Author: Sylvia Day
Sylvia Day is a bestselling author, the Crossfire series selling over 12 million copies. I have heard of her contemporary series and that she has also written historicals, I believe they are all erotic in nature though I have not read any of her work.
In The Flesh was originally published in 2009 under the pseudonym Livia Dare and it is a science fiction/fantasy erotic novel. The cover of the newly published Penguin edition does not strike me as a sci-fi/fantasy, I think the new cover categorises this as erotica as opposed to a science fiction. I was very surprised to find In The Flesh was not contemporary.
The book is set on another planet where the two major countries are often at war. I can’t tell you much about the planet or the countries apart from that because I found the world building was extremely lacking. We read a lot about the palaces and found out about the Kings and their concubines but not so much about the actual societies or the planet. They live in a place where off world travel is possible and other planets are inhabited, transport is possible via transport pads like teleporters.
Focus is very much on the characters, the romance and the intimacy so the outside world is secondary to the plot but the sketchy world building does leave the story lacking.
Sapphire was the King of Sari’s prize concubine for five years. She was prized above all others, and to the exclusion of all others – including the Queen. Nobody has graced his bed since the day Sapphire entered his employ. This situation is not good for the kingdom or the royal line, how is the Queen to produce an heir without the attentions of her husband…. So she takes matters into her own hands and decides to remove Sapphire from the Kings reach, hoping for out of sight, out of mind. Unfortunately for all, she soon realises that it won’t be that simple. The King is in love with Sapphire and giving her up will not be that easy. An opportunity presents itself to rectify the problem, without noticeably getting her hands dirty and the Queen takes it, but things don’t go as planned.
Crown Prince Wulfric of D’Ashier, the country always on the brink of war with Sari, is ambushed and captured by mercenaries. The opportunity presents to trade Wulfric for the leader of the mercenary band, word comes in while the King is busy and the Queen takes matters into her own hands. She makes the trade and puts the Prince in a place she doesn’t think he will be found but will set him up to solve all her problems.
The sparks fly the second Sapphire and Wulfric lay eyes on one another but they know that this is an attraction that must be denied. The two are from opposite sides of a war, and both high up in the hierarchy. Sapphire is not to be underestimated, not only is she the prize concubine of the King but also the daughter of the General, Wulfric’s fiercest opponent. Sapphire was trained to look after herself so she is a warrior in her own right and one who is more than capable of taking out men much bigger than her.
In The Flesh is the story of Sapphire and Wulfric’s courtship. Their knowledge that there can be nothing between them, the cost would be too great, is nothing compared to the connection the two are trying so hard to deny.
Sapphire’s real name is Katie Erikson, the King changed it when she became his concubine. Sapphire is the concubine trained exceptionally well in the sensual arts and Katie is the extraordinary warrior. Later on it becomes even clearer that it was Sapphire that belonged to the King and Katie who values her freedom and has no intention of ever letting it go again.
Freedom finally in her grasp it’s no wonder that Sapphire is so affronted by Wulfric, even as her body tells her differently. He is arrogant and used to getting his own way, his orders are obeyed without question and he has his sights set on Sapphire. That in itself is enough for Sapphire to run the other way but add her ever growing attraction and the fact that he is the Crown Prince of the enemy country and she knows she can’t let this go on.
Much of the story is based around relationships – familial, royal and intimate. There is a lot to be learned about the underlying relationships that you don’t see, especially in a royal family. Jealousies and betrayals that are often rife in families but not usually publicised, and how they end up escalating in the right circumstances.
Intimacy is definitely the main focus. The way that Sapphire performs her duties, the work side of her artform, and the way she is taken well beyond anything she learned at sensual school. I was impressed that throughout the first two thirds of the book there were many terms used to describe the anatomy and they weren’t the c word, and that’s something I really do notice… and then, there it was. But with sex scenes rife throughout the book that term was only used a handful of times, which is a real plus for me. There was some serious steam going on between these covers and once it started it went on for pages. At times I thought it got a little over the top but erotica isn’t really my genre, I much prefer a strong story with a side helping of erotica rather than the other way round.
I’m not sure if this is a stand-alone novel or if it will grow into a series, there are indicators that tell me this is the beginning of a series but I haven’t been able to discover whether or not this is the case.
In The Flesh was an interesting read, the chemistry was palpable and the writing style was enough to interest me in reading more of her work, though having said that this story did fall a little flat for me with the lack of world building.