Dear Ms. Camden:
One of my favorite romances is The Nekkid Truth, a novella in the anthology “Big Guns Out of Uniform.” For the longest time, that novella was the only published thing to your name and I’ve recommended it frequently. I’ve even told people that the novella was worth the entire price of the anthology even though I didn’t like any of the other stories. I nearly broke my finger trying to download the review copy of your new three part story.
Unfortunately The Fetish Box failed to live up to my excited expectations. The series is sold in three parts, but it reads like a full novel that was cut randomly in three parts in order to fulfill some arbitrary word count for the three parts. I’m not going to even attempt to review the three parts separately because each part doesn’t deserve its own review. It would be like selecting a random number of chapters and then reviewing each set separately.
There is no arc from part to part but then there is no arc to the entire book. Haphazard is a good description for this book. It’s a surface treatment of erotica, romance, and mystery. Each one is trotted out for a short period and time and then shelved for some other topic. The mystery aspect is revealed in the second section and is largely forgotten in the third section until the end.
24 year old VIRGIN Mary inherits a bar and sex shop from her biological mother who gave Mary away as a baby and then never visited once. Mary is a struggling artist with a small circle of friends so she decides to pack up all her belongings and move to Florida to find the legacy her mother left her. There she meets John and Max, two very different but sexually powerful men. John, in particular, wants to train her to take Mandy’s place in their lives (which seems kind of weird and unsexy in some ways). Mandy was a dominatrix and arranged fetish parties for those who liked a taste of something different.
Within seconds of meeting her, Max is kissing and disrobing her. John propositions her after sitting down to lunch with her. It’s very quick and a not little off-putting. There is almost no serious introspection by Mary at either her bio mother’s abandonment or the unexpected inheritance. She is delighted to delve into sexual relations, initially with John. In fact, the first and second parts of the story seem to set John and Mary up in a romance but Mary has sexually feelings she would like to explore with Max. The latter would be fine if it was set up as Mary experimenting with newfound sexuality but instead she feels guilt and nervousness in her intimacy with someone other than John. (Maybe it would help if she didn’t have sex with Max while John was passed out in a post orgasmic coitus on her sofa in the next room).
A late mystery is introduced when Mary’s life is threatened by an angry customer of Mandy’s who feels his marriage was threatened by Mandy’s sex parties and his wife’s participation in those sex parties. I was confused as to what purpose this served other than to have John and Max and others rush to Mary’s defense.
We are treated to POV scenes from John, the scarred war veteran and Max, the roue (who read like he was about 50) but, again, neither seemed to move the story forward. I kept thinking about what this book was about. Was it about downplaying social expectations regarding relationships? If so, why the traditional ending? Was it about sexual exploration? Then why didn’t we see more actual exploration and why were the male POVs even there if it was about Mary’s journey? Was it a mystery? Because that was both cliched and predictable, not to mention brought up only when necessary.
I’m not really sure what this book is or who the readership for the book is. I’ll read a Camden again but it might just be The Nekkid Truth. D