Reviewed by ShellyI didn't expect to like this book as much as I did.
Valentine, Nevada, local Bernice Babbitt is socially reserved and sexually repressed but that's all about to change when she gets a make-up case containing a secret that will open her eyes and her world. Living in a town that was founded for the sole purpose of housing prostitutes, it's no wonder that many of the locals (including Bernice's mother) want to distance both themselves and the town from such a sordid past. Except Bernice. She doesn't really believe that the town should distance itself, she's actually quite happy that the it continues in its deep tradition of prostitution.
Innocent and childlike in her outlook on life, Bernice thinks all problems can be fixed with a 'smile, laughter or a willingness to over-please'. She loves her family and the inn they own and if she can keep both her family and her customers happy then she's happy too. And although Bernice likes the simple things in life, she's hidden away quite a collection of female erotic memorabilia. One of her new purchases is a makeup case housing a jar of powder that when applied allows the wearer to have visions of the true sexual desires of certain people around them.
It's through these visions that Bernice starts realizing what's important to her. She has visions of the town locals and guests at the inn, all culminating when she has a vision of her only daughter. This is when the story gets really interesting to me, because up to now Bernice has lived her life according to her mother's teachings - judge yourself based on the way others see you and not what you believe to be the right way. Bernice has it so bad, she hasn't even told her husband of twenty years about her secret stash.
There's plenty of secondary characters who keep this story moving along at a very nice and even clip, like Mrs. Lin the local antique seller, who Bernice gets her erotica from. Mrs. Lin cracked me up, she's Asian in ancestry and ethnicity but is absolutely convinced that in a former life she was Italian royalty. And so there's a whole story around her and her husband's love of all things European.
There's Harold, who's just moved from San Francisco and wants to open a sex shop store in Valentine. Trinket, a waitress at a cafe across the street from Bernice's inn. Trinket's a bit free with her sexuality. It's actually quite rare if she's without a sexual partner. And of course, the town bully Lawrence Charles who's so greedy that he wants to close the local whorehouse, The Honey Bunny Ranch, so he can build his retirement community for the wealthy. These were all really fun people to get to know, some more than I wanted to, but it totally worked and kept the story moving along.
Although there's no sexually explicit scenes with Bernice and her husband there's one vision that she had with herself and another character that I thought was pretty hot after I got over the shock of it. Most, if not all of the visions were sexual in nature and so for me it was a little hard to find them exciting as I didn't see them as real.
I completely enjoyed this story of Bernice and her evolution from what I would consider mousy and timid into a strong and determined woman, it left me with a big smile.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this story and look forward to other novels from this author - keep 'em coming.
Happy reading folks!
*Book provided by author for review
Click to purchase: Amazon
The Concubine's Giftby K Ford K
Release Date: January 29, 2012