Serena has grown up poor, unambitious, and unmotivated since she knows her life will never be more than she has now. She’ll become her minimum wage earning alcoholic mother struggling to get by on her meager paychecks if her dreams don’t come true…Serena envies her childhood best friend, Sam Everhart, for having a normal family, but she also thinks he started her downfall into being used by her string of boyfriends when they had sex and then she was unceremoniously dumped. By the end of high school Serena has given up hope of being with Sam, but when he approaches her with a proposal to help him afford the Ivy Leagues and get her out of backwoods Kentucky she finds herself giving in…even if it means letting the young man she thought she loved turn her into a high priced whore.
I have absolutely no problem with erotica, and I’ve read a variety of novels with explicit sexual content. However, my initial reaction to the blurb for Serena’s Plight was “How is this romantic? She loves him, but she lets him pimp her out? We’re supposed to want these people to get together at the end of the trilogy?” (Yes, there are three volumes to Serena’s degradation). I decided to give it a chance to prove that the topic could be handled in a compelling, engaging manner. Unfortunately, Serena’s Plight was worse than I could have imagined.
First, I envisioned Sam and Serena have a sweet but platonic relationship that bordered on the line between friendship and love, which is why Sam felt that he could beg Serena to sleep with Ivy League men to help him pay his way through college. It still feels pretty icky, but at least there’s a bond that helps explain why a young desperate woman would sacrifice herself. The author of Serena’s Plight told me that Serena and Sam shared a strong bond, but they’d barely spoken after he dumped her right before high school (oh, and right after they’d had sex a few times). Sam even tells his childhood friend that the “only thing she’s good at is sex,” which is why he thinks this might be an opportunity for her. Nothing convinced me that Serena cared enough for her first boyfriend to let him pimp her out. Actually, neither of the two primary characters felt well-developed enough to read as more than a bad porno (seriously, at one point Serena goes over her looks and her cup size as she gets older, which feels like male gaze more than female in a book allegedly marketed to women).
The other characters don’t have much more in the way of development. Serena’s johns mostly exist in terms of their penis size, physique, and how comfortable they are with sex. Other than a few brief exceptions they treat the main character well, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are paying for sexual access and companionship. Mrs. Nobels, Serena’s elderly landlady, seems too good to be true given that she never questions the rotating stream of young men to the cottage’s door and even gives her tenant the head’s up that the pool isn’t visible from the house and that it’s okay to have sex in the hot tub (although I did love her encouraging Serena to read by having her start books by reading them outloud until it was obvious the young woman was hooked). Everyone seems to love Serena, which almost makes her a self-insert except that she’s not bright and has a horrible background.
Aside from the abysmal character development the entire book suffers from various typos. The most egregious caused me to snicker wildly because it could have been fixed with a good editor. Authors, there is a distinct difference between “striping” and “stripping;” only one is considered erotic. Once would have been forgivable, but when the wrong word is used nearly twenty times in a long scene I couldn’t unsee it.None of the other errors were quite as bad, but repeated words and phrases or bad spacing did not improve the reading experience.
For many readers the characters in an erotic novel don’t matter, and they can forgive a multitude of writing sins if the sex is steamy and exciting. Unfortunately, for me Serena’s sex scenes with her various johns just got, well, dull. I liked the non-bedroom interaction between the lead and the various young men who had purchased time with her, but it wasn’t enough to make me care about the drawn out, mostly vanilla sex scenes between two people in a business transaction. For me part of the thrill of erotica is when there’s an element of a chase between two or more people who are drawn together by various forces. Because Serena is an exclusive prostitute there is no chase, no will they-won’t they. The sex is a foregone conclusion, which just contributed to my lack of interest in the story. The fact Sam develops jealousy toward Serena’s sex partners as the story progresses is supposed to add an element of excitement, but their bond was so poorly developed that I just didn’t care. Besides becoming a high class call girl wasn’t Serena’s idea, so Sam needs to own up to his role in advertising and soliciting her exclusive lovers for pay and accept that he created the situation.
Overall, I started out hating the concept of Serena’s Plight but I ultimately found the presentation even worse. It wasn’t well-written enough to be edgy and help me look at things from Serena’s perspective (if it had made me understand her struggle with loving her pimp but supporting him by selling herself, etc, I might have been more sympathetic), and the characters all felt like tropes i.e. the incredibly beautiful but poverty stricken girl, the boy next door, the shy guy who can’t talk to women, the artist, the intellectual, etc. If you can get past all this and enjoy porn without pictures, this book is for you. However, I cannot, in good conscious, recommend this book to anyone. It’s so flat that I would have stopped reading it if I hadn’t committed to providing an honest review.
1 Penis Measurement at a Glance out of 5