3 out of 4 stars
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Barely Ecstatic by N. Scoto Bowen is a novel about the world of female pole dancing. Cobey Muller is an 80-year-old American trucking magnate who partners with Dollars'n Gents, an adult entertainment magazine, to run a pole dancing contest. Named the Pole Ride, it has a prize pool of a million dollars to share between the top three contestants. For Cobey, the allure of pole dancing is not the sexual aspect but the artistic merit: the clean, smooth lines of a nude female body in motion. He finds an extraordinary pole dancer, Folly, and convinces her to film a promotional video in the mobile studio built into his truck trailer. He then sets about recruiting other exceptional pole dancers for the contest. But the word is out, and a criminal wants to enter their own contestant and fix her to win for their own financial gain. $700,000 is a big first prize...
Firstly, I have no particular interest in reading about pole dancing. I chose to read this book purely based on its author, N. Scoto Bowen, who also wrote The Dagger With Two Blades which I read for Online Book Club recently. Here, again, I was not disappointed. Bowen has a very readable writing style and knows his characters well. He includes plenty of conflict and interesting plot developments to keep the reader's interest. Even though the events in this book are low-key against my usual diet of murders and mayhem, Bowen proves with Barely Ecstatic that a talented writer can write successfully in any genre they choose.
Bowen's writing style features nice simple sentences. He describes women stripping and dancing without being lewd or lascivious about nudity or female body parts. The character development is strong; I got to know each main character well. A good example of character consistency is when Cobey talks to his girlfriend Ginger about surfing: "The surfboard makes a beautiful line when it slices the wave." This fits with his love of clean lines and artistic movements, which is his main reason for the Pole Ride contest. Cobey is a confident man, and his relationships with the various women in the book - especially pole dancer Ginger, sixty years his junior - include plenty of interesting dynamics.
There are obstacles, intrigue, and suspense included, particularly with a criminal element looking to use the contest for their own personal gain. Also, Cobey travels between states in his truck, so we get some great coverage of America. The dialogue sounds realistic, too. The English spoken by one contestant, Tatiana Yevchenko, seems right for a Russian not quite fluent in English. For example: "I have manager. He has friends in U.S.A. They said him to send me."
The only issue preventing a perfect 4-star rating for this book is its minor typographical errors, which are usually only missing punctuation. Therefore, I must rate Barely Ecstatic 3 out of 4 stars. I would recommend this book to those interested in the art of pole dancing, but I also feel that might limit its audience unnecessarily. In truth, if you love a great, well-told story, you should read this or any of N. Scoto Bowen's other books. I guarantee they won't disappoint.
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