In S.E.C.R.E.T there are…
No Judgments. No limits. No shame.
Cassie Robichaud’s life is filled with regret and loneliness after the sudden death of her husband. She waits tables at the rundown Café Rose in New Orleans, and every night she heads home to her solitary one-bedroom apartment. But when she discovers a notebook left behind by a mysterious woman at the café, Cassie’s world is forever changed. The notebook’s stunningly explicit confessions shock and fascinate Cassie, and eventually lead her to S∙E∙C∙R∙E∙T, an underground society dedicated to helping women realize their wildest, most intimate sexual fantasies.
Cassie soon immerses herself in an electrifying journey through a series of ten rapturous fantasies with gorgeous men who awaken and satisfy her like never before. As she is set free from her inhibitions, she discovers a new confidence that transforms her, giving her the courage to live passionately. Equal parts enticing, liberating and emotionally powerful, S∙E∙C∙R∙E∙T is a world where fantasy becomes reality.
Anyone who has spent any time around books in the last year will know of the immense popularity of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by E.L. James. Like it or loathe it, it has transformed the publishing world, and opened up readers to the possibility of reading outside their comfort zone. It has also spawned a host of imitations, both good and bad. The upside of all this attention? There are some remarkable new books being published in an oft-maligned genre that are beginning to receive the recognition they deserve.
S∙E∙C∙R∙E∙T is a truly Canadian offering, although the story defies boundaries (in every sense of the word). Subject to a fierce bidding war during the Frankfurt Book Fair last year, it has been hotly anticipated by many. However, it’s different from the rest of the books in its genre – written under a pseudonym by a known Canadian writer, S∙E∙C∙R∙E∙T is a tale of self-discovery and personal redemption. That’s not to say this isn’t an erotic read; it is absolutely a tale for adults, and especially for women. However, there are many other reasons to enjoy this book.
At the start of the book, Cassie has been beaten down by life. Being unwilling to open herself up to any kind of relationship, she lives a lonely existence. Her days are spent at work as a waitress in a quiet cafe and in her apartment. She is attracted to her boss but does not act on her feelings, only to watch him begin to date her co-worker. She does not take advantage of life in the vibrant community of New Orleans, preferring to stay at home in the “Spinster’s Home” where she lives. She longs for more in her life, but is unsure how to go about getting it – until a chance encounter with a forgotten notebook by a mysterious patron changes her life.
Through a series of ‘steps’, she is exposed to each of her ten greatest fears, and her most secret desires. She becomes part of a sisterhood of women who have each gone through the same journey, and who are there to support her as she develops the confidence to take each next step. At the conclusion of each challenge, she is given a charm for a bracelet worn by each member of the organization. When she has completed all ten steps, she will be given the opportunity to continue with SECRET, or to part ways and live her own life.
SECRET is not only the watchword of the organization – each journey is individualized and deeply personal, meeting the needs of each participant – but also an acronym for the criteria for each step of the journey:
Safe, in that the participant feels no danger.
Erotic, in that the fantasy is sexual in nature, not just imaginary.
Compelling, in that the participant truly wants to complete the fantasy.
Romantic, in that the participant feels wanted and desired.
Ecstatic, in that the participant experiences joy in the act.
Transformative, in that something in the participant changes in a fundamental way.
What I enjoyed about this book was that all the personal changes that Cassie goes through are absolutely her own doing. There is no one pushing her into anything, no one telling her what she must do, and no one “guilting” her into completing any task. She must accept each challenge before it begins, and she must be a full and active participant in each of the steps of her journey. Her growing acceptance of herself as a person of worth and dignity is built entirely on her own responses and her own decisions, and it was wonderful to read a book where the female protagonist had so much control over her future. By the end I was really caring about her life choices, and although it was a difficult ending in many ways, the decision was the right one for her, and I’m looking forward to the second book in the series in the Fall.
Who should read this: If you enjoyed Fifty Shades of Grey and Bared to You, this is a great next step for you. If you haven’t put your toe into the erotic genre pool yet, this might be the perfect first step for you. This is a more sophisticated novel, filled with rich characters and a fantastic setting that plays a big role in setting the stage for a sultry piece of fiction.
No judgments. No limits. No shame.
S-E-C-R-E-T was provided by Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review. Want to know the true identify of L. Marie Adeline? Listen to CBC on launch day as the author will reveal herself on-air! S-E-C-R-E-T may be purchased from Indigo, Amazon and your friendly independent bookstore. ISBN: 978-0385679701, 288 pages.