Stranger Than Fiction
By Delores Swallows
We authors often complain that our characters boss us around. We hear their voices in our heads, voicing their displeasure at our plot twists and demanding changes. They object loudly when we try to make them adhere to our outlines. It’s worse than herding cats.
Stranger Than Fiction takes this conceit one step further. In this tale, an erotic author’s heroine becomes corporeal in order to express her dissatisfaction with the sexual scenes he’s penned for her. Ruby doesn’t just bitch about her sexual frustration; she takes action, seducing poor James and engendering vivid (and messy) orgasms, even though he knows she isn’t real. In the process, she jeopardizes her creator’s already threatened marriage. As mild-mannered James tries to juggle his attraction to the increasingly wild heroine he has birthed and his love for his overworked executive wife, he learns a thing or two about his own sexuality.
Delores Swallows writes with a sure hand and a ready wit. Ruby’s outrageous behavior and James’ futile attempts to curb his lust for his unruly character will have you laughing out loud. However, Stranger Than Fiction is more than just a raunchy lark. Ms. Swallows (or maybe I should say “Mr. Swallows”, since the author freely admits to being male) incorporates some underlying wisdom about the nature of imagination and the complexity of eroticism.
I suspect that Delores Swallows didn’t consciously intend to make Ruby a personification of her creator’s sexual frustration, but one could read the book that way. While James tries to write a story infused with realistic emotional conflict rather than unbridled and fantastic lust, he’s shackling his own sexual creativity. When he lets Ruby come out and play, he liberates his own libido.
And is the book erotic? Stranger Than Fiction deals more with light-hearted arousal than deep, obsessive desire, but it does include a lot of lively and pleasurable sex, with many a nod to favorite female fantasies like multiple partners and sex with hunky strangers.
Stranger Than Fiction is about forty pages long. Novellas of this length often feel either incomplete or rushed. This book is exactly the right length for the story it tells. The story arc builds, rises to a climax (or several), then resolves, to everyone’s satisfaction (including Ruby’s). The sense of completion is another testimony to Ms./Mr. Swallows’ authorly skill.
This is the first book I’ve read by Mr. Swallows. Given that he now has a several book backlist, I’m certain it won’t be the last.