Book Review: Monsieur by Emma Becker

I guess it stands to reason that after the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, suddenly erotic fiction would be everywhere and now quite acceptable to read in public. I have mixed feelings about this in that yes, you should be able to read whatever you like on your morning commute, but do you actually WANT all and sundry to know that you’re reading and erotic book on your way to the office?

Emma Becker answers none of these questions in Monsieur, but does open the door on a complicated relationship between a 20-year-old student and a professional man twice her age. I’ll fully admit, I did not read Fifty Shades – in fact I started the sample chapter and couldn’t get past the terrible writing to get even a glimpse of a saucy expression, but Monsieur is a completely different book, perhaps because it is semi-autobiographical, and the characters of Monsieur and Ellie seem more fully formed with many more facets to them than just sex.

The novel begins with Ellie, a student in Paris who is bored at home due to a student strike. An offhand remark from her mother leads her to make contact with an old colleague of her uncle who shares her appreciation of erotic literature. She asks him to discuss a favourite book of hers via Facebook, ostensibly because her family think the book is disgusting, and also asks his opinion of an erotic short story that she has written.

An immediate and intense online relationships soon develops into Tuesday mornings in a Paris hotel, where Ellie begins to lose herself to Monsieur as the affair consumes her until it flatlines months later. The result of this torrid relationship is, we are led to believe, the very book we are reading.

I definitely have mixed feelings about the book, in that it is expertly written for a first novel and I did enjoy it, but at times I wondered just why Ellie was doing the things she was doing. She claims at points to have not been looking for an affair with Monsieur – who is married with five kids by the way – and yet her initial messages to him are more flirtatious than a woman simply discussing a shared hobby – but then it’s perhaps the nature of the hobby.

Talking about the elephant in the room, the sex scenes are graphic and spare nothing, fully exposing (literally and figuratively) Ellie and Monsieur to the reader. In some scenes the pair are almost tender with each other, yet in others they show almost a violent dislike of each other. Monsieur comes across in this as the puppet master, stringing Ellie along until he’s bored of her and while, as I understand it, Christian Grey was charismatic and persuasive, Monsieur seems much darker – you can clearly see that he doesn’t give a crap about Ellie as long as he controls the game.

I’m interested to see what other erotic fiction comes out on the ‘Fifty Shades’ wave, but I did see a book called ‘Jane Eyre Laid Bare’ advertised on the Tube recently. I’ll definitely be giving that one a miss…

This review is part of a blog tour for the release of Monsieur by Emma Becker. Click the banner on the right to find the other blogs hosting reviews this month.

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