BOOK REVIEW: The Secret Lives of Emma trilogy: Beginnings, Distractions, Unmasked (Review by Ariane Beeston)

by |June 3, 2014

After his events at this year’s Sydney Writer’s Festival, John Purcell’s bestselling Secret Lives of Emma trilogy has reached new audiences. We asked a fan of the series, writer Ariane Beeston, to share her thoughts. Unfortunately this wonderful review will do little to stop the boss gloating around the office.

For much of my early twenties, I spent hours wandering through the labyrinth of shelves in John Purcells secondhand bookshop (Johns Bookshop) a beautiful store tucked into the corner of a small shopping village in Mosman. The huge selection of novels, combined with Johns encyclopaedic knowledge of all things literary was a true bookworms heaven.

And so, it was lovely and a little intriguing to discover that the tall, mysterious man behind the counter of this much-loved little bookstore had penned his own novels, under the pseudonym Natasha Walker.

The Secret Lives of Emma is a wickedly sexy series. The heroine, 32 year-old Emma Benson, is a recently married Mosman woman, with a past. Uninhibited and with a constant string of lovers, Emma surprises everyone, including herself, when she chooses to settle down. While she initially attempts to remain loyal to her banker husband and her new, quieter life in the suburbs, ultimately, Emmas desire for the sensual is bigger than suburbia, the trilogy chronicling her secret, erotic adventures.

The Secret Lives of Emma, John Purcell, Natasha Walker, Books Online, Australian BooksShe was not unhappy, not all at, except in this: she needed from time to time to be very naughty.

Emma is a psychologically complex woman, both scheming and reflective. Shes beautiful, but shes clever. Beguiling. Theres an intelligence to Emmas encounters, to her analysis of situations, emotions and of course, the people she meets, lusts after and loves.

The novels are written in such a way that the experience is seamless, creating the sense that you might miss out if you stop reading, that the characters will simply continue on without you.

Purcell writes sex brilliantly, even elegantly at times. The language is perfectly sexy, avoiding the sorts of clichés that can make erotica more cringeworthy than sensual. Theres a wit and playfulness to the overall tone of the books, something which sets them apart from other novels in this genre.

the-secret-lives-of-emma-unmasked, John PurcellSex aside (which is as titillating and fantasy-fuelled as youd expect from good erotic fiction) the books are full of astute insights around the nature of friendship, of marriage and monogamy and of lust and love. Concepts like jealousy, possession and attraction are also explored through Emmas liaisons and the life choices she makes.

The Secret Lives of Emma is intelligent erotica. Its multi-layered, funny and at times, even wise.

A tease and a treat.

Grab a copy of The Secret Lives of Emma here



Ariane Beestons writing has appeared on The Good Men Project, Mamamia, ivillage Australia Role/Reboot and Essential Baby.

She can be found on twitter @Ariane_JMS and you can read her published work at

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About the Contributor

Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

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