REVIEW: Sex as a Second Language by Alisa Kwitney
Dear Mrs. Kwitney,
Your first book had more of a traditional “romance” style to it and since then, you’ve been moving in more a “chick lit” crossed with “women’s fiction” with some romance direction. I’m fine with that and have enjoyed all your books but it is something I thought I should mention in case fans are hoping for another “Dominant Blonde” book. While Kat, the heroine of Sex as a Second Language, does look like she’ll end up with someone, this is really more a story of Kat learning who she is and what she wants out of life now that she’s forty.
Kat is a former soap opera star who “retired” to have a child but whose 10 year marriage is now almost over. Her actor husband, who is headed towards stardom now, has little time for their learning impaired son and his only contact with Kat is through lawyers as they fight over the terms of the settlement. Kat’s trying to break back into acting but is finding that the options for 40 year old actress are few and often limited to infomercials for dubious skin care products. But she needs more money than her job as an English language teacher pays so she’s learning to lower her standards. When the spy father who abandoned her and her mother suddenly appears in her life after a 30 year absence, Kat doesn’t know if she wants to see him or tell him to f*ck off. She also doesn’t know what to do with Magnus, an Icelander in her language class who keeps showing up wherever she goes. Meanwhile Magnus, who is actually a CIA agent, is desperate to earn Kat’s confidence and hopefully get in touch with her father whose knowledge of a third world leader is needed to avert a potential crisis. What he never counts on is what ends up getting Kat’s interest.
I’ve always admired how you can juggle so many different plot threads and end up having them all come together in the end. I also like your sense of place as New York City comes to life without the book ending up as a travelogue. And you’ve obviously done a lot of research into the jobs you portray then managed to ease them into the book so it looks effortless. All the characters have a reason for being included in the story and I really like how you show them to us by who they are and what they do rather than just a brief description.
The revelations in the book and Kat’s revelations about herself, aren’t suddenly sprung on the reader. It’s nice that though you move the characters in certain directions towards the end of the story, you still leave certain elements open ended and don’t hog tie us into a quick HEA with all major conflicts miraculously solved by the last page. I found myself chuckling and laughing out loud throughout the book yet you can write deeply emotional scenes without going over the top.
Maybe this won’t be what some readers are looking or hoping for but it works for me and I hope I don’t have to wait 2 years for your next book. B for you.