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REVIEW: Addicted by Charlotte Stein

Dear Ms. Stein:

Addicted is the third work of yours I’ve read. (The other two are Sheltered (reviewed here by Jane and January) and Restraint.) I’ve enjoyed all three works–Restraint is my favorite–but, after I finish each book, I think, who the hell were those people? That’s not a bad thing–in fact, I like it. Romance critics often bemoan the sameness of many of the books we read; we complain frequently about overused tropes (a term I so overuse I vow to give it up after this review.) This is not a problem in your books. You write the unexpected; when I read Addicted I thought about a scene in Karen Ranney’s in An Unlikely Governess where the hero describes something unique as being like a unicorn. In Addicted, both the heroine–Kit Connor–and the hero–Dillon Holt–and their love story are unicorn all the way.

Addicted by Charlotte SteinKit Connor is a 20-something librarian and a wanna-be erotica writer. The thing is, her sex life defines mediocre and her erotica lacks a certain verve. In fact, when she reads the first chapter of her erotic novel The Master (which is, I guess, a meta-novel in that it’s erotica in erotica that’s meant to satirize erotica), her best friend laughs so hard she cries. Kit’s not especially offended: she knows she knows her carnal knowledge is nonexistent.

After all, what do I know about sex? Nothing. Less than nothing. Every sexual encounter I’ve ever had has occurred beneath the sheets, under a double layer of darkness. Once I started kissing some guy’s elbow, thinking I’d found his cock. And as for the pleasure I’ve just described to her, in my twisted tale of kinky delights …

Well, I guess that’s disingenuous of me, at best. I should have written:

Sex for her was sort of like being vaccinated, by a big pink finger. 

Kit’s friend–a good woman–offers Kit an alternative.

‘Here,’ she says, and I know what’s going to happen before she’s even finished fishing through her wallet. She’s finding a card for me, with the name of some expert on it. She did the same thing last year, when I told her I was afraid of spiders – she sent me to a wellness specialist, who made me touch a spider.

Which doesn’t bode well for this particular scenario.

I can’t imagine myself fingering a penis, to get over my need for more exciting sex. If anything, the penis fingering is only going to make me crazier – though of course I don’t say that. Mainly because it’s insane, but also because I suspect she’s going to offer me something far more daunting.

‘You want realism? You should try this on for size,’ she says, then hands me a square of yellow construction paper with a terrible-sounding title emblazoned across its front. Sexual Healing, it says. As though Marvin Gaye is going to help lower my expectations and make me all normal again. ‘It’s a kind of therapy group for people with sexual … issues.’

Oh, God, there’s that word again. Issues. And if I’m not mistaken, she seems to think that I have them. This isn’t just a friendly word of advice to help me be more than a librarian.

This really is her way of making me touch a spider – only the other way around. She wants me to sit in a cold, probably clinical room, with people who think sex is a hideous nightmare. I’m going to come away even more depressed about the whole thing, and probably never do it again.

Is that the aim here? To make me never do it again?

Kit trudges off to the group and there hears Dillon wax profusely and profanely about all the fucking, sucking, licking, and dicking he’s done. He’s a sex storyteller on verbal steroids and Kit is transfixed. After the meeting, Dillon follows her and, once she explains she was only there because she was doing research for a “dirty book,” Dillon, full of sly amusement, offers to help her with her work and tells her to come round to his flat the next day.

Kit’s not quite sure what to expect from Dillon, but what she gets, that first day in his apartment, isn’t anything she’s ready for. Not only is Dylan (just barely) wearing a towel, he’s so orally outrageous, Kit struggles to follow their conversation. When she asks him what he’s got planned, he laughs.

‘Ohh, you have no idea what I’ve got planned. Bad things. Outrageous things. You’ll be talking to your therapist about them in ten years’ time.’

‘You’re fucking with me.’

‘Yeah, I totally am. Take it easy, Kitty-cat – I’m not some sex demon.’

Oh yes he is. He regales her with a Guccione-worthy tale of how he lost his virginity, tells her he’s going to make her come so hard she’ll be amnesic, gently kisses her, and makes her lose her mind. She then bolts-after the first cataclysmic orgasm of her life–only to realize he’s palmed her novel and she has no choice but to see him again. When she does, he proposes–to further her education–they act out the chapters of The Master. Kit, anxious and agog, agrees and the two begin an erotic exploration that includes lots of sex but, as Kit slowly discerns, little intimacy.

The book is told entirely from Kit’s point of view–kudos there; this is one of the best first person narrations I’ve read–and so the reader experiences Dillon only through Kit. Given that Kit’s not all that great with relationships–her life is distressingly lonely–it takes both the reader and Kit much of the book to see what an utter faker “open” Dillon is.  He’s all talk, action, and hidden heart. And, after a while, Kit, whom Dillon has empowered with his massive cock and his unlimited sensuality, demands Dillon offer her his inner self.

I liked Addicted. Neither Kit nor Dillon really know what they’re doing in life–I think one could classify this as post-New Adult Erotica–and their relationship pushes them both, in fits and starts, to take ownership of their lives in lovely and healthy ways. The book is very funny–Ms. Stein has a hip deadpan humor that is vibrantly fresh–even as it is keenly sad. I found the novel more romantic than sexy; there is a crassness to the sex that, for me, was interesting but not arousing. However, I bet if you like modern erotica, you will find Addicted salaciously steamy. I give it a B+.

~Dabney

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I loved romances when, back in the mid 70's, in junior high, I read every Barbara Cartland novel I could check out from the library. Then, thanks to a savvy babysitter, I got my hands on the hot stuff. To this day I can remember how astonishingly steamy I found Rosemary Rogers' Sweet Savage Love. I abandoned romance when I went to college and didn't pick one up again until 2007 when I got my first Kindle. Since then, I’ve read countless romances; loved many, liked more, hated some. Most of what I read is historical and contemporary romance, but I’m open to almost any genre. I like my books to have sizzle, wit, and plots that make sense. I’d take sexy over sweet any day. I’m a sucker for smart heroes and smart-mouthed heroines. When not reading or writing about reading, or wishing I could rule the world, I'm meddling in the lives of my kids--I have four, ages 17 to 21--, managing my husband's practice, doing bossy volunteer work, and hanging out with Dr. Feelgood.

11 Comments

  1. Anne V
    Feb 01, 2013 @ 13:37:20

    I’m so happy to see this review!

    I really enjoy Charlotte Stein’s work – it does seem to mostly be marketed as erotica, but like Addicted and Restraint, Waiting in Vain, Curve Ball and Doubled (all short story/novella length) are titles I found to be romances. Those three could all be described as f2l, but the propelling narration and the imperfect, very human heroes and heroines made me not even notice the trope, which isn’t one I seek out or particularly enjoy.

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  2. Dabney
    Feb 01, 2013 @ 13:41:17

    @Anne V: f2l?

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  3. Anne V
    Feb 01, 2013 @ 13:54:28

    Oh, I’m sorry. Friends to Lovers.

    Although in both Curve Ball and Waiting in Vain, it’s more accurate to say Friends of Sibling to Lovers. and Doubled is m/f/m.

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  4. Sarah
    Feb 01, 2013 @ 13:56:19

    I bought this but than realized I should have asked something first. Does this have some kind of HEA ending? I don’t expect marriage and babies, just an acknowledgement that they are making something together?

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  5. Anne V
    Feb 01, 2013 @ 13:57:22

    @Sarah: Yup.

    ReplyReply

  6. Sarah
    Feb 01, 2013 @ 14:13:46

    @Anne V:

    Excellent! thank you!

    ReplyReply

  7. Kati
    Feb 01, 2013 @ 15:38:31

    Oh this book made me uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. I think because Kit was sort of naturally awkward, her internal monologue, and my perception of how uncomfortable some of the encounters made her made me really squirmy.

    I read this with the same sort of reaction I have to Megan Hart. Analytically, beautiful prose, well written, tightly plotted with absolutely filthy (in a good way) sex scenes. But the entirety of the book gave me a sinking feeling in my belly. I was uncomfortable in the way I am when watching singers who audition for American Idol thinking they’re awesome and they’re awful. It’s like being party to a tremendously awkward social situation. Makes me want the floor to open up and swallow me. My reaction to this book was that. The whole time. I’m glad I read it, but I can honestly say I don’t think Stein is an author for me.

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  8. Delphine Dryden
    Feb 01, 2013 @ 17:48:26

    @Kati I have to LOL – that’s pretty much the way I’d describe my own reaction to Charlotte’s work…except that I adore it. Every cringe-inducing, train-wreck-heartbreak word of it. Which possibly says more about me than it does about Charlotte’s writing, dunno. But I’m so glad to see her getting all the praise; I find her voice so remarkable and truly unique. A unicorn, indeed.

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  9. Allison
    Feb 01, 2013 @ 19:56:46

    Thank you for reviewing this! I’m a ginormo Charlotte Stein fan, but I didn’t know this was out. I absolutely love all the weird, awkward stuff–it’s part of the charm for me.

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  10. Dabney
    Feb 01, 2013 @ 21:11:18

    The awkward, weird stuff is, to 51 year old me, endearing and even evocative. I think Ms. Stein’s work achieves greatness when it celebrates the total weirdness of the not yet formed but “I’m sure I’m on to something” time of life that can be the post-collegiate/early 20′s time. Yes, her work makes me come close to cringing when I see the ways her characters behave. And then I think, heh, I was probably there once in my own way. Her stuff isn’t just charming; it resonates of reality to me, several decades past that part of my life.

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  11. renea jarrett
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 19:46:07

    hi I was woundering cause I’ve noticed that the books I’ve checked online to see if I could order your books in paper back but haven’t found any only on kindle only even ones that only come out last year. like the book doubled its just not every one can afford a kindle that wants to get your books and read them. sorry if this sounds like i’m bitching I just thought it could be a good idea to have the books in paper back. from renea jarrett

    ReplyReply

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