Extended Review: Chick Lit Meets Erotic Fiction In Chairman of the Whored
When I came across Lucy V. Morgan’s Chairman of the Whored, I have to be honest here, the first thing I did was re-read the title. And then I chuckled. Clearly, I thought to myself, this book and this reviewer were meant to be. I’m happy to say that the book exceeded my expectations and I feel like whatever good words I say about the story will not do it justice. It was that good.
Take one London law firm, add a young woman — with a dash of alter-ego and in an unfortunate financial situation — then mix in one hunky co-worker and fold in one domineering (but oh-so-sexy) boss, turn up the heat on the whole mixture and what have you got? One heck of a complicated love triangle, and what ultimately adds up to an engrossing, entertaining story.
After attending law school on her parent’s dime, which almost cost them their home, 20-something Leila Vaughn feels obligated to pay her parents back before the bank takes their estate. To start making money fast, Leila takes a night job as a high-end prostitute, inspired by her steamy tryst with an older man while she was in college that stirred up “Charlotte,” her wanton alter-ego. When she goes to meet a client and discovers that it’s her boss, Joseph, and her co-worker Matt, she’s shocked and embarrassed, but jumps at the chance to have sex both men. Joseph, impressed with Leila’s services, offers to buy out the rest of her debt if she agrees to quit her escort agency and finish up her remaining jobs with him. But Matt can’t forget the night they shared, and he is determined to make Leila his girlfriend.
To further complicate the matter, Leila isn’t a one-man kind of lady, and her sexy alter-ego Charlotte is itching for some polyamorous fun. And while Leila desires a romance with Matt, her physical attraction to Joseph, not to mention their “business arrangement,” are also keeping her from having a committed relationship. When Leila and Matt grow closer, Leila realizes she must ditch Charlotte if she wants her happily-ever-after, but it is easier said than done?
This story is delightfully layered and focuses as much on Leila’s internal challenges and personal growth as much as it does on the developing romance between two very likable characters. Leila’s struggle with her decision to move from a polyamorous lifestyle to a committed, monogamous relationship with Matt is fascinating. She constantly reminds people that she’s cheated on every boyfriend she’s ever had, and her alter-ego’s desire for multiple men makes it hard for Leila to leave the escort world. But Leila’s passion for Matt is strong, and the couple is mature enough to discuss Leila’s situation in a honest and open way, even as Matt maintains a level of jealousy towards Joseph and naivety about escorting that makes this story seem real.
Leila’s pleasure in not-so-vanilla sex, as “Charlotte,” is empowering. She enjoys her job as a sex worker, and isn’t ashamed of how she is employed (although, she is careful about who knows her “dirty little secret”). And even though this story glamorizes what can be a very difficult, hardening job, Leila is careful to point out the dangers of her work. She also answers the difficult questions Matt has about why she would choose to sell her body:
“Wasn’t it really uncomfortable, sleeping with someone you didn’t like?”
I smiled faintly. “That’s what they invented lube for. But also…I got a kick out of it. The nature of the act.” I played with the button on his fly. “It’s like a good excuse to be slutty.”
He laughed. “You need an excuse?”
“You’d be surprised.” I paused to steal a sip of his Coke. “Does that sound really weird?"
Leila’s uninhibited attitude towards sex is, for this reader, empowering, and her refusal to be ashamed of her desire makes Leila stand out as an erotica heroine.
Another notable quality Chairman of the Whored is that it has a hilarious cast of supporting characters. Leila’s work partner, Aidan, her boss William, and her best friend Clemmie all shine. Aidan is especially memorable, with his quick wit, fantastic comebacks to Leila’s snarky attitude. A true friend, Aidan helps guide Leila through her relationship anxiety and provides tremendous comic relief.
If you’re a fan of British chick lit and enjoy beautifully-written erotica with a slightly kinky edge, do yourself a favor and enjoy a copy of Chairman of the Whored.