L.A. Nettles’ Butterflies is a highly enjoyable read about a woman in her forties called Emerson finding herself after divorce. She is helped with this personal and emotional discovery by two key supportive characters, her friend, Ashley and most notably the sexual therapist, Alexander Jameson.
Reeling from her marriage break-up and her daughter leaving home to go to college, Ashley provides Emerson with a “pick-me-up” in a hotel penthouse, where she can luxuriate in her surroundings and also think about getting back into the dating game. The book takes place over a matter of days but they are filled with exploration of self as well as, with the help of Alexander, the rediscovery of sex through his therapy.
Set in New York, the book did have a “Sex and the City” vibe, which I thoroughly enjoyed: the glamour of functions, the uncertainty of dating, the discussion of intimacy, the importance of sex. But it also had copious amounts of wit and banter in the acerbic commentary of Emerson and the frankness of the dialogue that Nettles writes between the characters. At times, it was almost like reading a play and this is not a criticism – to sustain engaging conversation between two characters, which reads as credible and remains interesting to the reader takes some doing. The chemistry between Emerson and Alexander is palpable from the start and the depiction of their interactions is playful and fun. I liked the way that Nettles portrayed their relationship developing with restraint although, at times, Emerson sometimes came across to me as too biting.
However, saying that, this is evidence of her vulnerability, which comes out in her defensiveness and serves to prompt a lot of serious philosophical debate about relationships, expectations, eroticism as well as self-love and self-knowledge. Whilst sex figures quite highly in this book, I did feel mostly that it is part of its fabric as opposed to something totally gratuitous thrown in for titillation. But there were episodes in here which raised my prim British eyebrows in a way of which I am sure both Emerson and Alexander would have been greatly appreciative!
For me, this book’s strength was shown in the exchanges between characters: the wit and the wisdom, the reflection and the searching, the exploration and the excitement, the wariness and the want. There is romance, eroticism, humour and honesty here and I very much enjoyed it.
I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.