“How long has it been since a man entered me?” shy waitress Cassie Robichaud wonders in S.E.C.R.E.T., publishing’s latest answer to the stupendous success of the Fifty Shades series of women’s pornography.
The answer: 168 pages, within which Cassie submits to a number of handsome, sensitive he-men whose ministrations – by order of the secret matriarchy overseeing her sexual awakening – involve everything but the one thing most handsome he-men generally get up to when encouraged by lubricious naked women in bed.
But the men, it seems, are mere servants to the mysterious matriarchy that has decided to fulfill all of shy Cassie’s long-repressed fantasies, providing rap stars, yachts and one “handsome billionaire land developer” for the purpose. They obediently fulfill their tasks in environments guaranteed to be safe and empowering.
And what they do is what Fifty Shades fans would call “pure vanilla.”
But that shocking lack of kink did little to dampen the appetites of world publishers when the first four chapters of S.E.C.R.E.T. made an impromptu, exploratory journey to the Frankfurt Book Fair last fall. By the time the frenzy had died, Toronto author Lisa Gabriele (writing as L. Marie Adeline) had earned a six-figure advance against sales in 30 different territories worldwide.
The normally phlegmatic Dutch were so aroused by S.E.C.R.E.T. that they entered into a five-way bidding war.
The book is being published this week simultaneously in Canada and the United States, according to Gabriele. “Fingers crossed!” she said in an interview yesterday. “I’ll make Canada proud of my filthy book.”
But not that filthy. “For sure, it’s a little lighter on the sex scale than Fifty Shades,” the 45-year-old Gabriele said. “It’s more erotic than soft-core porn.”
“As my first foray into the erotic world, it was almost helpful to have my character to be a sexual neophyte,” she added. “I can sort of write up behind her.”
And hotter is coming, the Toronto writer promises, in the second instalment she has contracted to write. “I suspect as I become more adept and confident in writing this material, my characters will hopefully become a little more daring,” she said.
A former producer on CBC-TV’s Dragons’ Den (and ghostwriter for three books by dragons Kevin O’Leary and Jim Treliving), Gabriele was one of a million wannabes last year who figured they could catch the Fifty Shades wave. Publishers and agents choked on manuscripts promoted as “just like Fifty Shades, but better.”
But the reason she succeeded where so many others failed, according to Gabriele, had nothing to do with sex. “I found a character who had real heart,” said the author, who has also written two well-received literary novels. “I can’t write anything unless it has a connection to real heart, real feelings, real emotions.”
And no whips – yet.