The Tutor by K D Grace
Totally Bound Publishing, 2016
How can you make love to someone you can’t touch?
Sex might be about bodies, but eroticism starts in the mind. This truth (or belief, if you disagree with me) fuels much of my own erotic writing. It lies at the heart of K D Grace’s audacious erotic romance The Tutor.
Renowned but reclusive sculptor Lex Valentine suffers from haphephobia, the result of a terrible childhood trauma. He cannot touch, or be touched by, another human being without suffering acute physical distress, to the point of vomiting or blacking out. His personal assistant Dillon and the rest of his attentive staff try to protect him from risky situations, and Lex has adapted to his ailment by pouring all his frustration, loneliness and passion into his art. Still a virgin in his thirties, he has almost given up on the possibility of love or sex.
Kelly Blake earns her living as a romance author, while moonlighting as a sex tutor. She’s not a sex therapist; generally she maintains a hands-off approach with her clients, offering acceptance, honest analysis, expert advice and encouragement, to help them achieve greater satisfaction from their sex lives. Her work as a writer has helped her develop a deep understanding of relationships and sexual dynamics which she applies in her shadow career.
Through a mutual acquaintance, Lex books a sex tutoring session with Kelly. Their immediate erotic connection terrifies them both—Lex because he wants so much to touch her, Kelly because their mutual masturbation breaks all her rules about professional distance. In the aftermath, however, Lex senses that Kelly may well be the person destined to free him from the burden of his fears. He discreetly pursues her, until an unscrupulous TV journalist precipitates a crisis that forces Kelly to go into hiding at Lex’s estate.
Kelly and Lex grow closer, but Lex is still far from being able to caress her as they both desire. Instead, they have intensely erotic encounters through various surrogate objects, including Lex’s sculptures and, notoriously, a can of pears in heavy syrup. Not until the very end of the novel, after Lex rescues Kelly from serious danger, do the two actually engage in physical intercourse. However, no reader will doubt that they’ve been making love all along, at a distance, from their very first meeting.
I loved the original concept of The Tutor and I found the sex-without-touching scenes highly arousing. I could readily believe someone with Lex’s phobia might satisfy his sexual needs this way. In this novel, K D Grace masterfully demonstrates my personal tagline: “Imagination is the ultimate aphrodisiac”.
The plot, however, struck me as somewhat contrived. In particular, events depend on unexpected connections and relationships between the characters. For example, Dillon is the cousin of the Andy, the college kid who works mowing Kelly’s lawn. Andy’s girlfriend Jenny turns out to be related to a colleague of the nefarious reporter. Kelly’s best friend just happens to be the ex-wife of the PR guy handling Lex’s exhibitions. And so on.
Of course, most people don’t read erotic romance for the plot! Certainly, if you’re looking for romantic heat, The Tutor will bring you to a boil—even though the protagonists hardly touch one another until the last few pages of the story.