Hello, Fellow Readers! Here is second segment of Moira Nelligar’s Author in Review of Robin Schone.
~ PART TWO ~
AWAKEN, MY LOVE was Robin Schone’s first published novel and has several distinctions to its legacy. First, it is considered the first romance novel that opens with a masturbatory scene. Second, twenty-eight agents rejected it before the 29th sold it to a publisher within 5 days of taking Robin on. Third, it may be the only book where a heroine gets catapulted back into time via the orgasm at the climax of that masturbatory scene.
Back in the late 1990s, Robin experienced some amount of vilification from women who didn’t like the idea of their heroines masturbating or experimenting with anal sex and some even went so far as to categorically dismiss her scorching sex scenes as pornography. My hat’s off to Robin for pushing through the miasma of discontent and censure to continue writing and sharing her words with an evolving and maturing audience.
Here are a couple of stories worth reading ...
39-year old Elaine’s body weeps for release as she lies next to her sleeping husband in present day Chicago. For 17 years, her husband has made excuses about why he is not emotionally or physically available to her.
In Dorset, England, it is 1883 and 33-year-old Charles Lucien Villiers Mortimer lies with his 21 years old wife, Morrigan, of one year, having finally consummated their wedding bed. His wife is repelled by him and he climaxes inside her and has never felt more alone in his life.
He wakes in the morning and sees her body stiff and unresponsive beside him. She’s removed his wedding ring in an act of rejection of his person. For a full year he has hoped to spark life in her cold body but he has come to believe she’s a lost cause. Almost two years earlier, he’d come across her frolicking in the forest, a beguiling beauty, and, he’d hoped, a woman of passion. He is titled and wealthy and could have had any woman of the ton to which he is a member but he chose this wood nymph and hoped to unleash the needs that surely had to be within her but time and time again she rejected him, turning away his gifts, his affections, his person. Come hell or high water, though, he WILL have an heir if nothing else from this cold fish of a wife.
Elaine wakes to darkness and a strange dream. A woman looking like a character out of a Charles Dickens novel is forcefully waking her in a thick Scottish brogue and, as Elaine shimmies off the bed, the slender hairy legs that stand are not the plump ones Elaine knows as her own. She begins to take inventory. Her left calf is scarred. Her hair is waist length black instead of her usual mousey brown. Her apartment has been replaced by a huge bedroom. There’s no bathroom and she has to make do with a chamber pot. Where the hell’s the toilet paper?
It’s no dream, it’s a nightmare! Elaine has somehow been transported back in time and into someone else’s body. She’s in a voluptuous body, thinner than her chunky own, younger and firmer. Until she wakes from this bad dream, she has to figure out how to pass as Morrigan and she has no way of knowing the day, the place or even the century.
I fell in love with Elaine immediately. She’s a city girl who misses Sara Lee croissants and strong hot coffee in the morning. She misses a toothbrush and facial soap and she immediately notices this body she’s in needs a good bath, so after three days of ducking the lord and the servants, she locks her door to slip into one. Washing her hair with lye soap, she gets herself as clean as she’s able while the bath water is still hot (there are no faucets to replenish the hot water once it becomes room temperature) and steps out of the tub and promptly loses her towel as she squeaks in shock seeing Charles there.
“Very fetching, my dear. You should greet your husband thus more often.”
Charles doesn’t know what to make of her. His wife hadn’t taken a full bath during their entire year of marriage. The clothing strewn about the room is part of his wife’s bridal trousseau that she had never worn. There is emotion behind the cold black eyes for the first time. He finds the mystery of her intriguing.
Like so many of Robin’s heroines that follow, the story starts with Elaine having no preparation for the raw sexuality of the man who is not her husband French kissing her. It is not something her husband would ever do and nothing in her twentieth century life has prepared her for the searing pleasure of the man’s mouth on hers. Her own husband has never kissed her like this and her knees nearly buckle as her body turns molten.
The vest stretched tautly across his flat stomach, riding a pair of dinner pants that left nothing to the imagination. She inspected the bulge in his lap.
"Is there something amiss with my person?" he asked.
He looked down as he draped his napkin over his lap, briefly perusing the bulge in his crotch before covering it with a flow of white silk, resulting, then, in a bulge of white silk. Elaine followed his deliberately provocative movements before, catching herself, she quickly brought her eyes back up to his face. He was waiting for her. That long mouth with the full lower lip stretched in a taunting smile, gelid eyes bright with a knowing gleam. He looked as if he had hidden beneath her bed and witnessed things no man—or woman, for that matter—had a right to witness.
I love a knowing man and that Charles is aware Elaine is pouring over him hungrily engages the reader flawlessly.
Elaine must behave like Charles’ wife Morrigan who is left handed to her right, who does not wear the wedding ring Elaine has slipped on to the awareness of Charles. In simple adaptation to the times, Elaine is making decisions that counter Morrigan ‘s icy history with her husband.
Charles confesses to a friend that his wife is an icy bitch and rejects his physical attention.
"I can't believe I am hearing this," Damon said lightly, black eyes alight with unholy glee. "Charles, renowned for his knowledge of the Tantrics—Charles, with whom I have had both whores and ladies alike to beg for a setup—this is the same Charles who cannot bed his own wife?"
Charles is confused with the situation. His wife has worn but one dull grey dress for the entire first year of their marriage. Now she wears clothing from her trousseau. Further, his wife won’t talk to anyone, not even the servants (Elaine is afraid her American accent will give her away), and she’s writing notes with a right slant where she’s left. Nothing adds up.
His friend is a doctor and suggests a treatment for female hysteria.
As I was saying, the preferred treatment for hysteria—and excess piety and frigidity is a recognized form of female hysteria—was the excitation of the clitoris. Maybe—just a possibility, of course—but maybe when you, ah, had coitus you provided the necessary stimulation to start her onto the road to recovery. And now all she needs is more stimulation to bring her completely around. Preferably by your hand, of course."
That evening, Elaine discovers Charles’ library and finds amongst all the classics a book with illustrated plates of the Kama Sutra. She is spellbound, examining the Indian couples drawn in the colorful plates in various stages of physical congress. She is not alone. Charles interrupts her perusal, forcing her to examine the vivid drawings. With him clasping her two hands effortlessly in one of his, he strokes her body, telling her to let go and stop fighting him and just relax. His voice oils the descent of rational thinking Elaine into quivering wanton.
A laugh out loud moment in the library, Charles speaking:
The women of India greatly value the taste; it is a symbol of passion, of virility, and of pleasures to come." The voice deepened, becoming hotter, huskier. "I have been told it is somewhat salty."
Elaine had no doubt that his sources included whole panels of taste testers.
Stroked to shuddering ecstasy, she wrenches free and runs back to her bedroom, but Charles is not deterred.
The next day she discovers her menses has started, and Charles cheerily suggests a horse ride. Everything about him is a conundrum to Elaine. Where are his Victorian sensibilities? He has too much 20th century kind of thinking for her comfort and she has no business socializing with him; he’s Morrigan’s husband, she’s Matthew’s wife, but he is so very attractive, so very persistent and she is fighting hard not to fall under his intractable spell.
Morrigan’s relatives pay an unexpected visit and Elaine learns the awful truth about why Morrigan is the frigid girl she is. A picnic later with laughter and spontaneous dancing inevitably wears her down as the Elaine and Charles lounge under a sultry sun and she gives herself to him.
I love a writer who puts her own touch on describing female response. Remember, she wrote this in 1995, sure you heard this since but Robin might have been the first:
He heard cloth rip, impervious now to anything but her; then he was there, fingers kneading the smooth skin of her belly, dipping, touching her where she flowed like a hot, bottomless spring.
"Relax, Morrigan, relax for me, sweetheart, that's right, so good, let me make it good for you," he crooned, slowly, steadily withdrawing, penetrating, circling, short, beguiling penetrations, long, demanding penetrations.
Robin’s words are filled with carnal imagery. She uses masterful strokes to paint her moments of seduction.
Elaine is devastated she gave in. She ruins their moment with the guilt of her adultery, she is in a body that is not hers and her prime directive must be at all times to get back to her century and a husband who has never once even tried to satisfy her.
They rode back in silence, the same way they had ridden out, but with such a difference. Elaine had never realized there were so many different types of silence. There was a contented silence, a happy silence, a placid silence, an angry silence, a silence filled with scorn and mockery, a silence filled with pain and betrayal. Silences that reached out, silences that built barriers.
She cannot help herself. That night, Charles wrangles her alone in his bedroom and gives Elaine what she wants, what she needs as surely as she needs air to breathe.
The bed rocked and rolled like a carnival ride.
LOVE that image! It is an intimacy both are overwhelmed with. As Elaine slumps down into an immediate sleep, Charles looks over the body of his wife, his blood singing with the best orgasm he’s had in his life. In the morning, Charles examines her chaffing. Some noteworthy 20th century humor here:
"Let me see."
Elaine stared at him mutely. She did not understand his meaning until a hand with very long, tanned fingers reached out and pulled the covers down. Cool air enveloped her warm body. Elaine tore her eyes away from those devastating fingers and grabbed at the covers.
"Don't be silly. I've seen and tasted everything you have, Morrigan." His pupils dilated. "Well, almost everything. Lie still now."
Was he crazy? Elaine didn't even allow a gynecologist to see what he proposed seeing. Well, except once a year, for the mandatory Pap smear. "Amazing. You do blush all over." Elaine squeezed her eyes shut.
And as she luxuriates in the aftercare, a note is delivered. It is addressed to Elaine. Morrigan is pissed off and wants her body back!
On the cusp of her thirtieth birthday, as spinster Abigail reads from an erotic novel, the door of the one-room cottage she has rented blows open in a gale force storm and a stranger enters. Thirty five year old Colonel Robert Coally has been thrown by his horse and seeks shelter.
Abruptly, he rummages through her trunk for a blanket. His clothes are soaked and he needs to get out of them and would cover his nakedness lest he offend her. There are no blankets in the trunk, however; her trove of erotic novels with unmistakable titles like ‘The Story of a Dildoe’ fill it instead. No one has ever seen her collection and she is mortified.
A tree branch knocks through the front window and Robert quickly moves a cupboard against the shattered frame to shield the interior from the raging storm. Why is he out in the torrential rain? she asks. He admits he was seeking a woman, hoping to find a tavern, perhaps, and a willing woman. There is no judgment, just curiosity. Between the erotica he has seen of hers and his admission, they start to have a camaraderie.
Why the erotic literature, he asks her. She responds that as a woman she cannot learn about sex any other way. He asks her what she fantasizes about and she tells him the truth—being kissed by a man’s tongue, seeing a man naked. She is a virgin who wants the eroticism she reads in her books. She can’t imagine receiving satisfaction from the courtly men of her era with their pomade and whiskers or their pudgy bodies. Robert is nothing like them, his body firm and taut from a life of soldiering. His own fantasies are more base. He fantasizes about all the things he’d like to do to a woman and Abigail’s breath catches in her throat, envisioning his large hands caressing her.
He has spent 22 years killing and wants to forget it in the throes of a woman’s pleasure. He needs a woman who can share with him her soul as well as her body, who can perhaps give him back his own soul, lost in the interminable Boer War he has been injured in.
Abigail says she could be that woman. He wants to know why. She replies with quaint, totally incongruous logic. "Because you do not pomade your hair. And because I cannot imagine you insisting that a woman clothe a piano for fear the sight of its legs will overly excite her sensibilities."
Abigail is unprepared for the incredible intimacy of a man’s breath fanning a woman’s cheek while his tongue fills her mouth. Fantasy does not conjure taste.
"Let me be your fantasy man, Abigail. While the storm lasts, give me everything you give to him."
These are two vulnerable people from very different walks of life who come together to become a part of one another, just for the storm, believing that when it ebbs they can walk away from one another and resume their lives.
The sex comes first, the knowing comes later as they wake to a stormy morning and Robert bathes away Abigail’s soreness from the night before. But when the storm ends, Abigail reaches across the sheets in the morning and finds them cold. Heartsick, she leaves at once, believing her dreams are over and she is going back to the life she has tried so hard to avoid. She will accept the hand of the first man her siblings present her with. She will conform. She will accept a cold, passionless reality.
Robert has been chasing the fool horse that threw him two nights before and returns to the cottage to ask Abigail to marry him. He is utterly undone finding her gone. As he was a good scout soldier, he’s determined to track her down in London and present himself to her.
Three weeks later, still hunting her down, he picks up a newspaper and in the society section is her face. She’s the intended to Mr. Side Whiskers Plump Cheeks. He groans.
No doubt he and Abigail would own several pianos. And every one of them would be draped with ruffles.
She doesn’t deserve ruffled pianos. A man of action, he knows what he must do.
Part 3, my summation, will examine Robin’s SCANDALOUS LOVERS and its spin off stories.
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