One of my New Year resolutions for 2013 (actually, already for 2012) was to read more erotica, for no other reason that I generally enjoy them but still don’t really read all that many. I tend to lean towards D/s and non-consensual themed stories, and White Ivory fits both categories (for the most part it is kind of consensually non-consensual but there are some parts towards the end which are very much forced), so will almost certainly not be not to everyone’s taste. To aggravate matters even more, it is set in Africa sometime during the twenties of the last century and it features white slave traders as its male protagonists – it is easily to imagine how things might have gone very, very wrong here, and it is to the author’s credit that, as far as I could tell, he steers quite clear of even implied racism (although that does come with a price, of which more shortly).
As the horrible, photoshopped cover (must be one of the worst I’ve seen, ever – once again, I’m glad to have my Kindle) immediately gives away, White Ivory is emphatically not quality erotica, but unmistakeably situates itself on the trashy end of the spectrum – and with considerable relish, too. Lindsey Brooks doesn’t indulge in any pretension but cheefully gives us what is basically the BDSM-version of a Boy’s Own Adventure story, set in a far-away, exotic locale and complete with heroic males, damsels in distress and dastardly villains. The beginning of the novel is great fun, and while Brooks might not be a brilliant prose stylist, he definitely has a talent for setting up scenes efficiently and effectively. The middle part does flag a bit; it is mostly about the heroine’s erotic training and gets somewhat repetitive rather soon. On the other hand, it does contain most of the novel’s outright erotic, titillating scenes, so it might not be all that noticeable that it there is not much in the way of plot or character development to be found here. And things get rolling again in the last third, as the plot regains its momentum by way of an abduction and that threat of a Fate Worse Than Death hanging over our heroine from which she is saved (hardly a spoiler) literally in the very last second.
One major letdown, however, was that the local colour of the setting hardly shone through. One can understand that the author was doing his hardest to avoid racist clichés (which aren’t exactly a thing of the past), but while this is very laudable it also makes his setting barely recognisable as Colonial Africa at the beginning of the twentieth century – a time and place where racism was very much virulent. Brooks also is unfortunately not quite enough of a writer to make the atmosphere of the place come across, which is rather a pity as it is mainly atmosphere that makes for the best erotica. Not that character and plot are unimportant, but in the end their main function is to contribute towards creating erotic tension, something that is not reducible to either and that unlike narrative or character development is not something linear. Still, even though the novel was somewhat lacking in that department, I really liked the concept of White Ivory and found it fun to read.