Awaken, My Love
by Robin Schone, historical/time-travel (2001, 1995 reissue)
Brava, $15.00, ISBN 1-57566-907-2


Before I go on, I have to point out that I am actually reading the original 1995 Avon edition of Awaken, My Love. The trade paperback reissue bears an "Author's Edition" tag, which means that it is either filled with some self-indulgent, rambling paragraphs that a wise editor excised previously or the author has done some substantial rewriting. From experience (read: Anne Rice), I think it's most probably the former, but I wouldn't quickly discount the latter. Hey, this $15.00 price tag is better than paying $50 for the original Avon edition.

I read this book back in 1996, and promptly forgot about it until the recent brouhaha about this author's The Lady's Tutor surfaced. I just reread this book recently (somehow it survived the UBS clearance wipe) and I still don't see what the fuss is all about. Robin Schone's "erotic author" tag can be misleading. Apart from the middle chapters of scorching, hot love scenes, everything else in this story a reader would find erotic only if he or she has a fetish for mild scat/dirt elements, beatings, female humiliation and subjugation, sex with chubby ugly people, incest, and rape. Not all of these elements are presented, some are hinted at or told rather than shown. My taste in the erotic, lamentably, is more towards the more conventional sort. Hence, most of Awaken, My Love and its brand of Dysfunctional, Sick Sex fun leave me cold.

(In fact, if you ask me, most of those praising this book seem to be doing it a bit too enthusiastically. They must be so embarrassed to admit that they paid probably even hundreds of dollars for this book which they probably ended up skipping to the middle chapters and that's it - back to the book pile.)

The story begins with our chubby heroine Elaine doing the female version of spanking the monkey. Apparently it is so powerful that it catapults her back in time into the body of a thinner, prettier woman. Hmm, this Elaine woman should write a book and tell us how she does that. I want to know too. Elaine is now Morrigan of 19th century Scotland, married to one Charles Mortimer. Morrigan and Charles have a cold, sexless marriage. What is Elaine to do now?

This story can be approximately divided into three parts. Part one, Elaine's Mute Act. Apparently she doesn't want to betray her American accent so she keeps quiet. For a while, I even thought Elaine was mute, silly me. But be rest assured, she's pretty vocal in the later Jolly Roger scenes. Here, those readers who love the idea of women being beaten by crazy, religious kook old ladies will be very, very happy. Me, I find it silly, irritating, and ultimately frustrating because Elaine takes so much smelly stuff from the people around her, all the while shutting up. This could be taken as some metaphor for gag and S&M fun, but then again, ouch-ouch-ouch spank-whip-and-whack sex is not for me.

Then there's the second act, where Charles and Elaine get down to business after Elaine discovers Charles' porn stash and Charles discovers her getting all hot and bothered by the illustrations. If someone plays Kool and The Gang's soul anthem "Get Down On It", it wouldn't be out of place. These chapters, located in the middle of the book, are hot hot hot. But alas, too brief. After what seemed like three chapters, we're now on to Act Three.

Act Three is where the dysfunction-o-rama starts. You want incest? You got it. Madhouse fun? You got it. Some ridiculous "Good and Evil" nonsense? You got it. It's as if Robin Schone has had a Marquis du Sade overdose and channeling all the filth and dirt one could associate with Sade's brand of sadistic sex - madness, pain, punishment, coercion, humiliation. Fans of Sade will be disappointed, of course - Schone isn't that daring. I don't get off on seeing our heroine all trussed up and humiliated. I feel dirty instead, and I just want to shower.

Ultimately though, I have to ask myself: do I even know who the characters are? No. Elaine/Morrigan is a bundle of nerves, bordering on hysteria most of the times, but her personality never comes together coherently. Charles is worse - he has no personality whatsoever (great dingdong though). Most of the unpleasantness of this story (I'm sure, again, some people will find the "unpleasantness" devastatingly erotic) could have been avoided if the main characters (a) talk, and (b) toss the bloody irritating, incestuous, rapist, religiously hypocritical pigs out the door.

Robin Schone's brand of eroticism isn't a pretty or even effective one. She tends to forgo sex for shock value. How else could I explain why there are so few sex scenes as compared to humiliation/beating scenes? Only, someone should have told the author that religious hypocrites who end up sexual deviants are passe when it comes to shock value - just open the newspapers and voila, there they are. Awaken, My Love is best enjoyed by fans with fetishes for pain, humiliation, and unhygienic conditions. If you want conventional, straightforward sex, you'd be paying $15.00 for only a few chapters stuck in the middle of the story. Renting a nice adult video will be cheaper. (You want romance? Look elsewhere, please.)

Rating: 49


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