Is an allegedly erotic novel written by a local government worker from the North of England who goes by the pornoriffic name Portia da Costa.

I read this when someone sent me a piece in the Daily Mail having seen my derision of Fifty Shades of Grey about other so-called "mommy porn" of note. Alarmingly, the first on the list was the immortal "Histoire d'O" which made me very angry, as that is a literary classic and invented so much BDSM tropery that it's a massive disservice to call it fucking "mommy porn" but I got over that. Next on the list was this number. Which I found laying around somewhere and commenced to reading.

Executive Summary

How to pull librarians with sexual harassment.

A bit more detail, if you wouldn't mind, please?

Well now. Gwendolynne (with three N's) Price (why do erotica protagonists have to have such syllable-happy names? What's wrong with a normal name like Jane, Alice, or Marie? Why do they have to be Gwendolynnes and Anastasias and Zenobias and Myfanwys?) is a librarian in some sort of academic setting somewhere. And, like all librarians, she's conservatively dressed, a bit mousy, bespectacled, and bookish. Anyhow. One fine day, she opens her e-mail to find a message from someone who calls himself "Nemesis" and goes on for several pages about what he'd like to do to her, how, where, and with whom, asking her if under her blouse and skirt she's got frilly undercrackers on, explaining how he'd like to "suck on {her} delicious clitoris" and then waxing lyrical about her breasts and so forth and displaying a rather alarming knowledge of her workplace and habits and suchlike that, in all honesty, is rather creepy.

Her initial reaction is to sneer at his sobriquet as being a sweaty-palmed teenage online gamer - Nemesis and all that.

Her second reaction, in the immediately next paragraph is to get all hot under the collar about it and then sneak off for a crafty wank.

Let's try an experiment here. Go to your local library and e-mail whichever staff member tickles your fancy, at her work address, a long and excruciatingly detailed rundown of what you'd want to do to her and suchlike. Do you think she'll be all inflamed by this conduct, and set to filming herself after hours splittin' the kitten under her desk while pretending to read "The Elfstones of Shannara" just for you and all your gittish internet pals? Or, do you reckon that you'll find yourself on some sort of register and with your mugshot on the front page of the Sun?

Well quite.

On to chapter two, where she meets up with a Professor Daniel Brewster, or Professor Hottie as she refers to him. She finds him quite tasty and before you know it, she's off for another crafty wank. This time under her desk. Blimey. If this is normal practice for librarians no wonder they all wear glasses. And at the rate that Gwendolynne is going, I see dogs and white canes in her future.

Now then. You may be under the impression that this is all sexy. After all, Gwendolynne, the allegedly repressed librarian, turns out to be a total sex rocket (as we all suspected) and has fantasies about "kissing his boots, then his cock." You probably think I'm on my way to Boner City right now, don't you. Well, you're wrong. To be perfectly frank with you, the whole opening of the novel is not exactly erotic so much as really rather creepy. Think about it. Some bloke who she's never met who gives himself the same sort of pseudonym as those godawful fifteen year olds who scream swearwords at you on internet gaming sessions when you beat them and then swear racist abuse at you when they beat you (protip: shun online gaming) proceeds to explain how he's thinking of her genitals and explaining to her very personal details of her life which imply she's being slightly stalked in an e-mail... and this causes her to crack a moistie? Seriously. Who thought this was a good idea. For Christ's sake, woman, your wank fantasies are about a stalker! You just want to grab her, slap her, and explain this to her in words of one syllable. Bloody hell.

Further attempts at sexiness are then squashed when, while she's having one of the above mentioned crafty wanks under her desk, she mentions how her genitals say "hello" when she touches them. Metaphorically of course, but when I read this I thought, of all things, of the 1990s artillery game "Worms" and how if you took too long to make your move, the worm in question would look out at you and go, "Hello!" in a falsetto voice. Thanks, Portia. I'll never be able to look a quim in the face again. You monster.

Well, you know this isn't going to end well, right? Right. Many interminably unsexy (by dint of the fact that she's having an assignation with a stalker) scenes later, she meets him and finds she's in too deep. I can't help but think that it's slightly her fault. Sorry, but no. See, let's try another thought experiment. Suppose I was to receive e-mails like the above from a mystery admirer who knows a bit too much about my personal circumstances and habits. If I was to meet that person, which is more likely - I'd have a torrid and passionate affair with them with lots of kinky sex which I find way more emotionally and sensually fulfilling than any other such assignation before or since, or, I'd probably end up being posted to my mother in packing crates of increasing size.

Oh no! I went to meet my stalker for sex and something unpleasant happened to me herp derp!

Right. Enough of trashing the premise and onto the reason why you might want to read it. The sex. Like many an erotic novel, it's in the present tense. There's lots of breathless description of both Daniel "Professor Hottie" Brewster and this Nemesis character. Needless to say, both of them are preternaturally handsome, sophisticated, and good looking. There's one bit where Gwendolynne spies on the former of these while he's having a wank in the shower (and is just about to have one herself when she's slightly rumbled.) The language used is, quite frankly, laughable. "His body is like a perfect engine and he’s pumping it, priming it. I send up a silent prayer of thanks when he adjusts his position, widening his stance for stability, and presents me an even better view of his erection and his hand upon it." This manages to be both beige and purple prose in one - and considering that her initial reaction to Nemesis's e-mails to her was to snark at his purple prose, clearly she knows of what she speaks. Needless to say, he's conventionally good looking, all corded thighs and lantern jawed and artistic stubbled and every other last arsing cliché for tasty men in the world. Oh come on Portia. At least have your protagonist's lust object not be totally perfect, because as it is, he's completely unbelievable.

Actually, here's an idea - I like to think I can write. I think I could make an erotic novel work where the fairly tasty but unfulfilled female protagonist gets the best ploughing of her life off a chap who she initially describes as rather unprepossessing. The sort that makes her squeak like a well oiled hinge, if you'll pardon the crudity. And this is despite the fact that he's two stone overweight, covered in body hair, has an absolutely horrific scar on his chest somewhere, and has acne scars, a greasy nose, and hard-looking eyes that are in no stretch of the imagination melt-worthy. And in terms of knob size, is distinctly average. Come to think of it, that's not a bad idea. I'll give myself a female pseudonym (how about Jeanette de Chatain) and have a go. It'd certainly be better than this tripe.

Also completely unbelievable is the idea that a professor of history is some sort of sex god. Hands up who's ever seen an academic who sends your blood reeling away from your head and into your nethers? No? Me neither. When I was at university my professors were, in no particular order, a Scottish old-school socialist who wishes it was still the 1970s, a greasy-haired Belgian with a boring voice, a Australian rugby player type with no neck, an old French guy who got way too excited about administrative law, and a chain-smoking woman who resembled her pet (an Alsatian). Hardly memetic sex gods, n'est-ce pas? Come on. Certainly I can't think of any academics who inspire lust letters, that's for damn sure.

I can't really remember what happened in the end. I think I blocked it out. It was just too painful and every single page made me increasingly enraged with its hilarity and fail. I couldn't get the mental image of her genitals saying hello out my head. Nor could I get out my head the fact that at the end of the day, a supposedly practical and sensible woman gets involved with a stalker. It just didn't sit well with me.

Yes, I know I'm not supposed to pick up on these things, I'm supposed to just re-read the juicy bits until the pages are stuck together, but I can't do that. For me, the most erotic stuff imaginable is that which is believable and in which you can understand why the characters have such a bone-on for each other. This I could not. Gwendolynne came over as little more than a vehicle for the stringing together of sloppily written sex scenes rather than a person in her own right.

There was one plus point though - at least she didn't have an inner goddess. For this at least we can be thankful. Though compared to a clitoris that says hello, this isn't much.

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