UPDATE: The Education of Sebastian has been BANNED on Smashwords! (Now you really want to read it, right?)
After composing the title of this post, I realized that “Christian,” as in Grey, is spelled the same as “Christian,” as in a follower of Christ. That could make this post either confusing or controversial, depending on your point-of-view.
My point-of-view is this: Jane Harvey-Berrick author of Fifty Shades From Twenty, Fifty Shades of Taylor, and Paging Dr. Flynn (my personal favorite) has written a new novel. I say “new” because after Googling her I see that she has in fact, written at least three before this one. Frankly, I don’t know how she’s managed to shove out her latest one, plus a promised sequel, while maintaining her Christian-related stories, but I digress (and I applaud).
Harvey-Berrick’s new book is called The Education of Sebastian
and I had the honor of receiving a pre-release copy to read since I have made my Jane-fanniness known. (Yes, that’s a pun on the British word “fanny.” American readers should look it up and never use it in public across the pond.)
This novel represents a first for me in the short time I have been reading erotic romance novels. I could not devour this book in one or two sittings and not because it was too long, but because it made me think and it made me feel and it disturbed me too.
You see, this is a story of true love between a married woman in her early thirties, Caroline, and a boy of seventeen, Sebastian. How they met is one of the disturbing elements of the story, but gives the tale an added element of poignancy, of which it has many.
As readers of my work-in-progress, Miss Martha Browne, know, sexual congress between a consenting adult and consenting slightly less-than-adult characters is a topic of some interest to me. Jane Harvey-Berrick’s tale is quite different than mine, however, as it is a Romeo and Juliet story, a tale of star-crossed (or calendar-crossed) lovers. Like Romeo and Juliet, it contains large doses of yearning, anxiety, and pain due to the impossible situation in which the two lovers find themselves.
Ms. Harvey-Berrick writes adeptly and convincingly of Sebastian’s initiation into sexual love, capturing his enthusiasm, his inexperience, and his learning curve. She also explores Caroline’s sexual blossoming in this relationship where she is truly loved for the first time despite having been married to a military man for over a decade. The sex scenes are so realistic and vivid that it takes you back to your own early sexual experiences and, if you’re like me, makes you relive both the heavenly highs and the desperate lows.
I had a couple quibbles with the story, that the antagonistic characters are one-dimensional with no redeeming qualities and that the instances of British English are disruptive in the American setting, but these details don’t lessen the book’s impact. The story keeps you on a high-tension wire for almost three-hundred pages with the knowledge that Caroline could be arrested on a felony charge for sexual assault for loving the underage Sebastian. It also explores the tragedy of abusive parents who maintain legal authority over the minors they harm. It makes the idea of legal emancipation for mature teenagers a no-brainer.
I can’t forget either of these characters. They’ve stuck with me. I still don’t know how I feel about Caroline’s legal transgression, given her serious personal problems, but I understand her. I understand Sebastian too and that’s what makes this erotic romance stand out among the crowd.
The sequel, The Education of Caroline, which is scheduled for release early next year, takes up the lovers’ story ten years later. I’m eager to know what happens.