When L. Marie Adeline’s S.E.C.R.E.T was released earlier this year, it quickly became a bestseller, garnering praise for its refreshing—some said “feminist”—take on erotic fiction. It centered on Cassie Robichaud’s introduction to S.E.C.R.E.T. (Safe, Erotic, Compelling, Romantic, Ecstatic, and Transformative), a mysterious society devoted to helping women who have lost their self-esteem find the strength to love themselves—and others—by enabling them to act out their deepest (usually repressed) sexual fantasies. Through a series of fiery encounters with gorgeous men, who are all handpicked by S.E.C.R.E.T.’s council members, the women learn to challenge their inner fears and inhibitions under safe conditions. The result is a profound sense of satisfaction and confidence that helps them break down their emotional walls and embrace the self-assured, sexual creatures that were once hidden within. Thanks to S.E.C.R.E.T., Carrie gained the confidence to go after what she wanted, which ended up being Will.
The drama kicks in right at the get-go in the second book in the series, S.E.C.R.E.T. Shared. Unfortunately, though, it looks like a happily-ever-after was not in the cards for Cassie and Will. Having lost Will to another woman—who’s pregnant, no less—Cassie is nursing a seriously broken heart. The icing on the cake? Will is her boss, and the other woman is a co-worker. The worst.
Though Cassie’s heartstrings are playing a sad tune, that doesn’t stop her from orchestrating steamy pick-me-up encounters with some very desirable bad boys. She finds herself between the sheets with a very talented young rocker, and she is irrepressibly drawn back to the tattooed pastry chef from one of her S.E.C.R.E.T. fantasies—but no one makes her heart skip like Will does.
As S.E.C.R.E.T.’s latest success story, Cassie wants to give back by helping the organization select the next woman in need of a reawakening. She finds the perfect candidate in 31-year-old local vintage-store owner Dauphine. Stunted by a massive betrayal in her past, Dauphine has retreated into an isolated existence. Though she pines for closeness—particularly with Mark, the handsome rock star Cassie has no trouble bedding—she is unwilling to take the first steps out of her comfort zone to reach for it. That is, until Cassie and S.E.C.R.E.T. present her with the chance to live again. Taking a leap of faith, Dauphine agrees.
To her alternating shock and delight, Dauphine discovers that each of the ten steps in the S.E.C.R.E.T. process requires that a different elaborate scene be played out, giving plenty of variety to her rendezvous. A different man, a different location, a different emotional issue at hand—such an assortment keeps things hot and heavy for readers along for the ride as Dauphine surrenders to ecstasy in the great outdoors, finds trust at 30,000 feet and learns to be a generous lover in an underground salsa club.
At its heart, S.E.C.R.E.T. is about women helping women. Yes, it’s about women learning to fully embrace their sex lives, but, almost more importantly, it’s about these women realizing their self-worth and figuring out—and going after—what they really want in life. Though self-discovery is not a new theme for erotica, a female lead relying on a supportive community of women to achieve it is unique. Adeline packs the book with enough heat to satisfy even the most voracious of erotica devotees, and the female-empowerment angle might encourage hesitant-but-curious readers to challenge their own inhibitions and give erotica a try.