Chilli Heat was released by Black Lace in February. I recently received a copy and read it on a trip. The story is based on an English mother and daughter, though none of the book takes place in England, starting on a plane (actually, starting in a bed, but that’s the prelude) and staying in India for the rest of the book.
An erotically charged story set against the exotic backdrop of modern-day India. Let down by her traveling companion, Nadia Kapur reluctantly agrees to take her recently divorced mother, Valerie, on her trip to India. However, her mother turns out to be anything but a conservative presence. As the two women explore India’s most exotic locations, it is Valerie who experiences a sexual reawakening and Nadia who is forced to wrestle with her own inhibitions and repressed desires.
I started to read this book at 5am after a sleepless night. Probably not the wisest thing, as the style the book is written in is something I am unused to. First person perspective always puts me on guard, as I can rarely get in the same frame-of-mind as the central character, and I have not found something in present tense that has been anywhere above terrible. Both combined offers the reader little distance from the events unfolding, and there is also a tenancy to tell the reader what happened instead of showing (which happened on several occasions in this book) yet it works. It takes a bit of effort from the reader to adjust, but I for one enjoyed the challenge. Carrie Williams pulls off the combination with minimal confusion, though I still prefer to read from third-person past.
The point-of-view changes from chapter to chapter, between mother and daughter. The characters have little distinction except for sexual preference which is regretful but, as they are mother and daughter, I’m not sure how big a difference there can be. The reader gets to experience events through both a youthful virgin and a mature mother. The contrast of this is enhanced as they explore their sexualities and part company. It is very realistic in the sense that Nadia is unsure of herself and Val, the mother, is questing to ‘make up’ for her sparse love life with her ex-husband by shagging pretty much constantly.
I feel the nervousness of Nadia is overplayed, as is the desperation of Val. I don’t understand how a Nadia thinks she has to be either straight or gay, and not bisexual, which is frustrating. All through the first half of the book, I felt like giving the girl a slap. The mother is better written, though still not someone I feel a connection with. However, I did enjoy the character’s interaction with the minor characters. They are vibrant with their imperfections, each unique and seem hold their own life-force, a treat to read.
The journeys the two women take are interesting to follow, mixed with charming glimpses of India and its fluxing economy that make me curious and consider visiting the country myself, even though I’m a born-and-bred Brit and dislike extended periods of heat. Nadia prefers the rural side of the country, where the mother stays in five-star hotels. The landscape isn’t as richly described as it could be, but it is a lovely if vague backdrop.
The sex scenes are gritty for the most part, with none of the florid language of mainstream erotica – and yet the author seems to be fixating on three of worst words in the whole of the English language. Peel, palpate and snatch. The overuse of them sets my teeth on edge. Despite this, I love the author’s boldness in the various carnal acts played out by the characters and I enjoyed these scenes greatly.
I found the book finished far too swiftly and quite neatly, like a Hollywood romance. The mother returns to her ex-husband to restart their relationship and the daughter finds love in an unlikely short period of time. I would have liked to have Nadia find someone less safe or at least female (what? I’m bias!) and for the mother to not run back home to her ex, as I feel that degrades the freedom she gained and obviously enjoyed. Overlooking the neat ending, I did close the book feeling satisfied. I give the book three stars out of five.