3 out of 4 stars
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From time to time, I see articles about pole dancing. These stress that such dancing can be considered a sport in a way far removed from any sleazy image. It requires great skill, and no doubt pole dancers experience that grounded thrill that comes from working out the core muscles. A key theme of Lipstick Money by Anastacia Snelleksz is dance performance in the context of the adult industry. This fictional work also revolves around the dancers’ strong cores – figuratively no less than literally.
The story is told in the first person by its young Australian heroine Natasha Ray who has come to Japan to work as a hostess at the Willow Club. Upon arrival, she is promptly rechristened Jade and told that she will not be able to eat in the club restaurant except at the invitation of important clients. Initially, her job is to entertain clients by conversing with them at their tables, ensuring that they order plenty of champagne, and to give lap dances. She is also expected to perform onstage, but this is not an establishment where men shove bills into girls’ G-strings as that would be disrespectful. However, Jade is warned that she should only ever refuse a lap dance if she doesn’t want to work for the Willow Club any more. Therefore, it is not clear how far the respect goes or to what extent she will be protected.
It is a naïve and vulnerable Natasha who first lands in Tokyo. The lack of virtually any backstory left me as disoriented as she is after her ten-hour flight. The description of her apartment with room for nothing but a shared futon drew me in, though. More is revealed about Natasha's life before Japan as she navigates her new life as Jade. Her roommate Brandi is hostile, but first-rate hostess Sasha takes Jade under her wing. The book presents a fascinating examination of both competitiveness and support among women. It considers their relations with their male clients, for whom money is often no object. I appreciated the way the book got me thinking about the adult industry from many angles. The author paints a vivid picture of female prowess and of the empowerment that flows from owning and rejoicing in one’s sensuality.
The examination of sexuality has some specific cultural aspects by dint of the Japanese setting. Jade learns of the priority accorded to female carnal pleasure. She is introduced to a collection including samurai women’s sex toys and a painting of a woman indulging in tentacle sex. The wealth of detail in the book was most stimulating.
Jade’s learning experiences go hand in hand with her burgeoning confidence. In that regard, the book is strongly character driven. Jade is blossoming in her own right when a romance starts to gather force. The romance itself is the stuff of dreams and features a plot twist that I'm still marvelling at. Apart from this, though, the book has the downside that the plot is sometimes contrived. Jade might be reflecting on male and female roles, for example, and then other characters come along and parrot her thoughts. Often, a character shows up at just the right or wrong moment to play some plot-related role; this is clumsy.
This could be improved through another round of editing, which is also required in that the book contains many errors throughout. Typos were not a problem, but there were many missing words and homophone errors, for example. Since this book is powerful and sexy but has certain flaws, I rate it three out of four stars. It comes highly recommended to mature adults who would enjoy the inspiring tale of a young woman who learns and grows, claiming rewards on her quest for herself. It’s not for you if you dislike erotic content, and readers are advised that it includes some sexual violence.
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