Lip Service
by MJ Rose, contemporary (2000)
Pocket, $12.95, ISBN 0-671-04132-0


This may be one of those success stories when it comes to self-publishing, but frankly, the behind-the-scenes story of the genesis of Lip Service is much more interesting than the story itself. Although it does offer an intriguing glimpse into the world of phone sex business, it is also actually a pamphlet of moral values in disguise. I'm quite surprised that no publisher took up this book in the first place, really. After all, the message of the day is that you have to be seriously dysfunctional to actually - gasp - enjoy sex of the long-distance sort. The sort of book that wouldn't make an otherwise "clean" reader feel guilty for the vicarious experience of a "dirty" story.

Julia Sterling at age 38 is stuck in a marriage straight out of cartoon hell. Her shrink hubby prefers the remote control to orgasms, acts all condescending at her, and is a lousy, boring moron. The only nice guy - and I use that term nice loosely as this is yet one of those woman who just can't meet a decent man to save her life - in her life is Jack who tries to pester her into an adulterous affair. He too is married, but don't worry, his wife isn't any better than Julia's Snooze-bore Hubby.

One day Julia decides to be a phone sex operator. All in the name of research, of course, for we all know good heroines don't do smutty things. She soon finds herself exhilarated by all these frank talk about spanking and punishing bad boys, and it doesn't hurt that the head of this research institute Sam is pretty hot. And there's Jack too.

But the only thing hot, apart from rough, crude Spank me momma exchanges over the phone, is one rather boring DIY scene. It doesn't even involve bananas or confettis or whipped cream, much to my disappointment.

So what's left? Whining. Lots of it, petulant, shrill, obnoxious ramblings from Julia who is obviously undergoing premature menopause but hasn't any clue about the joys of primrose tablets and estrogen jabs. Instead of just dumping the sad hubby and forming a happy threesome with Sam and Jack like any respectable erotica heroine would, Julia whines about her life up and down in all three hundred technicolor ways. My hubby is dull, I am so sexually frustrated, I feel attracted to this man but I can't! Did I tell you about my sad story about me and my father?...

And like all moralistic preaching stories, this book punishes sexually adventurous people. You're a phone ho? Ha ha, watch perverts stalk you and try to assault you! And even the police won't help you, you dirty, promiscuous (you have to be, you're a phone ho), slutty bimbo you! You are a Bad Woman and you will be punished.

In the meantime, there are a lot of orchids in this book for some meaningful moment. After all, like orchids, if Julia doesn't get light, she dies. Meaningful, huh? So to get light, and to rediscover her sexuality, Julia has to expose herself to the "horrifying" world of phone sex, whine and beat herself up for even enjoying a little of the power she holds over those horny guys at the other end of the line, and save the world from a lunatic sex maniac. And at the end, secure that she has "risked" herself for all that is good in the name of Woman, she goes back to her former boring, palid, and sexually unadventurous self with a new guy in her life to live missionarily happily ever after. The end.

Wouldn't it be so much easier to just buy a few kinky toys and get some videos from the adult store? Hmmm. LS has a few great moments, and I do enjoy the voyeuristic thrill of listening to the phonecalls, but LS isn't that adventurous or daring. Apart from the cover, this book has little to warrant its place on the erotica aisle. It is much more at home, I think, shelved beside Good Housekeeping and An Old-Fashioned Guide To Victorian Virtue (Oh, Those Good Old Days!). It claims to push envelopes, but it does it only about an inch at a time, and even that with its feet firmly in the shallow waters.

Rating: 65


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