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S. J. Parris and Stephanie Merritt

Review < Back

The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh

Sunday 23rd February 2014

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The unprecedented success of the 50 Shades trilogy, and the rise of a subgenre revoltingly termed "mummy porn", much of which was excruciatingly awful, has given erotic fiction for women a bad name in recent years. It's refreshing, then, to find a writer as fiercely talented as Helen Walsh turning her hand to a richly sensual story of forbidden lust as psychologically substantial as it is sexy.

This is not the first time Walsh has written frankly about sex; her acclaimed debut novel, Brass, followed the wild, self-destructive sexual adventures of her teenage heroine through Liverpool's clubland and back streets. Ten years on, The Lemon Grove offers a different perspective on female sexuality. Jenn, a woman on the cusp of middle age, finds herself unexpectedly drawn to her teenage stepdaughter's new boyfriend on a family holiday in Mallorca. Where Brass was bold, exuberant and often deliberately shocking, here Walsh's portrayal of desire is more nuanced, tempered by restraint and self-awareness. Though there are explicit scenes, she maintains a fine balance between description and suggestion; an exchange of glances can carry more erotic charge than a full-frontal exchange of fluids, and she builds the sexual tension step by slow step, teasing the reader...

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