Hot and bothered with Sylvia Day

It looks like I missed out on a couple treats when I handed over today’s books to TBYL Reviewer Fiona! She’s been taking a wild ride with two Sylvia Day novels…

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At a recent reviewer catch-up with Mandi, I unwittingly picked up a couple of romance novels by Sylvia Day to review, only to find that they were, well, rather hot and bothersome.

entwined with youSylvia Day is an international best-selling author and has been described by Fox News as “one of the most successful romance writers in the world.”  I think it would be fair to say that the two books I’m reviewing, Don’t Tempt Me and Entwined With You, are much more than just simple romance.

Unlike many other people I know who found the prose of E.L. James to be a little bit non-literary and a tad overwrought, I really enjoyed the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy and read the three books over a four-day thirty-year High School reunion long weekend in Fremantle last year. Even though the lead character Anastasia Steele is a young woman just about to graduate from college, I believe that there’s not so much about the 50 Shades books that would appeal to young women, but rather; it’s a pure fantasy ride for middle-aged chicks, like me. The sort of what-could-have-been story, if only we’d valued ourselves a bit more, been a bit more willing to try things, the ‘pathway not taken’ sort of thing. I myself have my own Christian Grey path that I didn’t take and every now and then I wonder what would have happened if I had?

Titillation and adventure is what is going on in both these Sylvia Day novels, although the settings and historical contexts could not be more different.  Like the E.L. James books, I found these books virtually impossible to put down, they are so readable, and really quite naughty, in a non-drudge kind of way.

Entwined with You is the third in the Crossfire books, a series that has sold over 6 million copies so far. I haven’t read the previous two Crossfire novels, however Sylvia Day’s clippy and jovial style means that it’s not really necessary to have done so. The two main characters are Eva and Gideon, both damaged by childhood abuse and both seeking to move beyond those harmful experiences and enter into a grown-up and normal relationship with each other. Gideon is a New York property-billionaire kind of dude who seems to be able to have anything and anyone at any time he wants, though for some reason that is unfathomable, he only really wants Eva.

Eva is a smart and sassy kind of gal with bucketloads of attitude, a clear head and the capability to not panic and just get on with things when the going gets tough, which is pretty unlike Anastasia Steele in the Fifty Shades books. That said, there are numerous borrowings of Fifty Shades motifs that are probably there to excite those who have read E.L James books, a little bit of post-modernist cross-pollination.

The dominant theme of Entwined with You is around the many obstacles that are thrown in the path of Eva and Gideon, and how they still keep finding ways to both be together and to get it on together. This is how some of the titillation goes:

“I loved him wild and I loved him tender. I’d take him any way I could get him, but it’d been so long… My skin was already tingling and tightening expectantly, craving the greedy reverence of his touch. I feared what would happen if he came at me full force when I was so starved for his body. We might tear each other apart.”

Of course it gets way more graphic than this, however quoting some of the really blue prose in Entwined with You isn’t really kosher on a family blog like That Book You Like. One of the qualities I like immensely about Entwined with You is the feeling of being in New York with the heroine; from her Krav Maga (a brutal martial arts practice developed in Israel) sessions in Brooklyn; to her incredibly bouncy sex sessions in her lover’s apartment, through to the doorman in the apartment block, and the really hip and cool lifestyles of the twentysomethings that dominate the book. I mean, where else would you find a bisexual best friend named Cary who’s dating both a guy and a girl, who also happens to be a super hotty and features on underwear billboards? A flatmate like this is much more likely to be found in New York, New York than Melbourne I think.

A fun read, very sassy, lots of sexy stimulation and if your life is feeling a bit boring at the moment, a quick read of Entwined with You by Sylvia Day is the perfect wake-up!

The other book by Sylvia Day that I read in this batch was set in a totally different era, and the sex scenes were in some ways much more delectable. For me there’s nothing like a bit of period drama to add a certain frisson to a book or television drama.

don't tempt meDon’t Tempt Me is a riveting romance novel. It’s an adventurous story and Sylvia Day’s female characters are mainly strong and capable, even the damaged or deceived ones. Set in 1757 and then 1780 in Paris, at a time when Benjamin Franklin (one of the founding fathers of the United States and in the 1780s the United States Ambassador to France) Day delivers a rocking rip through a historic time that in this story seemed to be transitioning out of the economics of the kingdom into the economics of the merchant. This transition is nicely demonstrated through the leading male protagonist, Simon Quinn, the mercenary. The story is nicely set against the back-drop of the start of capitalism as we know it now.

Ben Franklin is representative of a political motif in the book, and thereby it’s just his name that matters. It’s his researcher and analyst, the very solemn and stern but capable Edward James who is one of the key manly characters in this read. It is in James that we see the representation of level-headedness, certainty and moral rectitude that is probably a metaphor for the emerging place that the United States of America is exerting in global politics at this time.

One of the most admirable qualities in Sylvia Day’s writing is the open lust and admiration for the male body that is running through the minds of her female characters. For the main part these are not women who hang around waiting to be conquered and then ‘lie back and think of England’, seeing their role as to ‘do the marital duty’. They are full-blooded, mainly young women caught between the dictates and constraints of polite society and their own raging lust. Fortunately for the reader, their lust wins out in the story. For example, there is a particular heroine, a 23 year old virgin named Lynette Baillon, standing behind a fern at a rather licentious party in Paris, who spys the hero Quinn…

“He was the sort of man who could enslave a woman with a single glance.

A glance such as the one he was presently giving to her.

Lynette Baillon watched the notorious Simon Quinn with similar shamelessness, admiring the raven blackness of his hair and the brilliant blue of his eyes.

Quinn lounged further against the fluted column in the Baroness Orlinda’s ballroom, his arms crossing his broad chest and one ankle hooked carelessly over the other. He looked both leisurely and alert, a dichotomy she had noted the first time she saw him riding through the moonlit Parisian streets…”

And minutes later, with Quinn not understanding exactly who he was attracting the attention of…

“Her blood felt hot now. Her chest rose and fell rapidly in response to his stare. Her heart raced. That a stranger could incite such a response in her despite the crowd that surrounded them and the distance separating them only exacerbated her reaction.

Then he straightened abruptly and approached with a predator’s easy, yet determined gait. His long legs ate up the space between them, his pathway direct and unconcerned with those who were forced to move out of his way. She inhaled sharply, her palms dampening within her gloves.”

Of course the text gets a whole lot bluer than this, however I think this snap-shot demonstrates that while Lynette is indeed an inexperienced young gentlewoman, she is not without an imagination that encompasses fully-fledged erotic fantasy, which in the course of the book is realised in practice.

The title of this novel, Don’t Tempt Me comes from words uttered by the hero Quinn when against the odds, all the societal obstacles put in the way of his courting Lynette Baillon have been turned upside down and surprisingly he holds himself back and decides to court her for marriage in a rather old-fashioned way.

This book is a rollicking adventure story set at an interesting time in history, in the world’s most romantic city Paris, with hot blooded characters who stride across both the bourgeoisie, the political classes and the mercantile classes. Oh and with worried parents of very comely daughters and a superb plot using twins to great effect.

One to enjoy as a secret journey to another time and place when the kids and partner are driving you up the wall during the school holidays. Sit back with Don’t Tempt Me and think of Paris!

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I’ve got the most recent Sylvia Day novel on the reading list, In The Flesh. Do you think I should pass it on to Fiona?

If you’d like to find out more about Sylvia Day’s books from Penguin, you can read more here.