Matt’s Smut Vault: Side Effect

Like a lot of people in the business of erotica, I seem to speak endlessly about length. Double entendres aside, sometimes I want to take a break from shorter stories and dig into a true novel that’ll take some time to read. While some hot’n’heavy mechanical sex and a big payoff is certainly nice, a good long buildup of sexual tension is what sells a writer as a true erotic author in my mind. For this week’s installment of the Smut Vault, we know going in that it’s a nice long one, but will it satisfy us and respect us in the morning after all is said and done?

Side Effect by Lulu Jones clocks in at 255 pages in print length, and provides another new interesting story idea against a pleasant Australian backdrop. Labeled by some readers as a “Medical Romance,” Side Effect opens with Kendall Atherton, a young psychology student being led through an expensive Sydney apartment building by a mysterious older woman named Vanessa. The reader is then quietly briefed as to Kendall’s “off the record” assignment: to assist with the therapy of Vanessa’s son Maton. The obscenely wealthy Maton has been an absolute disaster of a patient with more traditional psychologists, so it appears Kendall’s potential for new ideas (wrapped in an attractive package) could somehow reach out to this troubled man.

Something you won’t see much of in Side Effect are plot twists. Overall, the story is fairly straight-forward: Kendall slowly gets Maton to open up about himself. Dark secrets are learned, vulnerabilities are expressed, dicks are put into vaginas, lather, rinse and repeat. The funny thing is, while nothing came as a shock, the story actually felt more satisfying this way. Plenty of modern erotic or romantic stories include surprising twists about extreme trauma, or unspoken motives for why the characters behaved the way they did in their specific situations. Most often, these twists and tricks come across as a slap in the face, something we as readers could never have known as the author was holding all the cards, and it’s great to see this story stray from that line of thinking. That being said, Side Effect has still has some roller coaster moments, and even some instances of suspense and drama. But despite the frantic moments, we’re never toyed with as the reader, not worried that the author has some trick up their sleeve that’ll make us feel bad for wanting these characters to express their love. This “love”, by the way, was quite intelligently written. The sexual moments were almost poetic in their choice of words…deciding to express more in terms of self and feeling instead of clinical terminology or crude vocabulary. Such passionate moments were also magnified by the story’s choice of perspective.

One other particular strength of Side Effect is the focus of point of view, especially during the erotic moments. While the POV can change during a single chapter, the author does a great job to paint “both sides of the picture” when an opportunity presents itself. Maton’s intense lust can be countered in the same chapter by Kendall’s reluctant affection, serving to provide each moment with a little more mileage for the reader. Choosing to have these views in the same chapter should also be considered a victory, as we don’t even need to pause to feel fully encompassed in the whole damn sexy experience of both parties involved.

Rating: Side Effect, by Lulu Jones is an expansive journey that feels well worth the effort invested to reach the finish line. Comprehensively, the novel was a pleasure to read, and the consideration and professionalism of the author (thankfully the main character’s malpractice not withstanding) pays dividends all the way to the story’s intense satisfying conclusion. Be sure to book yourself an appointment, you’ll get more than your hour’s worth here.

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