Sunday, October 3, 2010

Review- Through My Window by Jayne Rylon

Through My Window
by Jane Rylon
Sept. 30, 2010
Contemporary/Erotica/m/f, f/f/m
Quickie (under 15k words)
Ebook- Ellora’s Cave Exotika (Erotic Fiction)

Buy it EC

By Guest Reviewer- M.A.

“Through my window, a sea of strangers swirl and retreat like waves in an ocean of humanity. I brush my hair, fix my makeup and flip on the glaring red light in my booth before turning to face my audience on the other side of the glass.”

For Star, this is another night on the job, though no two are ever alike. Adaptable and perceptive, she becomes many things in the course of one evening—whore, lover, nurse, psychologist and friend. But above all, she’s still a woman. Join her, through her window.

Through My Window isn’t a story that would normally tempt me into the purchase/read. Rylon’s style and “voice” in the story’s excerpt won me over and I’m so glad I gave it a chance. This author’s writing is superlative and convincing with exquisite, well-timed pacing.

A sultry, platinum blonde prostitute entices readers into her world, a night shift in Amsterdam’s red-light district. In the course of the evening we witness interludes with several of her clients. Jonah, a young U.S. tourist, seeks the fantasy and comfort of pleasure with a woman without pressure to perform. Rick, a local bouncer and one of her regular customers, visits Star for a rough quickie during his break. Her final clients in the early A.M, a devoted married couple, seek an anonymous “playmate” for a very special experience.

Star entertains one and all with the skill and energy typical of a true “service-oriented” personality. Rylon imbued her protagonist with remarkable depth and complexity. An unapologetic hedonist, Star clearly views her work as valuable and productive. I’ve found that many prostitute heroines fall into particular stereotypes, the nice girl forced by circumstances into the job, the love-starved woman with various emotional problems, the rebel defying society’s expectations, the hooker with the heart of gold, etc.. Rylon deftly avoids the pitfalls of stereotype and social commentary. Star comes through as a magnetic, empowered woman willing to admit she enjoys her job:

"Customers can sense I’m different than most. They recognize I’m here not because I have to be but because I want to be ... Every thrilling encounter is unique. Each partner creates a new experience as their quirks mix with mine. I can’t wait to see what tonight will bring. To adore what you do and be able to make others happy in the process—while earning fists full of cash. What more could a woman ask of a career?"

Despite her adventurous streak, however, Star maintains appropriate professional detachment from her guests, deftly avoiding particular types of intimacy and lovemaking. It’s apparent she seeks sensation and profit, not romantic involvement, but she does care about doing right by her customers.

Above all, this is an erotic fantasy about a night in the life of a successful prostitute. Neither Star nor Rylon allow sensuous storytelling to minimize the coarser realities of the business. Rylon relies heavily upon setting to this effect and strikes an impressive balance. I never forgot Star was a prostitute, but somehow her actions never came across as sordid or degrading, nor did I feel sorry for her. Star flies above the crasser details of the skin trade and invites the reader to look beyond them into that world’s beauty.


The real treat in Through My Window is Star’s final encounter with a middle-aged married couple. It was a surprise, for one thing – the book’s excerpt and teaser don’t mention any f/f/m interaction. Best of all, though, was the author’s handling of Star’s willingness to participate in sex with another female:

“Do you enjoy being with other women?” The gentleman makes a polite inquiry. Nothing crude here.

“I do service them, yes.” I nod.

“But do you enjoy it?” He stands firm on his inquiry.

“Yes, depending on the woman.”

No overdone angst or explanation accompanies Star’s bisexuality. It simply is what it is, she chooses to accept the couple’s patronage, and it results in an exquisite threesome. For multiple reasons, the ménage is both the most emotionally intimate and the most emotionally distant encounter of Star’s narrative.

Prostitutes and prostitution are frequently romanticized in fiction to the point artistic illusion can’t compete with reality. In Through My Window, I almost believe Star and her clients could be real people. None of these characters are perfect. Not all of them are young/youthful, gorgeous, with perfect bodies and fantastic libido. Even Star’s sex-kitten glamour wanes through her shift; her high heels start to tire her out. Nor are primary motives swept under the rug. Star sells sexual services and companionship; her customers clearly employ her to that purpose for sexual relief, to satisfy fantasies, or to enjoy stress-free, anonymous, no-strings-attached sex.

Editorial and technical quality are good. I tend to grade short stories more harshly than lengthier works on these points because a short story isn’t as hard to edit and polish and track continuity issues as a novel length work. No glaring errors pulled me out of the story’s spell.

I haven’t commented much on the story’s erotic content. The story’s overall tone is so erotic, the actual sex in the book flows seamlessly through the plot without competing with narrative, something all great erotica does. The erotic scenes themselves are well-written and unique, varied to suit the moods and preferences of Star’s different customers.

Through My Window is a definite keeper. It reads a little like how an accomplished prostitute should perform (I think.) It’s a well-written fantasy, both revealing and mysterious, pure escapist entertainment for a reasonable price.

Heat Level: 5 - explicit sexuality described in graphic language.

Grade: A- great story structure, compelling voice!

9 comments:

LVLM(Leah) said...

I totally want to read this book.

One of my favorite types of characters is the one who is works in the sex industry and makes no excuses, but enjoys it and or takes it as a job, like anyone else would take a job.

This book seems like a nice take on it.

What a good find! I would have never gotten this book either. I'm kind of tired of general erotica.

Cathy in AK said...

I have a particular fondness for "bad girls" who enjoy their jobs : ) That being said, I don't know if this one would have drawn me in initially, but your review makes it tempting.

M. A. said...

LVLM:

It's funny because, normally, this type of bok isn't something I'd consider. I selected it because: a) it's a short story, which is all I have time to read right now; and b) the excerpt was very well written; I liked Star's voice, the poetic imagery and language.

Although this isn't a romance, the story has a delicious, romantic flavor. It's a genuinely good short story, not a novel/a "squeezed" into a shorter word count.

Cathy in AK

Cathy, considering how gushy I am about "Through My Window," it's amazing how close I came to "passing" on the ebook because, normally, this isn't "my type" of read. I'm not crazy about first person present tense narrative. I prefer erotic romance to erotica.

I kind of lucked out by giving it a chance because I really enjoyed Rylon's storytelling.

Jill Sorenson said...

Nice review. The "happy hooker" type of character is one I've never understood. It's hard for me to imagine a woman who could be satisfied (and undamaged) by that profession. But you made this sound intriguing.

LVLM(Leah) said...

M.A.- I've never been too fond of 1st person present POV either. Although I think that's because it's not a common POV. However, I've come to appreciate how deeply you can get into a character's head with it. And also, how the story is more of an unfolding as the character experiences it, rather than as being told as a story.

I think it depends on how the author does it of course.

M. A. said...

Jill :

The "happy hooker" type of character is one I've never understood. It's hard for me to imagine a woman who could be satisfied (and undamaged) by that profession.

I used to share your exact sentiment on this issue and, to some extent, I still do (hence my own hesitation in selecting this book.)

I've read several books about the history of prostitution and revised my mindset a little. Different cultural norms obviously impact perception on prostitution.

Timothy Gilfoyle's "City of Eros: New York City, Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex, 1790-1920" reveals numerous records social reformers took, interviewing prostitutes. In many cases, the prostitutes were unashamed of their work. They took pride in their independence and ability to earn a decent living. Historical fact: New York property owners were MORE willing to rent rooms or apartments to prostitutes than to "respectably employed" working-class women (seamstresses, shop girls, factory workers)because "respectable employment" did not pay sufficient wages to cover rent and lodging expenses. Prostitutes saw themselves as strong, independent women, not as victims.

True, social stigma was attached to the profession, but it was an alternative to a life of poverty and/or dependence. In those circumstances, some women saw prostitution as an acceptable alternative.

In the present day, women working as call-girls or escorts are not orphaned, illiterate, abused, emotionally troubled women. Sydney Biddle Barrows (the "Mayflower Madam") noted in her memoirs that most of the women she employed were middle class with, at least, a high school education. They were not necessarily from broken homes, were not substance abusers, and were usually bright, articulate, attractive women probably eligible to do other "more respectable" work. Some were college students who worked for a few years under an assumed name, then quietly returned to their regular lives and new careers. Their discretion had nothing to do with their being ashamed of the work they did; it was more to protect their families and their futures from exposure and social stigma attached to prostitution.

After all my research, I finally had to conclude that prositution or other sex industry professions are exactly that. Professions. They certainly aren't for everyone. Some people may be more qualified for them than others, but I no longer find it impossible to believe some people WOULD choose it and find fulfillment in it.

With all that said, it's a high-risk occupation and I can see how people unable to detach themselves from the professional aspect of it would NOT find fulfillment in it. I don't doubt a lot of exploitation and abuse takes place in the sex industry. I'm very ambivalent as to whether or not legal prostitution resolves or controls many problems related to that exploitation and abuse.

As a fictional short story intended for entertainment, I found "Through My Window" very credible. Maybe it's somewhat real. Maybe it's not real at all, but only what the author (and I) wish might be real. There is something appealing about sexual variety and no-strings-attached sex as fantasy elements.

Sorry for the long response. LOL, as you can see, this is something I've thought about a lot.

Other books I read that might interest you:

"Brothels, Depravity, and Abandoned Women: Illegal Sex in Antebellum New Orleans" by Judith Kelleher Schafer

and

"Storyville, New Orleans: Being an Authentic, Illustrated Account of the Notorious Red Light District" by Al Rose

Jill Sorenson said...

Thanks for the long response! I'm always interested in sexual psychology. And I've definitely been under the impression that most sex workers are addicts w/ a history of abuse. Media coverage tends to support that, but I've seen some interviews with smart, seemingly well-adjusted porn stars. I'd like to know if they feel the same about the industry 10 years later...

Cathy in AK said...

Jill, there's a very good noir book out called "Money Shot" by Christa Faust about a porn star turned agent of sorts for up and coming actors in the industry. The protag loved her job when she was younger and keeps the newbies from getting bad gigs. It's not a romance, but it's a great take on how this woman went into the trade for whatever reason (I can't recall) and ended up enjoying it while she made a decent living.

Anonymous said...

I could swear I commented on this. O_o

I loved this story too. The author's writing style is proud and unapologetic, and it shines through the protagonist. I love an interesting story that explores new angles on familiar themes without making excuses.

So glad to see this reviewed!