Monday, December 13, 2021

Even more Dee Henderson

Regular readers will be be aware I have enjoyed Dee Henderson’s writing this year (here and here). Now, we turn to a few more novels and novellas, and then to her two Evie Blackwell cold case novels - of which I hope there will be more!

In The Witness, Amy is on the run, being chased by a New York crime boss because she has access to his hidden money. Police Chief Luke Granger is slowly getting to know her, but when her sisters (who think she is dead) inherit large amounts of money, it’s clear that trouble will come after them all. This one has a bit more action, and some of the outcomes are a bit sadder.

Kidnapped follows the story of FBI agent Luke Falcon, whose cousin’s wife Sharon and son have been kidnapped. Sharon’s sister Caroline (who has been dating Luke) may also be a target. How will Luke track them down, and why were they targeted? I don’t think this has any character overlap with other novels. There is a bit more action in this one than some of the others.

In Before I Wake, Rae Gabriella has moved to Justice, Illinois, joining old friend Bruce’s Private Investigator business. Country Sheriff Nathan is pleased to have her on board, especially when young women start turning up dead in hotels. It looks like natural causes, but something is not quite right. The three work together to figure out what is happening. At the same time the town’s main job provider, a tile factory, is on strike and tensions are mounting. How will it be resolved when it becomes clear all are related? 

Then there are a few shorter novellas:

In Betrayed, Ann Silver’s random purchase of a box at an auction house leads to the discovery of a murder weapon. As Ann digs into the history, she is convinced that an innocent woman Janelle is in prison for a crime she never committed. I really liked Greg, the trauma psychiatrist, Janelle sees upon her release.

In Missing, police chief John Graham’s mother goes missing and Lieutenant Sharon Noble is on the case. Will they find her in this cold Chicago weather before time runs out?

Evie Blackwell cold cases

Traces of Guilt is chronologically after Taken (and some references to character and storylines overlap as a result). Paul & Ann Falcon are present, but the main action centres around Evie Blackwell, who is about to head up the governor’s new task force on cold-cases. She is spending two weeks in Carin Country, reinvestigating the abduction of a young girl and the disappearance of a family. The Thane family are central in this town, Gabriel is sheriff and is soon working closely with Evie. Joshua Thane’s old childhood friend Grace has returned with a large and painful secret that will soon be exposed. Meanwhile Will Thane is dating Karen who has her own troubled violent past. This is a creative storyline, with some lovely, caring men in the Thane family who long to care for and protect the people who are important to them.

Henderson includes numerous women in her stories who have suffered dreadful abuse and trauma. She doesn’t seem to include men with the same challenges. Rather, her male lead characters tend to be strong, protective types who want to love these women. It’s a lovely story, but at times it feels a little one sided. However, she is writing fiction, and it’s probably what appeals to her (presumably) mostly female readers.

Threads of Suspicion has Evie with the Governor’s new task force taking on a series of Illinois cold cases. Working with Dave, they begin to investigate two separate missing persons cases - a female college student and an older male Private Investigator. The cases begin to intersect as do their own personal lives.

All enjoyable reads.

Monday, December 6, 2021

The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex

The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, Sheila Wray Gregoire (2012)

Warning: includes frank discussion of married sexual experience.

My recent reading of Gregoire et al’s The Great Sex Rescue, led me to explore her blog and then to her older book The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex.

Overall, this is a very helpful book aimed at women about sexual intimacy in marriage, covering early sexual expression and encounters in detail, and then ways to grow sexually in love, service, and pleasure with each other.

She starts with the beauty of sex, and it’s unique place in your marriage:
“You know you’re with this man till death do you part. You have time to learn. You don’t have to know what’s good to you; you get to learn what’s good for us.”
She explores how men tend to desire sex more often that women, yet acknowledges some women have higher libidos than their husbands. She encourages women to prioritise sex in a helpful way for their husbands. Here is where there seemed to be some difference from her current view in The Great Sex Rescue, where she is much more strident about the risks of seeing yourself purely as the outlet of your husband’s physical needs. (I’ll come back to this comparison point later).

She then goes on to explore three areas of discovery:

1. Physical discovery: fireworks. Detailed chapters on the basics and mechanics of sex, including contraception. She covers the wedding night in detail, dealing with expectations, and addresses whether or not they are virgins. It is sensitive, rational, detailed and helpful, encouraging couples to talk with each other and be honest about their own desires and personal choices.

She then discusses the female orgasm in some detail. I was surprised by her decision to make a distinction (as to value) between a vaginal and a clitoral orgasm. She then addresses the issues for a man who has a low libido.

2. Spiritual discovery: bliss. Here she talks about what it means to make love, rather than have sex, and the connection between the couple. This section looks at the realities of pornography use and how to proceed when either struggle with it, and also presents a range of sexual practices and gives her opinion on them.

3. Relationship discovery - laughter. These chapters encourage women to be more willing to initiate and enjoy sex with their husband, and what becoming best friends in marriage looks like:
"Sex isn’t the basis for our relationship; it’s the culmination of everything else, especially the friendship that we share"
Then she draws it to a close, basically encouraging women to enjoy sex and make it a priority.

As I flagged above, it’s interesting reading someone’s current views first, followed by their views 10 years ago. As such, my guess is there is some content in this Guide that Gregoire herself might alter if it was published now. Some things seemed a little different to the The Great Sex Rescue, and I suspect she has slightly altered her opinion over time. I don’t mind that, we all do it. But it makes it harder to read someone in reverse and then interact with what they are saying. They aren’t major things either, just some nuance. The largest difference is that this book encourages women to make good sex a priority as a way to love their husbands well. The Great Sex Rescue was much more honest about the challenges that such a message may send and removes the onus from women to be responsible for a couple’s healthy sex life.

A combination of both books together would be excellent, but as in any case - the reader should sift through and make their own decisions about what they do and do not agree with.

Personally, I didn’t like her designation of ‘good girls’ vs. ‘bad girls’, and it does certainly have a North American feel to it. She does clarify what she means, and for her ‘good girl’ doesn’t mean you are a virgin on your wedding night, or that you aren’t struggling with sexual problems, or your past that you had no control over (in fact she helpfully points out that some are actually ‘sad girls’). It’s not based on what you do, but who you are, and the fact that you are redeemed by Jesus: “if you choose to follow God, and his design for sex, you’re a good girl”. Even so, maybe it’s my age showing through, but being called a ‘good girl’ did feel a little condescending.

So, while there are minor things that I would nuance differently, and I suspect Gregoire would now also, overall, I mostly agree with what she says. Because it’s addressed to women, it is harder to recommend to couples, but men will get a lot out of it if they take the time.

I wish there was one book that covered everything about sex in Christian marriage: a truly godly and wise perspective, allowing for personal expression and experience, and helping couples to rejoice in the gift of intimacy. However, that’s unlikely. Yet this offering from Gregoire goes a long way to adding wisdom to the current collection, and as such, is now high up on my recommended reading list on this topic.