Planet of Desire, Book 4
Heat Factor: She has three clitorises! Uh… three clitori!
Character Chemistry: Graven is awkward and thoughtful and it’s pretty cute.
Plot: “I will heal you with my magic vagina!” Literally, not figuratively.
Overall: I had some qualms.
Before you start waggling your eyebrows at me, my qualms were not about Niva’s erogenous zones. I knew that this was going to be a crazy sex book because the subtitle is LITERALLY “kidnapped by an alien sex goddess.” And there is a lot of sex! The atmosphere on the planet makes people so horny that if they don’t orgasm every day they go insane! Niva has magical powers where her orgasms literally heal people!
I was fine with all of those things. Alien smut is ridiculous and fun and this certainly leaned into the whole “let’s bang with our alien anatomy” thing. Plus, I appreciated that the heroine was the alien, rather than the much more common alien hero.
I could even get behind the development of the romance, even though it’s almost entirely based on a three day sex escape, mainly because Graven is so adorably bad at words but so clearly feels that Niva’s desire is the most important thing. Example: as a literal sex goddess, Niva can decide when to orgasm. Her clients (who come to her for healing) dictate when that orgasm will happen. Graven insists that she orgasms when she wants to be ready to orgasm. This obviously stems from human/alien cultural differences, but reclaiming that power over her own sexuality is eye-opening for Niva, such that I could buy her special connection with Graven.
So what are my qualms? I felt weird about the portrayal of monogamy vs polyamory, and even weirder about the way Graven’s disability was handled. Let’s break it down.
Ok, so Niva’s a member of an alien species that is 100% polyamorous. Reminder: the planet’s atmosphere is an aphrodisiac. When you dig down into it, what that actually seems to mean is that sex and love or family are somewhat separated from each other. People have casual sex all the time – in public, in groups, for healing purposes, on vacation, etc, etc, etc. There are sex competitions where you are judged on form and style and number of orgasms! Much less is said about what family groups look like. Niva does have a close and loving relationship with her father (NOT LIKE THAT), but we don’t get a lot of insight about what the rest of a family group might look like. Towards the end of the book, Niva states explicitly that she hadn’t had sex in conjunction with love in a long time, which is what makes her connection to Graven so special.
Why is this a problem? Well, remember, that Niva uses sex therapeutically to heal people. Furthermore, this is not a job that just anyone can do, but rather can only be performed by a select few who inherit the sex magic gene. She is currently the only member of her species with this power. So her job is literally having sex with people in order to help them, which she thinks is pretty darn awesome.
However, the Ruling Council has decreed that she cannot have sex with humans – and here’s where things get a little uncomfortable for me. Humans, we are told, are instinctively monogamous, and if she has sex with one, she will be “brainwashed” into wanting monogamy as well, and that would be devastating from a religious/cultural/medical perspective, given her special status. Obviously, she initially scoffs at this, and also obviously, she and Graven have a monogamous relationship at the end of the book.
I feel weird about the whole humans are instinctively monogamous thing. But I also feel weird about the way that, in some ways, the characters are able to separate sex and love, but when it comes to the One True Love, sex and love are inherently intertwined and cannot be separated. And in this case, it also means upheaval for Niva’s work and culture. So there’s a definite statement here about what True Love means, and it’s a very narrow monogamous one.
Graven was experimented on by the Evil Empire before he arrived in Niva’s planet. In attempts to make a super soldier, his nerves were damaged to such an extent that he cannot feel anything. Like, his skin no longer has sensory receptors. He also is emotionally repressed (because torture), which Niva can sense because she can see emotions as auras.
So Niva kidnaps him not just because he’s a hot hunk of man meat that she wants to bone, but because she wants to heal him, physically and emotionally.
Ok, Niva’s a magical healer who might actually have the ability to restore Graven’s destroyed nerve endings. However, when it turns out that her healing magic doesn’t actually work as intended, things started to get a little uncomfortable for me. Basically, Niva can only restore feeling to parts of Graven’s body that are physically inside her vagina when she has an orgasm. Once the obvious candidates are taken care of, Niva continues to attempt to heal Graven, even over his objections that it won’t work, that he’s not going to have foot sex with her, that having feeling in his hands is enough of a gift, etc. But she keeps pushing and trying because it’s just so sad to her that he can’t feel hugs. And of course, at the end, she is able to heal him with a combination of her magic orgasms and the power of love. Now that he’s whole, they can truly be together!
Before I proceed, let me state that I am not an expert on disability rights or disability theory. And Graven does have an extreme condition that does not exist in current reality, as far as I know. However. This narrative that true love can physically fix a person erases people who do live with a disability and who are able to find love and acceptance just as they are. Just because Graven has a made up condition that precludes human connection doesn’t mean that this type of narrative doesn’t do harm.
Like I said, tracking portrayals of disability in romance is not an area that I know a lot about, so I welcome feedback or resources here.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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