“You’re aware that this is an erotic massage, right?”
In a word: Read the thing. Immediately after finishing Until September I went looking for some of the author’s other works; I found a few that looked promising but I chose this one because it wasn’t very long and it was a standalone. I’m not as big a fan of this one as I am Until September, but I still really like it. It’s pretty much porn but it’s also very emotional. At first it seems like it’s just a story about a massage therapist who sometimes provides ‘happy endings’ after hours, but as you read on you realize that there is more going on in the background. And the ‘more’ that’s going on is both devastating and beautiful in turns. If you’re looking for a lighthearted read this ain’t it. But if you want emotion with your porn, Touch Me has it in fucking spades.
THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS
The Trigger Warnings: This novella contains a character suffering and dying from a degenerative disease, and life-support removal.
The Premise: Erik is a massage therapist who sometimes takes in clients afterhours for erotic massages so he can have stories to share with his longtime partner George, who is in the final stages of ALS and can no longer participate in intimate relations with Erik. This has been going on for a few years (I believe) but everything starts to change when Erik services a client named Jeremy, and that’s where our story starts. This isn’t entire focused on romance, it’s more about the importance of touch as a sense and coming to terms with losing a loved one and moving on, but romance does happen.
The Length: This is short. Like really. My Kobo says it has 66 pages, but I think that changes a bit depending on the font size. Either way, it’s not very long (about 21, 000 words), so it reads quickly. It’s too long to be a short story; it’s more a novella (pretty sure that’s the right word). Because of the length there isn’t much time devoted to fleshing out settings, side characters, and backgrounds. It’s not specified where this story takes place, or how the characters got to where they are, and any background information is told in little snippets, sometimes through dialogue and sometimes through Erik’s thoughts. The story doesn’t suffer for it though, there’s still a complete arc throughout the whole thing and there are no loose ends by the ending. It could work as a full-length novel, I’d certainly be interested in reading one, but it also works just find as it is.
The Couple: Erik is a registered massage therapist who owns his own practice. He’s nearing 50 and has been with his partner, George, for almost 30 years. He started with the erotic massages (at George’s insistence) as a way to keep some sort of intimate relationship with George, but over time it also became a way to help people explore different methods of sexual pleasure. Erik really believes in the power of touch, he also really believes in partner loyalty and refuses to be with anyone else while George is still alive and so has become touch-starved himself. Jeremy is nearly 22 and about to start college. He’s from a small town and is in the process of exploring his sexuality, believing that he might be bisexual. He’s very curious about both sexual pleasure and the massage therapist he found to provide it. He’s also stubborn as all hell.
The Age Gap: Erik and George are around the same age (I think George is a bit older) and they’re the two in a relationship at the beginning of the story. After George dies, though, Erik ends up with Jeremy and HOLY AGE GAP BATMAN!! Erik is 49 and Jeremy is 22, that’s a 27 year age gap between these two. This is something I’m very much not used to reading. Come to that, I don’t often read about characters as old as Erik. But yeah, the two romantic leads here are both from different generations, which could potentially bother some people. Although Jeremy is absolutely over the age of 18 and a consenting adult; Erik is just a hell of a lot older.
The Partner: George is Erik’s partner of about 30 years, and is not actually a part of the main romance that happens in the story. (I know there’s a Threesome tag on this post, but it doesn’t have anything to do with George.) George loves Erik and just wants him to be happy. George also knows that he’s dying, and it’s inevitable, and he really wants Erik to move on. We don’t actually see much of George in the story as he’s in the final stages of ALS and confined to his bed at home. Erik refers to him quite a bit though, in the narrative. You get the sense that Erik and George were very happy together before George got sick, and Erik is going to be devastated when he’s gone. George doesn’t want Erik to be tied to him forever, but Erik wants to be with George for the little remaining time he has. George is the one who came up with the idea for the erotic massages, the idea being that Erik would provide sexytimes for special clients and then share the details with George afterwards. It’s not exactly an open relationship (Erik technically isn’t having sex with these clients, he’s just getting them off), but it is in a way? I guess. There’s something about Jeremy though, he’s somehow special and Erik gets emotionally attached to him, which makes him feel incredibly guilty that he’s starting to fall in love with another man while still with his current partner. Interestingly enough, though, George seems to pick up on these new feelings and actually seems happy for Erik.
The Second Chapter: There’s four chapters in this novella, and they… I don’t wanna say they aren’t connected, they are, but they don’t follow an actual plot structure. The first chapter is when Erik first meets Jeremy, and the second chapter takes place months later and Jeremy doesn’t show up again until chapter three, which takes place even more months later and is mostly about George’s death. Anyway, the second chapter is what makes me think that I’d like to read a full-length novel about these characters if more things like this happen. This chapter is dedicated to an afterhours massage session with Allan, who is a man in his early sixties who has had a stroke and can no longer get an erection (among other problems). This is a major blow to his confidence and his perception of manhood and he gets depressed about it. It’s his wife Cindy that contacts Erik (behind Allan’s back) for help. This chapter is beautiful, both sad and happy. It’s porn, but so filled with emotion that it’s so much more. It’s about a man learning to be intimate with his wife again (and also a bit of learning to explore sexuality, considering Allan’s age it’s possible that it’s something he wasn’t able to do safely before) and becoming reacquainted with his body. Allan is a very proud man and has been diminished by the stroke, his session with Erik was a way to show him that he could still be proud of himself and that there is more than one way to be a man. There are a lot of beautiful moments in this story but in my opinion Allan’s chapter is the best of the lot. I’d recommend this story even if the rest of it sucked (it doesn’t, for the record) just based on this chapter alone. Even if reading about older people getting it on isn’t your thing, it’s less about the sex and more about the emotions.
The Sex: Did I mention that this is basically porn? It’s basically porn. Porn with deep emotions, but porn. If you came into this looking for sex, YOU HAVE CERTAINLY FOUND IT. Like I complained that Fin & Matt had a lot of sex, but that was badly written sex. This is the good shit here, folks. The writing isn’t perfect, but it’s not bad either. The sex is hot and the emotions are real, what more can you ask for? There are four chapters, four snapshots into Erik’s life, and each one contains sexual content, and it’s all different. The first chapter is about Jeremy coming to Erik and exploring anal play for the first time (so there you have oral, rimming, fingering, edging, and a vibrator). The second chapter contains a M/M/F threesome (with an external prostate massage, boobs, oral, and a dry orgasm). The third chapter is less about sex and more about death, but it still manages half a sexy massage and hand job between Erik and Jeremy. The fourth chapter is Erik and Jeremy’s first time as a couple with oral sex and ass play that lead up to full on anal sex. This story is very explicit, things are described in great detail, it can get a bit crude sometimes. It wasn’t really my thing, but that’s just my personal feelings, I felt like some of the scenes just went on for a bit too long, but that’s really my only complaint.
The Writing: So the writing in this isn’t bad, but it’s not as good as it could’ve been. Grammatically, I mean. This is apparently one of the author’s first works, and it was self-published, so I don’t really know what that means for the editing process, but there were a few mistakes. I spotted some typos here and there. And I felt like some of the word choices were a bit misplaced (a lot of scored nipples, which was one thing that really stood out because it’s a word that makes me think more of pain than pleasure). Other than that the pacing was good and the emotions were emotional and the characters were consistent. The writing isn’t as solid as it was in Until September, but it’s still good and it achieves what it set out to do.
[Touch Me: An Erotic Romance was self-published by the author September 23, 2014, it is only available as an ebook]