Ever since Fanny Hill, the lusty wench has been a stock character in erotic fiction. Starting from a state of relative innocence, she dives with reckless abandon into the "warm waters of sins of the flesh", eager to experience every variant of sexual pleasure. No one can resist her erotic enthusiasm. She attracts both men and women, less because of her physical attributes than because of her inexhaustible capacity for arousal. It is her sexual curiosity, responsiveness and openness that set her apart from ordinary women and mark her for a special fate.
Rita Holly, the heroine of K.D. Grace's highly entertaining novel The Initiation of Ms Holly, is a prime example of this literary tradition. Rita is a modern, independent, intelligent young woman, a transplanted American working as a journalist in London. She is attractive but not really sophisticated or elegant. An encounter with a stranger on a blacked-out Eurostar train stalled under the English Channel reveals that her true nature: exquisitely sensitive, sexually voracious, and possessing the rare ability to completely suspend her rational self when in the throes of carnal delight.
Rita never has the opportunity to see Edward's face, but his touch, smell and taste set her on fire. Before long, she learns that he belongs to an ancient sexual society known as the The Mount, which hides behind the facade of an exclusive London restaurant and dance club. A mysterious vow requires him to wear a mask in her presence, but he introduces her (in the most physical sense) to other members of The Mount's High Council: golden-haired, androgynous Alex, who teaches the tango and other dances of passion; stern but succulent butch Aurora, who serves as waitress and enforcer of The Mount's rules; grizzled, solid Leo, in his bush helmet and khakis, looking like he just returned from safari; curvy, elegant Lorelei; exotic Morgan, his body tattooed with leopard spots; and the impossibly beautiful and elegant Vivienne, the head of the Council. Edward convinces Rita to apply for membership in the elite society and she is accepted as an initiate despite Vivienne's opposition.
Most of the novel recounts, in loving and lascivious detail, Rita's undertaking of the various tasks and sexual rites of passage devised by the Council members. Needless to say, Rita passes every test with flying colors. A week as a pet in a human zoo, an explosive coupling bound to a motorcycle, "forced" oral service to both males and females, whippings and spankings, public exposure, a week as a slave to the vicious Vivienne, nothing can stand in the way of Rita's desperate need to know who Edward really is. Even as she questions her own sanity, she is a more than willing participant in the many flavors of debauchery to which she is subjected.
The Initiation of Ms Holly is erotic fantasy at its best. The sexual scenarios are wonderfully varied and imaginative, and unfailingly arousing. I flew through the book, devouring one luscious sex scene after another, as eager as Rita herself for the next trial.
The book includes a variety of D/s activities and given my usual preferences, I would have expected these scenes to be my favorites. However, the interlude that Rita spends in Leo's "zoo" turned out to be the most arousing section of the novel for me. Leo treats his beloved pets as animals, but they are not used, abused or forced to "serve" their masters, as "pets" sometimes are in BDSM tales. Indeed, pets are not allowed to have sex with humans. The thrill in the zoo is the way its denizens drop their human pretensions and give full rein to their animal nature. For a week, Rita does not speak. She uses the senses of smell, taste and touch to communicate with her fellow pets, and glories in the permission to enjoy sexual pleasure without any of the societal baggage we humans carry. Ms. Grace describes this experience in a vivid, visceral way.
This novel does require considerable suspension of disbelief. Despite its fantastic plot, though, the characters are distinctive and moderately realistic, except for their prodigious sexual capabilities. Vivienne, the gorgeous bitch who emerges as Rita's adversary, is particularly well drawn. The scenes in which she imagines taking Rita's role show a significant level of psychological insight.
I found the resolution of the novel slightly disappointing, relying as it does on a mater ex machina. However, I might have been influenced by the fact that all the delightful carnal games were drawing to a close. Appropriately, the novel ends with an orgy as Rita becomes a full member of The Mount and Edward removes his mask. Of course, an abundance of orgasms are enjoyed by all.
Overall, The Initiation of Ms Holly is great fun, following in a time-honored literary tradition.