1. The Bride Stripped Bare by Nikki Gemmell
My favourite contemporary erotic novel The Bride Stripped Bare is a finely crafted tale of a young wife and her sexual awakening. Suspecting her husband of infidelity she finds herself drawn to behaving in ways she never would have thought possible before. The book exposes her sexual needs and fantasies right down to the very core of her essence….thus stripping her bare. I love Nikki Gemmell’s pared down yet evocative writing style. She is also a journalist and the author of several fine literary novels. Interestingly when she first published The Bride Stripped Bare she did not reveal her identity. It is not so much the explicitness but the open and honest declarations of what a woman wants and needs sexually that at times comes across as shocking but rings so true. At the same time the novel is a love story as a new bride struggles to settle in her marriage. Since the book is written in the second person narrative it creates an intimate read.
The Bride Stripped Bare is the first in a trilogy, and is followed by With My Body and I Take You.
2. Henry & June, From the Unexpurgated Diaries of Anaïs Nin
Henry & June is not a novel, but writings taken from the diaries of Anaïs Nin in the early 1930s. The diary was not actually published until after her death in 1986. These writings document her passionate involvement both with the writer Henry Miller, and his beautiful wife June Mansfield. Through exquisite prose we enter deep inside Nin’s tortured mind, exploring her personal and sexual awakening, her desire and longing. Anaïs Nin is one of the finest erotic writers. She conveys longing on such a visceral level, yet so subtly through beautiful language and imagery. I have also read some of her short stories in The Delta of Venus, the content of most of which are extremely explicit and controversial. She was paid to write these stories for a client. Henry & June is less contrived and very much written straight from the heart.
3. The Country Girls Trilogy by Edna O’Brien
Not strictly speaking an erotic novel nonetheless I have listed The Country Girls trilogy as these stories inspired me to explore writing explicit and controversial sex scenes in my own books when I started writing. I first read The Country Girls when I was fifteen and it had a huge impact upon me. The most powerful sensation when reading these books, in particular the first one, is the exploration of what is forbidden…immediately erotic and enticing for the reader. The Country Girls was written in 1959 and was condemned by the Irish Minister of Culture as a “smear on Irish womanhood.” The novel which deals with the sexual awakening of a young woman from a small village in the west of Ireland was immediately banned. Why? O’Brien was writing about sex and its repercussions in a way that is graphic, open and utterly unheard of in conservative, Catholic Ireland. Her first three novels follow the adventures of Caithleen and Baba as they flee their convent school in rural Ireland, find considerably older husbands in Dublin, and confront their failed marriages in London. Along the way, the girls conceive out of wedlock, have extramarital affairs and contract venereal disease. In my opinion it is a ground breaking work.
4. The Lover by Marguerite Duras
There has been debate over whether Duras’ short novel about the love affair between a young white girl and a wealthy older Chinese man set in French Indochina in the late 1920s is actually erotic fiction. Written from the point of view of the girl as an older woman reminiscing (it is said that the book is part autobiographical) it is an intense tale of emerging adolescent sexual power. The 1992 film version of the book, first published in 1984, takes the suggested eroticism of the novel and articulates it in a beautiful evocation of the sensual life of their love affair. Originally supposed to write the screenplay, Duras fell out with the director Jean-Jacques Annaud and wrote another book The North Chinese Lover in response to the release of the film. The North Chinese Lover is a fuller telling of the original novel The Lover, including many new shocking details. Both these books and the film made a lasting impression on me.
Another of Duras’ books is The Ravishing of Lol Stein, told in an even more experimental style it again explores female sexuality, the power of obsession and voyeurism.
5. The Secret Loves of Julia Caesar by Noelle Harrison
This short novella is a companion book to the 2009 novel The Adulteress by Noelle Harrison, which itself contains intensely erotic passages within the narrative. Even so The Secret Loves of Julia Caesar can be read as a book in its own right. Abandoned on a desert island for her ‘crimes’, Julia Caesar, famed beauty, daughter of Emperor Augustus of Rome, has plenty of time to reflect on the events that have brought her here. Adultery, prostitution, forbidden love with her slave Phoebe.
Based on a true story this is an exploration of sexuality and desire, combining the myths and history of Ancient Rome with sensual and explicit imagery.
At its heart is one woman’s search for the nature of love, in all its glorious and terrible manifestations.
Evie Blake is the author of the erotic and emotionally charged The Desires Unlocked Trilogy. The prequel, UNLOCK YOURSELF, is now available now for free as an e-short: http://amzn.to/1dm4oyG The final instalment in the trilogy, SURRENDER YOURSELF, publishes in January 2014.
The first and second books in the trilogy were published in paperback under the titles VALENTINA and VALENTINA ON THE EDGE