title. Maybe we need to think about definitions. I see a ‘cougar’ as an older woman that prowls about town, that preys on young, unsuspecting men who she takes back to her lair to teach a thing or two and then devour. Aoife isn’t really like that – she may very well be a MILF, but she’s not really a cougar – more a sexy pussycat. Perhaps that feline, predatory nature will come to the fore in the next part of the story, which apparently is not too far away…
Rate it, Honey Bunch: Five out of Five Stars.