Published on April 8th, 2013 | by BookCrack0
Review: S.E.C.R.E.T. by L. Marie Adeline Has Us Asking Must Sex = Love?
Summary: 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.
HFN not HEA Romance
If you’re looking for an HEA or a book similar to Fifty Shades of Grey, you won’t find it in S.E.C.R.E.T., but please don’t let those two criteria make you shy away from this erotic novel by L. Marie Adeline.
So what IS the s.e.c.r.e.t. ?
I found myself cheering on the protagonist almost immediately. She’s been through a lot and as a result has completely lost touch with her emotional and sexual self. Cassie Robichaud, a 35 year old waitress who has been in a slump since her alcoholic husband died five years ago, finds the journal of one of her customers. What Cassie finds in the journal is steamy. The journal eventually leads Cassie to a group of women, the S.E.C.R.E.T Corporation, who help other women find themselves by bringing their deepest sexual fantasies to life through a completion of ten steps:
Step One: Surrender
Step Two: Courage
Step Three: Trust
Step Four: Generosity
Step Five: Fearlessness
Step Six: Confidence
Step Seven: Curiosity
Step Eight: Bravery
Step Nine: Exuberance
Step Ten: The Choice
After each fantasy, the shell Cassie has built around herself since her troubled marriage cracks a little more. With the help of a group of supportive women and some very smexy men, Cassie begins to enjoy life again. The fact that these changes were subtle and we don’t see a completely new Cassie made them more realistic for me.
One thing the protagonist struggles with during the steps is equating sex with love. This is a theme in many romance novels and something I found myself questioning this concept/belief right alongside Cassie. Cassie broaches the subject of why her fantasies haven’t gone further than they have to her mentor, Matilda. Her answer certainly got me thinking:
“Sometimes sex has a way of turning into love for some women. Their emotions get caught up with the ecstasy and they forget that physical pleasure and love can be two separate things. We’re not trying to help you fall in love with a man. You clearly don’t need help doing that. We want you to fall in love with yourself first. After that, you’ll be in a much better position to choose a partner, the right one. A real one.”
Does Sex = Love in Romance novels ?
This idea is challenged between Cassie and one of her adorably accident prone fantasy partners, Jesse:
“Are you one of the guys from … you know?”
“Yeah. I’m supposed to ‘take you by surprise.’ Ta-da! Ow,” he said, grabbing his elbow and collapsing back on the floor, a box of pecan pie his accidental pillow.
Sparks fly between Cassie and Jesse that had me turning pages to find out if Cassie would see things through with him or continue on with the steps.
“Right. Will you accept the Step?”
“Here? Now? With you?”
“Yeah. Here. Now. With me,” he said, cocking his head, giving me a crooked smile.
And her boss, Will, who is as close to a love interest as you’re going to get in this book. He notices her transformation and their relationship becomes one of her biggest challenges.
“He removed my hand and kissed it. “You’re different than I thought you’d be, you know,” he said, regarding me intently.
“You mean … in bed?”
“No. I don’t mean the sex, not exactly. I mean you. You seem more … together. More confident, I don’t know. I mean, I always saw you like that, but I didn’t think you did, until lately. Lately you’ve just been more … more you.”
Must Sex = Love for a HEA?
Some reviewers on Goodreads and other blogs have written that they gave the book lower ratings primarily because of the ending. While there is a major game changer in the last few pages of the book, I felt it showed real growth in Cassie given what the circumstances were.
S.E.C.R.E.T. is another one of those non-romance romances, similar to Tiffany Reisz’s The Siren, (read our 5 STAR review here) that takes the reader beyond the will they won’t they ride most romances offer (not that we don’t all love it).
The real HEA in this book is the self-love and understanding Cassie finally realizes. It’s a good thing the next installment of S.E.C.R.E.T. is slated to come out October 15, 2013, because I think Cassie’s journey is far from over and I’m excited to see where it leads her.
3 stars for Smexyness
4 stars for Love it or Leave it
S.E.C.R.E.T. was self-purchased and is available at:
Happy Reading xo,
Kelley is a writer, excessive coffee drinker, and book addict. She can be reached at @kstoklos.
P.S. What do you think? Should Sex = Love to achieve a TRUE happily ever after in your romance reads? Comment below and let us know!