Full Disclosure: I’ve never met Averil Dean face-to-face, but I consider her a good friend—it’s a Betsy Lerner thing, a bloggerbuddy thing, an e-mailing, occasional care-packaging, shared parenting-woeing, mutual why-do-I-want-to-do-this-writing-thing-again-oh-right-thanks thing.
And the woman can write, as anyone who’s visited her blog will agree. She classifies her posts as Poetry, Porn, and Petulance, but there’s far more to them than that. She’s savvy, insightful, earthy, brave, and has paid her damn dues, thank you.
So when she offered me an ARC of her new book, Alice Close Your Eyes—with several disclaimers about not being sure it was my usual cup of tea and that she would understand if I was too busy—my reply, verbatim, was, “OH MY GOD, GIMME!”
I tried to summarize the story myself, but kept dropping spoilers, so here’s the official blurb, instead:
Ten years ago, someone ruined Alice Croft’s life. Now, she has a chance to right that wrong—and she thinks she’s found the perfect man to carry out her plan.
After watching him for weeks, she breaks into Jack Calabrese’s house to collect the evidence that will confirm her hopes. When Jack comes home unexpectedly, Alice hides in the closet, fearing for her life. But upon finding her, Jack is strangely calm, solicitous…and intrigued.
That night is the start of a dark and intense attraction, and soon Alice finds herself drawn into a labyrinth of terrifying surrender to a man who is more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. As their relationship spirals toward a breaking point, Alice begins to see just how deep Jack’s secrets run—and how deadly they could be.
Like all blurbs, this is only a surface description—and like Averil’s posts, this book is far more than advertised.
It’s an exploration of changing points-of-view, mistakes, and motivations, of loss and missed opportunities, broken pieces and unfilled needs, and the many, many different kinds of devotion and desire.
It’s also an exercise in symbolism both subtle and shouted so loudly that even the characters can’t help but notice. And so precisely written that every single plot point and flashback and spiraling erotic moment slots into place with a click.
The characters all hold their own, even though they’re filtered through Alice’s memory, mindset . . and misinterpretations. Jack, who knows he’s being played, but can’t back down. Molly, who broke my heart more than once. Alice’s grandmother, who, with the best intentions, may have taught Alice the worst interpretation of vengeance. And Alice herself—writer, orphan, semi-recluse, lost girl interrupted—who thinks her eyes are wide open and her vision is true . . . and who is very, very wrong.
About those erotic moments: they may be dark, they may be frequent, but not a single one is gratuitous. Each is a payment offered or extracted, a manipulation, a binding, a powerplay, a promise, a punishment—or any combination.* Averil’s talent for infusing a scene, an act, a single touch, with the emotional tension—dark or light—that defines true erotica, is undeniable: there’s a scene in a craft fair booth, a fully-clothed moment of supercharged choice, that rivals, at least for me, any other scene in the book.
This isn’t a mystery with sex scenes tacked on—it’s a symbiosis. And a damned good story .
Someone, can’t remember who, described this book as erotic noir. So I knew going in that it wasn’t going to be a light read. And it isn’t—there are some tough, true things in here, things that happen and shouldn’t and do anyway. The world of these characters was broken when they got here, and that they have trouble coping with the unfairness isn’t surprising.
The level of involvement I had with these characters would have been, except I know Averil Dean and what she can do.
You should find out for yourselves.
* And, if I may, the dom/sub dynamics between Alice and Jack are fascinating on several levels. In both their intimate relationship and the plot, Alice has the power and Jack has the strength. They each have the need, even the craving, for aftercare, even if they’re unable to express it, or even accept it. They could be the saving of each other—but their inability to trust each other, or themselves, upsets the necessary balance.
17 thoughts on “Book Review: Alice Close Your Eyes”
That cover still blows me away. I’ve pre-ordered the book.. And I agree with everything you’ve said about Averil.
Isn’t it perfect? All that broken glass.
Before I posted this, I asked myself if I would have said the same things if I wasn’t friends with Averil . . . Pretty sure I would.
Jinkies! Would it be obnoxious to print this out in 24-point font and use it to paper my walls? Really? Maybe a simple gilt-edged frame…
(Thank you so much, Sarah. You’re the bee’s knees.)
Obnoxious, no. Tacky . . .
(Can I be the grasshopper’s ankles instead? :D)
The grasshopper’s ankles…the cat’s whiskers…the dog’s paw…the turtle’s tummy…the lop-eared rabbit’s lop-ears… (I get punchy after 9pm.)
YES! I read it too. It’s a remarkable story, and that whole blurb in the description about Averil’s psychological deft and insight, is right on. The sex scenes are not just erotica, they are a blistering mind f*ck (can I say that here?) as well. I think I described Alice as broken and lovely when I was half way through the book. When I turned the last page, I realized how right I was. It was one of those books I kept thinking about for days, and now I will again.
And Molly? Oh my gosh. Molly. I would love a full blown discussion of Molly, but can’t do it without spoiling, so will sit here bubbling until the world has read it too.
You’re right—Alice is broken and lovely, but mostly, I think, so broken that she can’t see the loveliness, or why it might be worth preserving . . .
You’re right about the non-spoilery bubbling, too, but I want to adopt Molly right now—all the Mollys that ever were.
You are a very generous blogger, Sarah. And a great reviewer. I am so intrigued by the book. And love that cover. Covers are so hard to get right.
Thanks, Nina—it’s easy to review a good book! 🙂
The cover is perfect for the book—Averil lucked out! 🙂
I love this, Sarah. I know we are all so damn proud of Averil–and so thrilled to watch her gifts unveiled to the reading world. I can’t wait to read this novel and sing its praises EVERYWHERE. Now who is organizing the cyber launch party, friends??
We’re very proud of Averil!
Maybe Betsy would let us rent her place for the launch?
I’ve been planning to get my copy of this book ever since our friend announced the date it’d be available. Your glowing review has me looking toward the end of the year with even more anticipation! Being patient is getting harder …
I know about the impatience—I found it in Ingram when I was ordering books for the library a week or two ago, and it killed me that the release date was so far away!
GAH! I can’t wait to read this. Great review, and yeah, I think you’d respond the same way if you didn’t know her.
There’s another book I’d like to review soon, Lyra. It’s a generation-spanning history that I keep thinking about . . .
Your description of Alice “—writer, orphan, semi-recluse, lost girl interrupted—who thinks her eyes are wide open and her vision is true . . .” feels a little bit like you could be describing any one of us! Great review 🙂
It’s easy to relate to Alice, even if her experiences aren’t my own—they so easily could have been.
(it’s easy to review excellent books! 🙂 )