REVIEW: Turn It Up by Inez Kelley
Dear Ms. Kelley:
My feelings at the end of this book were ambivalent. I liked a lot of it, but there were significant parts of the story that gave me pause. Sebastian and Charlie have been best friends for six years. They’ve seen each other through some difficult times and their friendship has never been stronger, but Sebastian is about to test their bonds by declaring his love for Charlie.
Charlie is a self proclaimed bad girl. She glories in her sexuality and I loved that. Sebastian is an emergency room doctor and they formed a friendship and partnership after Sebastian started guesting on Charlie’s call in radio show. Their bit has become so successful that it is now a routine part of Charlie’s show called “Dr. Hot and the HoneyPot.” The on air dialogue was snappy, funny, and steamy. It sounded like a successful nighttime radio show:
“Hello, caller, you’re live on Let’s Talk about Sex with Doc and Honey. What can we do for you tonight, lover?”
“Can you answer something for me?” The rich masculine voice was softened in shyness, and Charlie cocked her head in curiosity.
“We can try. What’s your name?”
“Simon. I have never done oral sex. Not opposed to the idea, it just hasn’t happened. I’m not sure how. I mean, I’ve heard guys say write the alphabet with your tongue, others say it doesn’t work. Does it?”
Bastian chuckled and leaned forward. “Simon, if you’re concentrating on the alphabet, you’re thinking too hard. Forget what you hear in the locker rooms. Just listen to your partner, talk to her if you’re really unsure, find out what she prefers. There is no one technique. It’s what feels good to both of you.”
“Doc speaketh wisely, Simon, so listen closely. Think about it. What’s interesting about the letter K? Not a thing. Although the letters O and T are pretty nice, B, Z and H are a waste of energy.”
“You’ve thought about this a bit, haven’t you, Honey?” Bastian laughed
Bastian ups the stakes by announcing his desire to marry Charlie, on the air, and Charlie’s rebuttal is that she just wants to use him for sex. The race is on then as to who gives in first.
Charlie, however, is deeply insecure about her self worth which I found terribly disappointing because it made her proud sexuality a facade instead of an internalized acceptance. Her insecurity makes her believe she is not the type of wife Sebastian needs despite the fact that they’ve been friends for six years and Bastian exhibits no discomfort or embarrassment in her presence. For crying out loud, he’s been on air with her for six years talking frankly about sex and exchanging sexual banter. If he has no problem with that, why would he have any problem being with Charlie? Further, every action that Bastian undertakes seems to be viewed with suspicion, as a sign to Charlie that she isn’t good enough.
She had a lot of bravado but not much self esteem. This was so frustrating for me and at odds with her bold personality because she really wasn’t comfortable in her own skin and thus made her proclamations about owning one’s sexuality ring a bit hollow. If she had more self esteem would the desire to be bold simply not exist?
Bastian refuses to sleep with Charlie until she can accept his feelings toward her. He knows that she uses sexuality as a shield against intimacy and doesn’t want to ruin a precious thing through physical consummation. Conceptually, I liked this emotional conflict, I just wished it wasn’t Charlie was the one so insecure because I felt a lot of the subtext of this book is about embracing one’s sexuality and not hiding from it.
However, the sexual tension between the two friends is hotter than many explicit love scenes I’ve read and I almost felt like the consummation scene was a let down.
One of the things that bothered me throughout the story was the closeness that Sebastian and Charlie shared during several years in which Sebastian was married to another woman. The banter on the radio show was sexually charged. He would often find his way to Charlie’s place to shoot the shit. It doesn’t matter that these two professed to be only friends and Bastian’s regard for her grew into love only since his divorce. I call shenanigans. Bastian’s best friend should have been his wife, not some sex pot he exchanged quips with on the radio. Emotional intimacy is a betrayal and the failure to address this as part of the downfall of Bastian’s marriage was disappointing to say the least, particularly when the book was about how intimacy in relationships is not just sex based.
Bastian is infertile and apparently before the start of the book, he struggled with his own masculinity because of it but it doesn’t appear to be an issue that he deals with during the book. Later the issue of children becomes important, not because it challenges Bastian’s masculinity, but because of how it impacts his relationship with Charlie. However, much is made of Bastian’s longing to have kids. At one point, his brother suggests to Bastian’s ex wife that coming to his house with her baby is the akin to sticking a dirty, serrated knife in Bastian’s back and twisting it. Yet NOT ONE TIME is adoption mentioned as an option. I found this perturbing. Bastian didn’t seem to be the type of guy who cared whether his progeny had to spring literally from his own loins. I thought he had a bigger heart than that.
Putting those things aside, there is a lot to love about this story. As previously mentioned, the sexual tension is great. Bastian is a wonderful hero and I loved Charlie. There’s an interesting subplot involving Bastian’s complicated relationship with his younger, rock star brother who is a recovering drug addict. Additionally, I thought the plotting was tighter and pacing was better in this book than it was in Sweet as Sin which I felt had a dozen different conflicts shoved into one book. I waffle between giving this a B- and a C+.