Sunday, February 12, 2012

Gray Pleasures by Robert W. Birch

Mary Grace, a widow now seventy, turned on to sex following her menopause. A naïve, guilt-ridden virgin at the time of her marriage, she never learned to relax and enjoy sex. Her husband proved a poor lover who only touched her when he wanted to get laid. Once he could no longer become erect, he ceased initiating sexual exchanges. At the time he died, Mary Grace’s libido took off. Eventually, she permitted herself to masturbate. She soon discovered her ability to achieve orgasm. When Mary Grace hears Nick Jacobson read poetry at the Senior Citizens Center, she decides to get to know him better. Via the Internet, she learns of his book-signing at a local bookstore, and plans to attend. Eagerly, she fantasizes about sexual encounters with this retired teacher, but she first must buy a whole new wardrobe of sexy underwear. The two meet. Coyly, Mary Grace lets Nick know of her interest in learning more about sex. Well able to succeed at that task, he takes it on. An aging male well versed in the art of offering delicious sensual caresses, he finds handling the teaching a bit easier than he does achieving hardness. Still, he’s a sensual man who loves eating a woman, and this is just what Mary Grace needs. She always felt that no man could admire her genitals, but Nick quickly convinces her that he loves the aroma and taste of her pussy. Mary Grace becomes comfortable with her body and Nick’s. She learns to enjoy both giving and receiving oral sex, and she even finds pleasure and excitement in talking dirty. Nick teaches her new positions. When he also introduces her to his gay son and his partner, she finds them a delightful couple. The budding romance becomes temporarily inconvenienced by an unfinished relationship that Nick needs to end. A more serious complication gets introduced by a woman who stalks and harasses not only Nick, but also Mary Grace and her family. At length, it seems as if everyone is screwing everyone else, except the two main characters. Mary Grace and Nick perfect a hot monogamous romance: one that offers lifelong pleasure.

Reviewer: avidscribe
For all those readers who think sex should stop when you get old, there’s this wonderful story, Gray Pleasures, to say nay.

But first, a word on the cover. Having my roots in graphic arts, I can’t help but weigh in on it. The publisher chose to give it a Van Gogh surreal sort of background and heavily touch up the couple. The man’s arm that holds the woman is disembodied or maybe growing fur. Whatever is on his knuckles and hand, it’s very off-putting. There’s been a huge effort to brush out details of both their bodies to the point the brushing draws attention to what is missing. If I were to judge a book by its cover, I’d have given this a pass. The swirling pattern over the entire photo has given it a faux painterly feel to it and it seriously doesn’t work.

On to the story. Mary Grace is a 70 year old woman who didn't find sexual pleasure till she reached menopause. Her husband was a less than giving lover who preferred lights off and hurried couplings and she never knew to demand more. She has been raised in an uptight overly religious family that taught her a woman's duty is to lie under her husband and submit, probably thinking of God all the time.

Nick is a retired teacher and local poet who hasn't let his age keep him from still enjoying sex and going after what he enjoys. He's intelligent, giving, demonstrative, outgoing and in good health. Unfortunately he comes with baggage—a relationship that isn't quite over as well as a stalker ex who refuses to let go.

They meet at a poetry reading he performs at her senior center and her world turns on its axis. We learn she's been a widow for ten years and finds herself strongly attracted to the poet and her fantasies take wing. She finds a way to meet him again, at a book signing for a book of prose he's written, and spends the time leading up to the day discovering that sexy underwear for a woman her age and a bra for a woman of her size requires a lot of hoop jumping. Outfitted finally in something she feels good about herself in, she has him sign her book and is surprised he remembers her from the center. He looks her up via her check purchasing his book to ask her out for coffee and she readily accepts.

Her bridge club at the senior center would be appalled but Mary Grace doesn't tell them about her desires or her new-found relationship. These are women she's known for 10 years who, although friends, keep the personal aspects of their lives concealed from one another. The women have largely 'gotten past' that desire for male companionship and view the opposite sex as pawing, grubby undesirables.

In Nick, Mary Grace finds the warmth and acceptance she's never had with a man. He's skillful, considerate and unselfish and she blossoms like a hot house flower under his tutelage.

There's an interesting story in here that really doesn't get enough time. This could have been a mystery or thriller. Her lover has a stalker ex who is intent to bring him down and any woman he touches. This crazy ex goes after Mary Grace and her extended family and I'd really have liked to have seen this drawn out more.

I enjoyed this from the aspect that it's the first book I've read that discusses the realistic expectations healthy adults of this age can expect. He's not always hard, they don't come on a dime, he's not ready for more 10 minutes after he ejaculates, she's sore afterwards. What I didn't like is I found the dialog in Mary Grace's head to be in an unreal voice that threw me out of the reality of the story. No one talks to themselves the way the writer has her considering her breasts and enjoying her sensitive nipples. Come on! This is a woman who refers to her vagina as "down there" to her social worker so her inner thoughts should initially come across as tenuous and awkward. She's a product of a rigid household and the conforming to the standards of the 50s when she was raising her kids and the use of colloquialisms right off the bat doesn't feel realistic. It is Nick who brings out the woman in her, a woman able to enjoy the vulgarities of sex-associative words and the freedom to say them out loud. The language would be forbidden elements to her at the start and they are not.
"What would it feel like to play with a man whose penis wasn't hard? As she reflected on her history, she felt exceedingly unprepared. I feel so utterly uninformed, hopelessly inexperienced, and totally naive, she mourned. But that warm cinnamon roll sure was delicious."
Huh? Now that's some weird stream of consciousness!

Even more unbelievable is Mary Grace's relationship with a social worker who allows her into her home to view a sexually explicit webcam website and then proceeds to strip for it. Really? In whose fantasy?

We should all find a 'Nick' at the twilight of our years or be a 'Mary Grace' who is open to her own sexuality and the adventures that still can be had at her advanced age. This was a noble effort to bring dignity and spice to senior citizens and hope for us all.

3.5 stars out of 5.

Publisher: Double Dragon Publications
Review Courtesy Of: ManicReaders


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