Imagine a life where every debauchery you desire is available to you, safely and discreetly, for a fee. Oral sex by women young enough to be your granddaughter? No problem. Love life feeling a little stale and you want to spice things up outside the marriage? It’s all yours, if you desire, and no one need know of our predilections. Your reputation safe.
This is the world C.J. Asher brings to life in his novel, Quarter Past Midnight. Kate is a young woman in between jobs, who as a last resort begins to work as a dancer at Silhouettes, a popular Philadelphia gentleman’s club. Not quite earning enough to cover her expenses, she desperately spends her free time looking for a full-time job in the accounting field. That all changes with a recommendation from her boss.
She is introduced to Gretchen, a reclusive entrepreneur, who caters to her client’s baser needs. Gretchen operates a lingerie shop for wealthy clientele who might other wise not wish to be seen entering a sexual-oriented business. Behind the scenes, she realizes the elite’s fantasies, creating any scenario her customers require.
She hires Kate as an assistant, first to inventory lingerie, but soon introduces her to the seedier, and decidedly illegal, aspect of her business. When an unexpected tragedy happens, Kate is caught between leaving the life behind or becoming further entangled in the business. She can walk away or accept the risk, and the potentially lucrative rewards thereof. But first she has to decide, and then convince a reluctant clientele to accept her. As stake is a potential fortune and her life is at risk should she fail.
Quarter Past Midnight is an intriguing read. It deals with human sexuality, and the currency that sex elicits from able. Sex sells, and the idea that people often profit from the sale of fantasies makes most people uncomfortable. But it’s available, from adult book stores, to strippers and gentleman’s clubs, to the proliferation of adult sites on the web, sex is big business. Too often it’s a business fraught with legal and personal risks.
That’s why I like the idea of a ringmaster such as Gretchen, who pulls together elaborate fantasies for her clients. There’s intrigue as to whether Kate can learn the business and manage to keep it running. There’s also a question of motives from the other players involved, from Gretchen, Alan the accountant, and Gretchen’s’ sister.
I found the story to be entertaining and suspenseful. The sex scenes added enough spice to the book without becoming gratuitous. The protagonist’s journey from a rookie dancer trying to find some semblance of control to a woman willing to risk all for the opportunity to become her own woman was enthralling.
All in all, it is a great read and I give it a solid four star rating.