Sunday, October 10, 2010

Review- Higher Learning by Kris Starr

Higher Learning
by Kris Starr
Oct. 6, 2010
Contemporary/Erotica/Menage- f/f/m, f/f, m/f
34.3K words
Ebook- Ellora’s Cave

Buy it EC

Work on Anne’s master’s thesis is going well until her world is spun off its axis by the stunningly beautiful and very sexy Leslie. Interviewing this woman about her sexual history is turning into an exquisite form of sensual torture, but somehow Anne can’t find it in herself to stay away. On top of that, Leslie’s scorching kisses and electrifying caresses bring long-buried feelings and painful memories to the surface. And it doesn’t help that Anne’s boyfriend Michael is willing to let Anne do a little experimentation.

Anne’s obsession with Leslie begins to spiral out of control, affecting both her work and her relationship with Michael, until all that remains is a possibility that Anne both craves and fears. But not everything is as it seems and it turns out Anne’s not the only one keeping secrets.

I’ll start out by saying that this is no ordinary erotica book with lots of sex. Nor is it a love story, although it does have some of that element. This is a story about the healing of a person who has had traumatic first time sexual experience and how it has affected her adult years as well as her sexuality.

You might get the impression from what I just said that this is a heavy book. No, it’s not. It’s rather beautifully written, with nice flowing prose as well as being highly erotic. But the story does have some elements to it that really pushed some personal buttons of mine. So I’ll be honest in saying that this review will be colored by that.

The blurb is pretty accurate, so I’ll go on from there.

Anne is somewhat damaged sexually. She’s aware of how it’s affected her but doesn’t walk around with a poor me attitude. At the same time though, she’s not very clear on how to change it or deal with it. Nor is she really sure she wants to dredge up a painful past. But due to her thesis subject, things are coming up for her.

She and Michael have a loving and supportive relationship and she’s been open with him about some past desires for women. She’s told him all about her traumatic experience, so he’s well aware of what’s going on with her and he’s been open to her exploring with women. Even with that past, she and Michael do have a healthy sexual relationship, so cue the music, it’s about a woman. They also have an agreement that nothing is to be hidden. No lying about anything that comes up and it seems this is an honest, open relationship.

While doing the interview with Leslie, Leslie shares that her first actual sexual experience was with a woman, a girl in high school. This both excites Anne but disturbs her to the point of trying to ignore Leslie even though they have more to do on the interview and Anne is constantly wet just thinking about Leslie. So there was some nice tension created with that. Enough to keep the pages turning, while not being trite.

Leslie is one of those intriguing characters that is full of mystery as well as intensity. She makes it very clear that she wants Anne and doesn’t shy away from trying to seduce her.

Anne shares with Michael how hot Leslie is, that she’s attracted, and this amps up the heat in their relationship as Michael tells Anne how much that turns him on as well as Anne as she imagines it’s Leslie doing those things to her. No… this isn’t a girl with girl for guy story, although there are some scenarios in this story like that.

All along though, the constant reminders of Anne’s trauma kept me kind of on edge and angsting actually. To be honest, I didn’t want to hear about some molestation or rape or anything like that, so I kept reading with some feelings of dread, knowing it would be exposed.

I was also dreading that it would be some lame, contrived issue that I’d feel ripped off after reading, thinking, oh puleeze, really? I won’t spoil it, but it’s a very realistic situation. So I wasn’t disappointed that it was a dumb set up, nor did I get overly emotional upset about it although YMMV.

Due to Anne’s thesis being about first time sexual experiences, there are several f/f/m scenarios that get told to her from other interviewees. So Ms Starr managed to get quite a bit more sex into this story than might be necessary or needed. However, all of these stories push Anne psychologically. So I felt these stories were part of what she needed to hear even if she stayed clinical through the interviews.

The bad: Betrayal. Although this story is ultimately about healing, there are betrayals on several levels and this bothered me. I also have issues with people who think they know better than others what is good for those others. It’s rather dangerous and arrogant IRL to mess with someone psychologically to get them to a psychological breakthrough even if you love them and are trying to help, especially if they haven’t asked for help. And the way it was done in this book definitely pushed quite a few of my buttons.

In the end, it was fine. Ms Starr did make it right and I was left off with a better feeling of what went down and that Anne used it to her advantage. And the author did address the unethical way in which things were done and how wrong it was. But I still have mixed feelings about it. IRL, I don’t know that I could get over that kind of psychological manipulation to help me get over some trauma even if it did help.

Ultimately though, this is what made this book more provocative and substantive taking it outside the realm of the usual in erotica. I am rather turned on by characters who are psychologically complex and this story totally delivers on that level. I’m am tired of reading sex with no substance to it. I like to know what drives and motivates a character and Ms. Starr excelled in that. I’d love to read a story she would write that doesn’t involve sexual trauma as an impetus for character growth since it was done very well in this story.

And I’ll be honest, the sexual scenarios were highly erotic, really steamy. Although written fairly graphically, the prose is clean and fresh bringing the characters, sexual scenarios and dialogue to life in a seamless an appealing way.

I recommend this book if damaged characters and character growth mixed with hot sex is your thing. But also if you want erotica with a grounded, real story and not just sex for sex. I will definitely pick up another book by Kris Starr.

Heat level- 5- graphic sex although mainly vanilla. Sex to plot ratio is high. M/f, f/f, f/f/m.

Grade A-


M. A. said...

Nice review. I've been "on the fence" about purchasing this story, but it sounds interesting. : )

LVLM(Leah) said...

M.A.- yeah, it's not the usual. I really liked the writing in this and the issues were plausible.

Kris Starr said...

Leah --
I just came across your review and I wanted to send a sincere thank you for your thoughtful words. I'm so pleased you enjoyed the story in general, and I truly understand the whole "hot button" issue. I did try to tread carefully with Anne's past and her psychological healing, and I'm glad you acknowledged that.

I hope you'll let me know if you have a chance to read any of my other titles. (Caveat: the others are all m/f stories; Higher Learning was my first attempt at f/f & menage.)

All best, and thank you again!

LVLM(Leah) said...

Hello Kris- well, at the moment I only really read f/f, f/f/m and once in a while a m/m or m/f (of favorite authors)

But I did love your writing style and you do have a nice way with sex scenes. :) So if I do, I'll probably review it.

Maybe you'll find another f/f, f/f/m story in you? I'd be all over that.