Beach Read - Emily Henry, Julia Whalen

I'm enjoying this book. I like the way the people are drawn and the tensions are managed and old assumptions are challenged and discarded. I can see and understand the attraction between January and Gus. So, of course they're going to have sex and of course the sex can't just be an off-camera event but these weren't the sex scenes I was expecting.

 

Up to now, the book has sidestepped clichés and toyed with tropes with skill and a little humour, keeping the focus on making January and Gus real. Yet the sex scenes don't seem real at all. They lack the focus of previous scenes. They're a muddle of sanitised descriptions of who does what to whom, hyperbolic descriptions of how good it all felt, and a few muttered attempts at humour. 

 

Although the first sex scene goes on for some time, all I got was euphemisms that were so soft-focus that the sex wasn't really described and yet I was supposed to accept that two people, having sex with each other for the first time manage a flawless choreography with no communication and rapidly achieve a level of mutual satisfaction that is explosive, exhausting. 

 

All those words added up to was a generic description of two beautiful, highly aroused people having frantic but deeply satisfying sex. Nothing in the scene links specifically to the characters in the book. You could drop this scene into another novel and only have to edit the names.

 

Earlier in the book, the two writers discuss how you make things real by paying attention to the small details that matter to people: how they dress, what they're anxious about, what unconscious ticks they have and so on. None of that thinking translated into the scene. January had neither anxiety or curiosity. There was no uncertainty, no hesitation, no real interaction beyond two bodies getting off in perfect soft-focus harmony.

 

This was very disappointing. Write a sex scene or write, 'the sex was great' and leave it at that but don't just drop in a soft porn photomontage that would work well if you never saw the participants faces.