Review: Letting Jack Watch, by Katheryn Wallis

Letting Jack Watch is a debut erotic novella, published in June by Ellora’s Cave. I know right? When’s the last time I read an erotic romance, never mind an EC? Sometimes I just have an urge to do something different, not read what everyone else is reading, and strike out on my own. This urge has led me to some of the most howlingly bad reads of my life. Luckily this one turned out to be ok.

Adults, read on:

Jack is a lonely Edmonton cop whose partner, Jeremy, is in a happy, committed relationship with a curvy, petite green-eyed redhead named Caitlin. Edmonton, you say? Why, yes. Who knew Ellora’s Cave has a series called Oh, Canada? Jack, Jeremy, Caitlin and their friends spend a lot of time hanging out together, attending Oilers games, going out for Boston Pizza, having pool parties, talking about curling, and drinking British cider.

With all of this friendly togetherness, it was perhaps inevitable that Jack, who has a bit of a crush on Caitlin, would stumble on Jeremy and Caitlin getting it on… and keep looking for longer than he should. Jack confesses to Jeremy, and Jeremy finds that not only doesn’t he mind, he’s kind of turned on. The second time, both Jeremy and Caitlin see Jack watching them. Things progress — including a sexy interlude on the LRT (exhibitionism is a secondary theme here) — until the three engage in an actual menage. Without being too explicit in this review, I’ll note that, anatomically speaking, the sex itself is quite vanilla. We aren’t in Lorelei James or Maya Banks menage territory.

This is a sexually explicit novella, so there isn’t much in the way of plot or conflict. There’s very little about the police force, and even less about Caitlin’s work as an in house technical writer for an alternative energy company (you didn’t see that one coming, did you?). The only character development is Jack moving from a one-night-stand kind of guy to being in a committed relationship with his best friend and best friend’s girlfriend. Everything’s sort of easy: “Why don’t we try this?” “I don’t want anyone to get hurt.” “It’ll be fine.” “Ok”. “Boy that worked out great.” By the end, even their friends are cool with it, and our happy threesome is off to buy a house.

And as for character, well, there wasn’t much to any of the three. Caitlin is just too good to be true, a sport loving, sexy, nurturing, good listener, “totally insatiable”, multiple orgasmer of a perfect girlfriend. And the men are so secure that they don’t even mind when Caitlin compares their penises (anyone want to guess what Solomonistic wisdom Caitlin imparted?). But I did appreciate the care that the author took avoid making Caitlin any type of victim. She was in on Jack’s voyeurism almost from the first, and was written as delighted with the way everything progressed.

As an erotic fantasy, Letting Jack Watch was fine. The sex scenes were well-written and progressed plausibly. There was a lot more setting, both physical and social, and realistic dialogue, than I was expecting. I thought it was at least as well-written as many contemporary category romances I have read. I mean, I actually learned a few things Edmonton, and while I realize “it taught me things about a Western Canadian city” is not the normal praise for an erotic romance, I thought it was a bonus.

Edited to add: I forgot to mention that typically, from what I understand, threesomes are not part of polyamorous living. Another sense in which this is pure fantasy.

As a romance, it didn’t work so well for me: I need believable, well-rounded characters for that. But I liked a number of things about it, including, besides the ones I’ve mentioned, a story featuring cops where the work doesn’t get in the way of the relationship (one of my least favorite relationship obstacles ever is the cop who can’t commit because he’s a cop). Letting Jack Watch is a solid debut in its subgenre, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I think this author could go on to do some pretty interesting things.

6 responses

  1. Okay, as a Native Edmontonian, the Boston Pizza thing is dead-on. We loooove Boston Pizza. The perogy pizza (pizza topped with spicy potato slices, cheese, green onions, and sour cream) is pure decadence. Having sex on the LRT, though? Gross. There are cameras all up in that thing! Unless the it was previously titled “Let Jack Watch – and that Dude Who Works for Edmonton Transit”.

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  2. I’m not sure why I find the concept of the “Oh, Canada” series so funny, since I myself was seduced by, um, Canada. There seem to be a lot of werewolves involved. I must be in the wrong part of the country. I like the local color, too, though I wondered if they’d really drink cider rather than Molson or Labatt Blue.

    I was struck by your comments about conflict, or lack thereof. This is a problem with most of the erotic romance I have tried (which isn’t actually that much). The sex crowds out too much other plot or character development, especially given the shorter length of a lot of these books. They may be fun and hot but they aren’t fully satisfying as romance or often as a narrative rather than a series of scenes. There’s often a tension between the realistic nods to setting, characters’ work, etc. and the fantasy elements of the sex/relationship, too, that isn’t really resolved. Like we’re being asked to believe it as real but it doesn’t convince (not discussing tensions/jealousies in a ménage, for instance, as you say).

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  3. @Lilian Darcy: 🙂 I really do trust my online reviewer and reader friends more than my own intuition.

    @AnimeJune: LOL!

    @Liz Mc2:

    They may be fun and hot but they aren’t fully satisfying as romance or often as a narrative rather than a series of scenes. There’s often a tension between the realistic nods to setting, characters’ work, etc. and the fantasy elements of the sex/relationship, too, that isn’t really resolved.

    Oh you put that really well. Exactly what I was thinking but couldn’t articulate!

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  4. I rarely read erotic romance, for exactly the reason that Liz Mc2 said so well. But I just finished one last night – Liberating Lacey that Jane at Dear Author recommended. It really worked for me because it did manage to make those fantasy-like sex scenes feel more grounded in reality.

    Funnily enough, the hero is also a police officer. That fact does play into the conflict, but it’s not the root of the conflict and it’s well motivated enough that it didn’t feel silly to me.

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