Reviewed By S.C. Principale
Member of the Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team
Self’s Blossom by David Russell is more of literary introspection with erotic scenes than an erotic or romantic piece. Selene is a woman who has lived rigidly, always consumed by tension and introspection. She’s constantly feeling conflicted by interactions from her bombastic friend Janice. Symbolically striking back at Janice’s words and her own lack of spontaneity, Selene decides to spend a holiday indulging in erotic pursuits.
If you’re expecting a straightforward tale of “girl goes on holiday and has wild, fun sex”, you’re in the wrong book. This book jumps all over the place with scenes from Selene’s past, her long and drawn out introspections (some of which make her rather unlikeable as she seems full of her own importance and her desire to use humanity for whatever she can get). In short, readers will be spending a lot of time in Selene’s head, which may not be the exciting, sensual vista they envisioned. Imagine a linguistic feast and a character study, and that’s the bulk of the book. Because of its slow, meandering narrative and overall lack of thrust, this book might struggle to keep a reader’s interest.
Some readers may be expecting the erotic interludes to carry the story, but though lovemaking occurs, the “steamy scenes” aren’t terribly erotic, reading more like choreographed dances and staying in Selene’s head. First, she makes love with a virgin boy on the beach and later with Hudson, a seasoned activist and intellectual (or is he?) at her hotel. Hudson and Selene have some excellent exchanges, but it’s more like an intellectual debate than wooing. Soon, it almost becomes competitive, with Selene wanting all that she can get from Hudson on her terms, and Hudson trying to be honest about his feelings while controlling his desire. While the romance is barely a simmer, the amazing visual descriptions are a treat.
Hudson leads Selen into danger and proves he’s not really such stellar company, but yet it’s his risk-taking that seems to make Selene ready to take the sexual plunge. Sharing dinner and a late swim with another couple (who Selene considered potential partners for couple swapping) Hudson starts touching her while they swim. This doesn’t seem out of line at all, not for Selene’s thought process or for the point in the plot, but Selene slaps him and storms off after insulting his manners. Odd to think that she was okay with undressing in front of the other woman and was trying to seduce her husband, but suddenly Hudson is a dirtbag. It feels forced and jarring. When he comes to her, full of apology, they have a very theatrical love scene, which ends in mutually satisfied separation. The vacation is over.
Until we get to the epilogue, when Selene is off on holiday again, and this time she and a new partner make love while Selene is decked out as an ethnic goddess. It’s Selene and Melville’s fantasy, but there’s a lack of depth and passion in the text so that it comes off as another intellectual exercise.
Russell has a masterful command of setting and language, but struggles to make characters likeable and keep the plot (and steam) flowing. If you enjoy deep psychological analysis against a lush background, you may enjoy this book, but I wouldn’t pick it solely for its erotic content.