Publication Date: January 6, 2015
In Anatomy of Desire by Ayana Prende, eight months into her marriage, Katherine Forrester has yet to submit to her husband. Her concerned mother-in-law and increasingly impatient husband send her to Dr. David Henshaw for help. Can she trust Dr. Henshaw and learn to do her duty to her husband or is institutionalization the answer?
The author, Ayana Prende, gave me a copy of this novel in exchange for my review.
Anatomy of Desire is a story of a woman’s desire to challenge expectations in an age where women are property who close their eyes and think of England when submitting to a male population that perceives female pleasure as immoral. As much as the novel is a historical romance with progressive-thinking main characters it feels like a commentary on expectations of women and their struggle then and now.
Katherine is a woman with deep-seated trust issues. Her husband is a kind and patient man by all accounts before the novel begins. She was urged into a marriage for the financial benefit of both her husband and family, which was not so unusual for the day. What is unusual for the era and for a character who has already acquiesced to the pressure of family is that Katherine sees no reason that her feeling shouldn’t be considered and respected in a relationship. She fears the violence of her husband but is willing to do what she has to do to stand against him to help herself and others. She reads as a woman deeply convinced of her own damage, so bringing a doctor in that may act as a sounding board seems a natural progression in the plotline. Enter the handsome and also progressive Dr. Henshaw.
Dr. David Henshaw reads in a lot of ways like a modern therapist. He is a sounding board and confidant who doesn’t agree with the modern treatment of “hysteria” which can include confinement and removal of the clitoris. He believes that the “cure” is psychological and is willing to put in the time to help Katherine, instead of locking her away so that her husband can dissolve the relationship and move on. As Katherine and David get to know each other and he becomes more a part of her life, the author takes the time to plot a believable path to connection.
The story is essentially a woman’s journey from a timelessly sympathetic perspective. Much of the psychological pathways are laid out intricately which, at times, makes the story drag. There are big plot twists that happen off-screen and we see in a minimal way that I think could have added interest. But, it’s clear that this author is writing a certain type of story in Anatomy of Desire and does not genre deviate from her goals. There are moments in the tale in which the author seems to speak directly to her audience to say to us “This is the way it was and never forget.”
The author called Anatomy of Desire in her e-mail request for review “unquestionably erotica.” I would disagree with that designation. There is a fair amount of sex in the novel (mostly between four people in independent couples) but having read hundreds of romance novels and dozens of works of erotica and would say that Anatomy of Desire falls very firmly into the romance category.
Anatomy of Desire is well written if not always engaging though in whole quite interesting. If you like romance and insight into the human psyche, Anatomy of Desire is the novel for you.
You can read an excerpt and buy Anatomy of Desire by Ayana Prende on