★★★★★ – five stars.
Yes, you read the title correctly. Swingularity. As not only a Cooper/Swingset fangirl but a devotee of all things puntastic, how could I resist?
This is actually Cooper’s second novel about swinging and follows directly on from his first, A Life Less Monogamous. I read them more or less back to back but, at the author’s request, I am reviewing the newer one first. Swingularity can also be read as a stand-alone, though I’m of the opinion you’ll get more from it if you read ALLM first. I’m going to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, but a few plot/character points may need to be disclosed in order for it to make sense.
[Full disclosure: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.]
Approaching the Swingularity takes place during one week at Aphrodite’s Resort & Spa, a fictional swingers’ resort I’m informed carries “more than a passing resemblance” to Desire. It follows several couples, most notably newbie-ish swingers Ryan and Jen (the focus of A Life Less Monogamous) on their first trip, scene veterans Bruce and Paige, and first-lesbian-couple-to-attend Alejandra and Crista. There’s also a storyline following the trip’s leader, Raymond, who struggles to play the jovial, sexy host while dealing with some intense personal pain.
Swingularity is definitely an erotic novel. It’s raunchy, it’s explicit and it’s hot as hell. Particular highlights, for me, were Ryan and Jen’s outdoor fuck in the middle of a summer storm, and Bruce and Paige’s very erotic “couple’s massage,” but there’s more sexy fuckery (and some of it quite kinky!) than you can shake a flogger at. But it’s also a lot more than an erotic novel.
The characters are beautifully thought out and well realised. They all have foibles, flaws and the occasional fuck-up of epic proportions. I fancy the pants-he’s-probably-not-wearing off Bruce, but his actions when an old flame re-appears in his and Paige’s life had me going, “you FUCKING IDIOT” at the book. The relationships, too, are beautiful and real – sometimes painfully so. The struggles within and between the couples are magnified in the intensity of the resort and sometimes tensions stretch to breaking point, but there’s also love and hope that shines off the page. I was genuinely rooting for the characters to work through their troubles in productive ways and end up happier and healthier for them. And crucially, more often than not, the sex serves the plot, not the other way around. Without giving too much away, there’s a scene where a hitherto-straight man explores his interest in sex with another man – the result is in turns sexy, uncomfortable and ultimately gut-wrenching.
It’s also deliciously inclusive. I mentioned to Cooper that this novel is – sadly, one could say – more inclusive than the real-life swinger communities I’ve encountered thus far. There are gay and lesbian characters and bi men, not just the endless straight-men-and-bi-women-only trope that is all too common in the swinging world. There are characters of colour. There is at least one trans character. There are older characters, younger characters, fat and skinny, able bodied and disabled. There are a huge variety of sexual proclivities, preferences and levels of experience. I wish, how I wish, that the real life swinging community where I live was more like this. We’d probably get laid at events more often if it was.
I would be remiss, too, to not mention how funny this book is. There’s a particularly hilarious incident about half way through involving an obnoxious podcast host and a jellyfish, and the banter between the major characters kept me giggling throughout. Cooper certainly understands the truism I’ve long stood by, that sex is hilarious and ought not to be taken overly seriously too often.
In short: I laughed. I cried. I wanked furiously. And now I’m telling you all to go out and buy this book so you can do the same.
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