If you find yourself talking to Jayne Dandy, keep the conversation on Star Wars and rubber ducks—best not to mention men, dating, or S-E-X. Because Jayne is fine with the way things are: writer of obituaries and garage sale ads by day, secret scribe of adventures in distant galaxies by night. But her crippling fear of intimacy has made her the butt of jokes since forever, and hiding behind her laptop isn’t going to get her lightsaber lit.
After her therapist recommends that she write erotica as a form of exposure therapy, Jayne joins forces with pen and paper to combat the demons that won’t let her kiss and tell. Unexpectedly downsized at work, she adopts a pseudonym and secretly self-publishes one of her naughty books to make ends meet. When her adorable, long-time friend Luke, co-owner of the popular Portland food truck Luke Piewalker’s, hears she’s been demoted, he insists on hiring her to sling éclairs and turnovers at his side. Her secret must be kept, but sparks ignite between them, sending Jayne and her X-Wing into a tailspin that will either make her face down her neuroses or trigger a meltdown of Death Star proportions.
“I’ve seen semen a time or two, including when my poor prom date danced too close for just a moment too long and soiled his rented tux. Awkward.”
“But writing erotica? I only did it because Dr. McCoy, my therapist, recommended it. I did it in the name of medicine. My progress in this field could make me eligible for the Nobel someday.”
“I’m not sure I wasn’t the product of an immaculate conception. My parents haven’t shared a bedroom or even a friendly smile, since Love Boat was in reruns. What the hell is Love Boat? Google it. Yeah. That long ago.”
“I have a weird birthmark along the inner slope of my right boob. A light-brown stain shaped like Australia. You can imagine the jokes that have come out of Gretchen’s mouth since the infection known as puberty took hold: ‘Take him Down Under, Jaynie.’ ‘Show him where you keep your kangaroo.’ ‘Maybe if you show him Oz, he’ll let you play his didgeridoo.’ Et cetera.”
“Exercise means pre-dinner yoga alternating with one disc from a set of DVD workouts led by a Nazi-esque woman with frightening eyebrows and abs my granny could’ve washed her delicates on. If I’d had a granny. With delicates.”
I have been a fan of Eliza Gordon since I read the first sentence of her first book, Must Love Otters. I do love otters now, but I love Eliza Gordon’s work even more. Despite the suggestive title of her new book, there are no actual sex scenes… shucks… but I still enjoyed it anyway… shocking…I know! The topic of sex is frequently mentioned as the main character (Jayne) has multiple issues, and is encouraged by her therapist to write about sex as part of her therapy, in an effort to reduce her fear and discomfort. Hence the clever play on words for the title – a combination of neurotic + erotica. I chortled with glee in learning the cause of Jayne’s difficulties being narrowed down to being scared as an innocent child by the “Satan Squad,” a pair of “cheaply perfumed” spinster sisters who lectured children in the church basement on the evils of sensuality and “touching tongues,” while their adults family members attended church services. She was convinced at the tender age of eight, that God was always watching and listening and would, “…strike me down if I touched a boy.” As an adult, she remained traumatized and extremely anxious even of the mere topics of dating or kissing, and had to spell the word S-E-X rather than say it aloud. She eventually seeks therapy and spends, “…$150 an hour to figure out why I can’t get laid.”
Jayne is well-educated, intelligent, a lover of all things duck, a sci-fi fan, a Star Wars expert, the family scapegoat, and the constant victim of her shallow and petty mother’s vicious tongue. I find it deliciously ironic that despite her lack of personal experience, Jayne discovers she has a penchant for writing erotic love stories, and when she finds herself in need of income, decides to publish under the same pen name she had used for her sci-fi efforts. She is humiliated, yet secretly thrilled, when it far and away out sells any of her previous writing efforts, and develops a large following. I wish such irony would befall me!
Eliza Gordon’s writing never fails to entertain. It is witty, insightful, wicked funny, smart, snarky, and prone to cause frequent snorting, smiling, and/or chuckling during perusal. I loved every word in every sentence of this exceptionally well written book. I actually started to pout as I neared the end, as I want more Jayne and Luke. But then, I almost always get greedy when reading a good book. Neurotica will undoubtedly be one of my top favorite reads for 2014, despite the lack of lack of steamy scenes of S-E-X.
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