One of the great joys of becoming a fiction writer has been meeting other writers. I am a proud member of the Romance Writers of Australia and Sisters in Crime and through them, I have met many wonderful women who make the sometimes lonely business of writing a joy.
Knowing other writers brings with it an unexpected anxiety. These days I often buy books written by people who I know and while I celebrate their releases with genuine excitement and buy their work with anticipation, in the back of my mind, there is a lurking menace.
It’s the fear – never spoken – that I won’t like their book.
The fear is not so much that I will think the writing bad. My writing friends work very hard on their craft. But previously, I have always chosen books based on subject or style (or whim, it must be said). When you choose a book because you like the person who wrote it, you are likely to go to fictional places that are new and unexpected and possibly well out of your comfort zone and… who knows if it will be fun?
Recently I had one of those experiences. The book is set in a post-apocalyptic Queensland, there are zombies involved (well, virus-infested ex-people out for your blood) and erotic romance involving not one hot guy but two (and one girl). All of these things are uncommon on my bookshelf. And I dearly love the writer. So I was all of a jitter.
Fortunately, I LOVED IT.
Okay, so why did I like it so much? (Please note, reviewing is not my long suit. If you want a proper blurb, you can find it here or you can check out the cheat’s guide – with pictures! – on Kylie’s blog.)
First, I loved Ali, the heroine. From the beginning,she felt very real to me. She is a modern girl, trying to be tough and manage but without any special skills that would help her get by in a nightmare world and she’s terrified. Kylie’s writing made me feel that. Her characterisation at the beginning of Flesh is one of the best openings I have read this year.
Second, it has to be said, the sex is smokin’ hot. I don’t read a lot of erotica, partly because I find there’s only so much sex I can read about without getting bored*. I have to say, though, that I was NEVER bored with Flesh. I had to fan myself with the iPad quite regularly, but I was never bored! Admittedly, towards the end, the sex went a couple of places (well, one place, really) that didn’t do anything for me, but that’s a personal preference. Each to their own! And the scene overall was so well done and I was so invested in these characters by then that I didn’t care.
I also liked that the story explored the danger posed by the non-infected as well as the zombies. There are some genuinely scary zombie encounters and as a fantasy reader from way back, I did enjoy them. But possibly a bigger danger to our merry band comes from the ‘good’ guys and I thought that was very real. Until I met these guys, I hadn’t given a lot of thought to life in a post-apocalyptic world. But now that I do, I can see that other people would be one of the biggest risks. Jealousy and self-interest and such things wouldn’t go away just because there was a common enemy and the less-than-pretty side of people plays an important part in this story.
You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned the hot guys yet. There are two (and yes, Ali gets to keep both of them). Daniel is a bona fide sweetheart and just the sort of man I like in my romances. Finn is more complicated. He’s a cop and a hero type but also adorable in his way. I’m not going to go into any more detail, because you can always read the book. What I will say is that, hot sex aside, what I LOVED about this menage set-up was the way that, by the end, the three of them had become family.
Yes, there were zombies and bad guys and sex, but in the end, this is a story about finding a safe emotional place to ride out the storms of life – whatever that looks like. Gotta love that.
If you’re up for something different, give it a try – and if you do, let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you!
*It must be said that I this happens less with the erotic romance writers I have been introduced to in more recent times. It is that there is more story in the sex? Is it possible that previously I have been reading bad erotica? I think perhaps so!