Tag Archives | Memoir

52 Seductions out now in the US!

It’s been a long wait, but US residents can finally buy 52 Seductions without finding weird work-arounds.

To celebrate, I’ve revamped 52Seductions.com, and added an introductory guide for American readers.

Do take a look. And tell all your friends. (I fear my English embarrassment about self-promotion won’t quite rub in the States).

The 52 Seductions - now available in the US

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The US cover to The 52 Seductions!

Lovely, isn’t it? Released later this year.

The 52 Seductions US Cover

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The Man Diet

Today’s guest post is from Zoe Strimpel, author of The Man Diet, which follows her quest to free herself of bad dating habits. You can find Zoe’s blog here


I’ve never been very good at food diets. But when it comes to following the different sort of diet prescribed in my new book, The Man Diet: One Woman’s Quest to End Bad Romance, I thought I was doing well. My motivations, you see, are greater than shedding a few centimetres around the waist (though that would also be much appreciated). They are about feeling good inside by cutting down on “junk food love”: Facebook stalking binges; callous sex; obsessing about men with friends, for example. The stuff that it’s hard to avoid, but that makes us feel like crap and erodes our self-esteem, just when we should be flourishing most.

But even the desire to be good to myself, to be the best woman I can be, has not kept me on the straight and narrow recently. I admit it: I’ve fallen off the Diet bandwagon once or twice in the past few weeks – and, unlike after a chocolate cake moment, I’m not licking my lips for more. In fact, I’m regretting my slip in resolve quite bitterly

The slide from grace began two weeks ago when I had arranged to see a guy for a drink. We’d met once at a dinner, and I’d followed up (breaking one of the rules of the Man Diet right there: No Pursuit). He acquiesced with charm and before we knew it, we were the last ones in the restaurant, draining a bottle of cava. We moved on, then, to the Groucho Club. Here, despite having had far too many drinks (breaking still another rule of the Man Diet: Cutting Down on Booze), he ordered us another. Then another. Suddenly we were kissing. It was terribly exhibitionist, but by this point I felt that my limits had dissolved in alcohol; and the inevitability of going home together felt overwhelming. A voice in my head said: “This is not going to be healthy for you. Sleep with him and feel rotten tomorrow when he shows no interest.” Echoing the voice was the question: “Why? Why do this?” My answer was that in addition to his being good looking and fun, a trophy of sorts, I felt it would be boring to pull out now.

And so the inevitable happened. A night of of pleasant-enough but ultimately forced passion ensued – forced being the only type of passion that happens when two people aren’t particularly enthralled by each other or bonded by insane chemistry. As he kissed me goodbye the next morning – I do have to hand it to him for his displays of affection even in the cold light of day – the arbitrary, programmatic nature of that kiss and the preceding ones hit me with a dull thud. This truly was anti-romance, and worse, now I had to put up with the deafening silence that would follow his exit (in addition to the hangover throbbing in my temples).

A few days later, I had an email from him, saying he would maybe see me “one day” again, but generally he was not comfortable with post-sex meetings with women he had no intention of dating. I felt crap and rejected, despite not wanting to date him either. I was also aware that I’d put myself in this situation and had nobody to moan to but myself.

See, one of the big problems with junk food love is that it is addictive. So having had one unsatisfactory experience, I quickly sought another to erase the bad taste left by this encounter.

I sought it with a truly hot guy, a friend of a friend. I was abroad and looked him up in his hometown. I had entered our meeting without expectations, but after three hours of intense conversation, and several drinks, I felt it would be a “waste” not to push it further. So further is where it went. Turning this encounter into a spot of junk food love was a particularly bad choice because I liked this guy. He was interesting and complex as well as really good-looking. But instead of leaving our evening with a “nice to meet you”, a peck on the cheek and the chance for it to develop into something real, I pushed it into the sexual sphere for validation. Why, I reasoned tipsily, have a hangover with nothing to show for it?

But as with so many men, the disjoint between night and day was as harsh as ever. Hot Man was all sweetness before the bedsheets were parted: as soon as the sun rose, the game changed vampire-style, and it was a case of hustling out to work as quickly as possible. Our delicate, new intimacy couldn’t withstand the flip from boozy, candle-lit night to factual, non-sexy day, though I wished it had. So, sitting in the taxi in last night’s clothes, I felt uncomfortably bloated on junk food love, and not a little melancholic.

There’s one upside to these encounters: they have reminded me just how useful the Man Diet is. My next step? Taking a leaf out of my own book.

The Man Diet was published by Avon on 30th November as ebook, with paperback to follow on 22nd December.


If you’d like to write your own Whisper, we’d love to read it! The submission guidelines are here.

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Shameless by Pamela Madsen

When confronted with a similar problem to the one I faced at the beginning of the seductions (long marriage; sex feeling a little bit, well, absent), Pamela Madsen comes up with a very different solution: sacred erotic massage. She doesn’t want to cheat on her husband, but she craves the touch of another man. After a couple of false starts, she finds a gifted therapist called Markus who transforms her sexual identity, filling her with new-found assurance about her body and what it craves.

I defy any woman to read this book without secretly hoping that Markus’s number is printed on the back page. Sadly it is not. But Madsen’s approach is completely engrossing, because she de-couples sexual pleasure from the notion of faithfulness. It’s refreshing to see someone exploring their own erotic identity without assuming that her partner must provide it.

I imagine that this book will raise a few eyebrows amongst those who think that marriage is a sexual exclusion zone. But it’s hard not to be seduced by Madsen’s rumbustious voice, with its echoes of hysterical conversations with girlfriends. The world is out there for exploring, and what Madsen learns is that authenticity is the best medicine for whatever ails you.

Perhaps because of that, I found the book’s epilogue quite shocking – without giving too much away, it’s horrifying to see that we still can’t accept people who pin their sexual identities to their sleeves. But then, I get the sense that it would take more than a little social disapproval to keep this wild woman down.

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Once More, With Feeling by Victoria Coren and Charlie Skelton

Once More, With Feeling is a discourse on the ethics of porn masquerading as an Ealing romp.

Inspired by their commission to critique porn for the Erotic Review, Charlie and Victoria decide to try their hands at making a film of their own. They draw up list of things that should definitely be included (spanking, barns and ‘something medicinal’), and an accompanying list of things that definitely shouldn’t be included (eels, pregnancy and tickling), and then proceed to cobble together a film with very little money and even less experience.

It doesn’t take long for them to abandon their high artistic ideals; the script they create sounds more like a pantomime with added sex than anything that would get my pulse racing. But then, the pair are forced to make a series of compromises from the outset; sourcing actors who look the part, are willing to take an HIV test, will wear a condom, AND are able to actually turn up on the day proves impossible.

Although I wasn’t convinced book’s conceit of pretending to be written by both Charlie and Vicky at the same time, I found it a completely engrossing read. Their initial aim of being ethical pornographers soon becomes mired in the muddle of need, desire, identity and hard business that makes up the sex industry. What ensues is a picture of sheer complexity, from which is it difficult to pick out who is being exploited when, and by whom. Anyone who believes that porn is a simple matter of right or wrong will find their assumptions challenged over and over again.

I’m not sure if I entirely fancy watching the film they ended up making (although I confess I’m more than a little bit curious), but I thoroughly enjoyed the journey that produced it. And what stuck with me is this: sex is a neutral act in itself; morality emerges from how you behave around it.

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Chastened by Hephzibah Anderson

As an Old Married, I confess I started off a little confounded by Chastened. When Anderson decides to take a year off her sexual adventuring, my response was, ‘But why on earth would you do that? It sounds like such enormous fun!’

But then, we always want what we haven’t got, and what Anderson craves is a little more conversation and a little less action. Thus begins a thought-provoking year in which the author tackles twin challenges: resisting the temptation to have sex with every passing fancy, and finding a way to write interestingly about not doing something.

She manages the latter with great aplomb, delivering a reflective and engaging book that’s insightful about the competing pulls of hot sex and slow-burning romance. While she skirts close to cheating on the chastity front, she manages to say a lot more about modern romantic mores than that recent glut of kiss’n’tell shagathon memoirs ever could. By refusing to jump into bed with her beaus, she seems to cast a more sober light on them, and few emerge well from the scrutiny.

Overall, an insightful read for someone who hasn’t had sex with a new person for many years.

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Betty Dodson – Sex for One

Sex for One is something of a classic. First published in 1974, it encourages women (and men) to really understand their own bodies in order to have better sex – both alone and with partners.

I was expecting Sex for One to be a ‘How To’ guide, but it’s actually more of a conversation, exploring Dodson’s own journey and extolling the right to orgasm. What surprised me was how fresh and necessary its message remains, especially in these times of labial trimming and hymen reinstatement. Most women Dodson worked with had never taken a close look at their own vagina, and those who had often thought that theirs was somehow abnormal. She also found a huge amount of guilt around masturbation, and an assumption that it was an inferior form of sex. It’s hard to argue that much has changed.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who has ever thought that maybe their vagina is deformed, or that they don’t have a clitoris, or that they’re incapable of orgasm (all firm beliefs of mine as a teenager). Dodson’s take on sexuality is a joyous, practical one that will make you think hard about how liberated we really are.

You can find Betty Dodson’s site (including an excellent ‘Ask Dr Betty’ section) here.

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