Traipsing Through the Tropes: Toxic Desire by Robin Lovett

It’s our last Enemies to Lovers book, and I went with a highly erotic space tale, Toxic Desire by Robin Lovett. It kicks off a fantastic series. We discuss the horny bits and the word building. As always with this type of post, spoilers abound so know that before you keep reading!


Me: So…Toxic Desire. What did you think?

Him: It was … good?! Mostly? It think. Yes. It was good.
It almost lost me halfway through.
Almost.

Me: Definitely the horniest book I’ve ever gotten you to read. 
What almost lost you?

Him: Totes horny.
The horny with no plot or character development.
As in, it was almost character de-evolution the more they fucked.

Me: That’s kind of the point of the toxin. 

Him: Which, I guess, is the point of the book / planet / scenario.

Me: hahaha

Him: Yes, yes. I know.
I guess the continued spiral into increasing horniness almost felt like the characters were losing agency – EVEN though they kept talking about preserving it.

Me: So what got you back on board?

Him: When the actual science fiction world-building entered the scene.
It’s one thing to listen to the two characters hate themselves for feeling compelled to fuck their sworn enemies.It’s another to get the backstory on that animosity.

Me: When they got back to the human ship?

Him: Yes. When Nem’s friends from the ship found them.
As in, they found Nem with her pussy pounded into near oblivion.

Me: Yes. She’d definitely been over-fucked. 

Him: To be clear – I don’t need the author to hold my hand while explaining plot devices and backstory.
But some context is important.

Me: What did you think of the fact that the rebels we meet are all women? Surprised?

Him: I was pleasantly surprised by that. I expected a relatively even split between men and women.
But an all-woman crew was a delightful surprise.
I also enjoyed the “We ran from the fascism of Earth, so we are going to try democracy again” framing.
Very apropos given how 2020 is going.

Me: True. It came out in 2018. Before its time. 
What about the fact that Nemona had to become Ssedez?

Him: I’m not sure I liked that. I thought she could have formed a bond with Oten without changing her species/form.
I liked their conversations. I liked the bond they felt for each other.

Me: They had to come up with a way for her to match his life span. Happily EVER after. 

Him: That’s true. I forgot about that.
It was the reverse of Arwen deciding to shorten her elvish lifespan to be with Aragorn.

Me: LOTR can GTFO. hahahahaha

Him: You say you’ve never watched the movies or read the books, yet you KNEW WHO I WAS TALKING ABOUT.

Me: It’s like herd immunity. 

Him: There was a bit of “not all humans” and “not all Ssedez” to how they arrived at their cultural understanding.

Me: Show your work. 

Him: Umm… Oten said that the Ssedez fired on Nem’s ship as a matter of self-defense. The last time the humans came near the Ssedez, humans attempted mass murder of the entire race.
While Nem did acknowledge that was wrong, she said that there was a small contingent of rebels who had always been fighting the fascists.
Her ship represented the people who weren’t like other humans. They were explorers who wanted to find a different way.
Fine, fine – it wasn’t literally “not all [enter group in power here],” but it felt close to it at times.
I could be over-analyzing.
I’ve done that before.

Me: That’s fair. 

Him: So, that’s rather thin “work,” but I tried to show it.

Me: Now, what I like about the book is the horny parts. I think the sex toxin is interesting and amusing. I like the Fellamana, who we get more of later in the series. And I like Oten’s Attachment and the way Nemona fights it. Even though I’m kind of over “I can’t love because I’m so damaged.”
I gave the book four stars. 

Him: The horned-up parts were highly descriptive and detailed. Lots of variety to keep things fresh and interesting.
The idea of the toxin is a good one.

Me: His “ribbed for her pleasure” dick amused me as well. 

Him: It reminded me a lot of the toxin from “The Naked Time” in Star Trek TOS and “The Naked Now” in Star Trek TNG.
And the fact that the literal weakness of the entire race was found unwrapping his exoskeleton starting with his dick.
WHICH HUMANS LEARNED ABOUT WHEN NEM’S GRANDMA BONED A SSEDEZ!
Just a “chef kisses fingers” level of detail.
Why else did you like the book? Besides the copious doin’ it?

Me: I said it above. 

Him: Yeah, I saw that. Tell me more about The Attachment and why you don’t always like the “I’m too broken to love” trope.

Me: I like when the hero falls first and just treasures the heroine. And when Oten goes to protect her, he realizes how dumb that was because she’s smart and strong enough to protect herself, even though at that point she’s totally human.  

Him: Oh yes – Oten realizes early on that Nem is very strong and capable. I liked that.

Me: I just find the “too broken to love” or maybe just feeling unloveable in general uninteresting as a conflict. Personal preference. Slightly different from “I can’t love you because I’ll hurt you” which I’m ok with. 
Or I was hurt by love and I’ll never love again. I can be ok with that if it’s done well. 

Him: I get how those two perspectives are alike but just similar enough to make a difference.
Like most tropes – they must be done well.

Me: Truth. 

Him: I was instantly curious about the Fellamana.
What can you tell me more about that species without spoiling the later books?And can I guess that Nem & Oten’s respective assistants fall in love in Book #2?They are very emotional and emotive and sensual. 

Me: Good guess!
And Koviye is a protag in book 3. 

Him: Very cool.

Me: They’re very comfortable with sex. As you could tell by the glass walls and sex furniture everywhere. The Sex Games show up again in Book 2 and there’s participation. 

Him: I like their collective “We’re voyeurs, but we’re appreciative, not creepy” take on sex and sexuality.

Me: I have trouble with their unexclusive polyamory because I prefer commitment, no matter how many people it is. Also, I imagine them as very cool looking. Like living auras. 

Him: You’ve mentioned your preference for exclusive polyamory before.
And yes, I also imagined them with ever-present auras that reflected what they were feeling.

Me: I’m glad you mostly liked it. I purposefully picked a very erotic romance for you this time. Combining space with extreme sexy times. 

Him: I did mostly like it!
I guess I wanted 25% less fucking and 25% more exposition about intergalactic conflict.

Me: That’s fair. I was satisfied with the actual ratios. 

Him: Robin Lovett is a very good writer.
Excellent descriptions of the planet, gear, species, the technology, etc.

Me: I think you have to be to keep that much fucking interesting and not monotonous. 

Him: Very satisfying as a Star Trek nerd who likes technobabble.
Most definitely.
Any final thoughts?

Me: Just…do you think you’ll continue in the series?
Now

Him: I think I could, mostly because the Fellamana are interesting as a concept AND because I guessed correctly about the protagonists for Book 2.
But it’s not jumping my TBR queue any time soon.
No offense.

Me: That’s fair. Someone’s got to keep the lit fic “she breasted boobily” authors paid. 

Him: Wow.
Just wow.
No one is reading Jonathan Franzen ’round here any time soon.

Me: Follow @menwritewomen on twitter. 

Him: I do. Don’t you worry.
I found that account through you.

Me: You’re welcome. 

Well, that’s all for this installment of Traipsing Through the Tropes and next month’s post will be a whole new trope to explore. I’m thinking Fake Relationship. Do you have any recommendations? We like to do one contemporary, one historical, and one paranormal/sci-fi/fantasy of each trope.

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