In a largely oceanic world where men are scarce and paternity is often kept secret, Daisy and her partner, Sappho, run an agency that helps men and women conceive.
Opening with an artificial insemination sequence that is as erotic as it is fast-paced, Newell dexterously sketches her sci-fi world—a matrilineal, archipelago-laden planet that is not Earth but Earth-like. Sappho runs a conception agency with her busty, bisexual partner, Daisy. They welcome a woman who wants to arrange an anonymous coupling for her niece Morning. Sappho must arrange the coupling so Morning and the man can have sex without knowing each other’s identities. Both occupy prominent positions within their clans, however, and it would cause a scandal if news of their coupling were leaked. After consulting with a lawyer, Sappho and Daisy take the case and begin to train Morning, a lovely but seemingly virginal young woman, in the art of sensuality, using her body as well as accessories. When Sappho and Daisy prepare her to meet her male partner, the actual act—which involves a system of oceanic tides and brain programming—gives them pause. Will their actions help or harm those around them? The book, refreshingly sex-positive and fast-paced, is eminently readable erotica within a sleek sci-fi framework. Plot details—such as the constant fear of winding up in the “scandal sheets” and casual greetings that revolve around tidal patterns—make the world feel believable. And Daisy’s and Sappho’s obvious joy in sex and sexuality gives the erotic scenes a lush charge. What’s notable is that each sex scene, much as in Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, isn’t just an excuse for coupling; the acts help to advance the plot.
An enjoyable foray into erotic, female-centric literature, with enough nuance and structure to serve as decent sci-fi.