Top positive review
Audio adds new dimension to searingly hot coming-of-age tale
Reviewed in the United States on August 1, 2019
“Under Mr. Nolan’s Bed” has been among my favorite pieces of porn for years, through its many rewritings getting around Amazon’s objections to its incestuous elements. Listening to it as an audiobook adds a whole new layer of pleasure.
I have found that before, with read-aloud literature generally. There’s the skill of the narrator, using different voices for different characters. Pictures are drawn in your mind. And it forces you to slow down and consider each word, to smell the literary roses. Good readers who fly quickly over texts can miss out on word-for-word intensity as a result.
Kitt calls this a fantasy, which it may be, but it hews so tightly to realities as to make it lifelike. There’s young Leah’s sexual awakening, her best friend Erica’s, Leah’s attraction to Erica’s stepdad Rob Nolan, the girls’ sexual imaginations being inflamed by the porn they find stashed under his bed. Yes, teenage girls may like this stuff too, and yes, a middle-aged widower may turn to it for relief. A careful avoidance of fantasy glamor, and a firm footing in the everyday world, make it ever more real.
Mr. Nolan is carefully crafted to meet a young girl’s dreamboat checklist. He’s handsome, of course, well-endowed and a considerate lover. He’s responsible, having cared for Erica since her mother’s death despite not being her natural father. He’s a parent who helps out at school. He’s good to Erica. He’s fun. He has hardly dated since his wife’s death, showing class and sensitivity to not replacing her in Erica’s life too soon. Despite Leah’s overtures to him, he’s slow to cave, knowing he must be the adult, but he’s ultimately helpless before her willing offering of her newly blossomed (and just barely legal) charms. He’s never the sexual aggressor. We learn that he watched one piece of porn because of the girl's resemblance to Leah, and he breaks off a just-beginning relationship with a woman his own age because Leah is the one he really wants. And he loves her.
Everyone’s sexual senses are whetted slowly. Nothing is too sudden. Because Leah practically lives with the Nolans, there are late-night encounters in the bathroom, there are sounds heard through walls, there is accidentally-spied-upon nudity, and more. The sex scenes are spectacular to begin with, and the audio version only enhances that.
The book seems very real in Rob’s hesitation, his knowing how dangerous this is, particularly to his relationship with his stepdaughter. Erica is an interesting figure here: sexually bold and exploratory, more so than Leah, the one leading Leah into trying taboo new things, but meanwhile oblivious to what's transpiring between Rob and Leah, until suddenly she learns.
The story has gone through various permutations - whether Rob is Erica’s natural father or stepfather and other, loaded elements to the back story. I need to note: the audiobook version here does not have the same ending as the corresponding text version in my Kindle library. The audiobook reverts to what I believe is the original book’s darker ending, which I’ve read but is no longer available on Amazon. The text version does not.
“The Nolan Trilogy” is a vast expanding of the series’ Catholic angle, removing the story from the sexually permissive current era to the repressed 1950s. It adds various subplots involving the CIA, the Cold War, and the Church. Perverted priests mount weird sexual rites involving specially designated girls. Nasty nuns abet that and run hellish homes for pregnant teens, selling their babies into adoption for hefty church profit.
I lost track of all the twists and turns involving the girls’ parentage in that one, plus their own mothers’ pasts with the priests. Plus she doesn’t add enough sex scenes (enjoyable ones, anyway) to make it worth the perverted reader’s while.
The various single volume present-day versions are more to my taste, getting more to the sexual point and eschewing the politics.
There’s a mild feminist undertone here, like a lot of Kitt’s work, but I usually don’t mind it. Women are allowed to be sexual and initiate sex, in response to any social expectation that they not be (expectations long demolished, in my opinion, but whatever), while men, to be seen as desirable mates, need to hold their sexuality in check, and be the responsible ones, the ones who say no or try to, and are never the initiators. Only the girls get to do that.
Kitt’s male characters do seem too idealized to me - Nolan here, Doc Baumgartner in the Baumgartner series trilogy, among those I’ve read. The only one who isn’t - David in “Naughty Bits”, also redone several times - is young and immature, malleable enough to be shaped by the women in his life. Another feminist fantasy.