“News Corp executive’s novel makes Fifty Shades look tame” ran the headline in the Sydney Herald earlier this year. Siobhan McKenna’s Man In Armour, it told us “contains sex. Very graphic sex. The sort of sex that makes Fifty Shades of Grey read like a work of Austenian restraint”.
I bought this book book purely on the strength of this article. I take a keen interest in erotica and kink in literature and when those things are venturing into the mainstream media, I like to be there to welcome them with open arms. (Or at least a fairly reserved handshake.)
So when an article about a book begins by telling us that “the pandemic has been good for the erotica industry” and “consumption of pornography is at record levels”, well that feels like a thing I should have an opinion on.
But, bafflingly, Man In Armour is emphatically not that kind of book. It’s not trying to be. It’s a fairly depressing account of a man who seems to have everything but feels he has nothing and is rapidly losing both his sense of identity and his sanity.
It’s not a bad book by any stretch but it isn’t the book that the Sydney Herald want us to believe it is. Why do this? What’s their game? It feels like some kind of joke. If so, at whose expense?
Perhaps there’s a whole bunch of political rivalry between the article’s writer, Samantha Hutchinson, and the author. Some kind of Newscorp in-fighting about which I have no idea.
If you want books which are filthier (and better) than E L James’ Fifty Shades trilogy, there are plenty to choose from. I am happy to give recommendations. Just don’t expect it from Man In Armour.
It’s very odd when things are marketed in a way that is completely at odds with the nature of the thing you are trying to sell. I appreciate that in this particular case it wasn’t McKenna’s marketing team who were trying to give the impression that this novel was a non-stop sexy kinky ride of filthy debauchery.
It reminds me of when film distributors create trailers which are so misleading as to make the whole endeavour seem absolutely pointless. Bridge to Terabithia was a good example of this. The trailer promised a magical fantasy land in the style of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings rather than a realistic portrayal of coming of age, confronting your imaginary demons and bereavement.
The trailer for Sweeney Todd obviously wanted to snare the whole “absolutely hate musicals” demographic by splicing together the entire 60 seconds of the film that didn’t involve someone singing into one completely leading mishmash. How does that work? Selling tickets for a Stephen Sondhein sung-through musical to a musical-hating audience surely isn’t the best way to get good reviews.
The thing is, I suspect I’m guilty of the same sort of thing. Just in the opposite direction to the Sydney Herald’s synopsis of Man In Armour.
My new book, The Second Lady Wilding is released on the 5th of September. It’s utterly filthy with generous helpings of BDSM, orgies and repeated instances of the word ‘arse’. It does have a plot though, in between all the spankings, and sits more comfortably in the category of romantic fiction than it does under erotica.
This requires a certain amount of understatement in a book’s description should an author ant to avoid incurring the heavy-handed censorship of Amazon’s Smut Police.
(They’re an arbitrary bunch, the Amazon Smut Police, which is why you’ll find books for sale on there cheerfully titled things like Big Spanking Sex Orgy and other books are banned from the virtual Amazon shelves because they have the word ‘punishment’ in their book description.)
So I use words like “risque” and “hedonistic” and hope that my potential readers are canny enough to read between the lines. I just worry that I might tricking people who aren’t into BDSM-y sex frolics into buying my book. Readers expecting a straightforward historical romance are going to be a bit bemused by all the arse-slapping going on.
So if you do want Like-Fifty-Shades-But-Better levels of spankiness, buy The Second Lady Wilding. If you want a non-sexy drama about a man on the edge, buy Man In Armour.
Of course, if your particular kink is reading about complicated business mergers and a man desperately trying not to burst into tears in a restaurant toilet, then McKenna’s book might be right up your porny alley after all.