Going All In, by Stephanie. C. Lyons-Keeley, and Wayne. J. Keeley:
(WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOLIERS)
‘Erotic teasing leads to obsession.’
Set in New Fairfield, Connecticut (a destination well known for its terrible crimes and paranormal experiences), Going All In by author couple Stephanie and Wayne Keeley follows three suburban couples looking to spice up their weekly poker games, not to mention their love lives.
The first few lines of the novel instantly intrigued me- ‘Someone was dead. There was no doubt about it.’ This short, clever phrase had me hooked and intrigued me enough that I couldn’t help but to eagerly turn the pages, seeking answers to all of the questions now popping into my mind.
Three couples exist within the novel: Thomas and Scarlet, Katie and Steve, and Erin and Marty. During one of the group’s weekly poker games, a suggestion is made that the winner of each match choose any player (except for their spouse) to spend the night with.
At first, no-one seems sure of the idea, with the exception of Marty, a man who seems eager to commit as many adulterous acts as possible. I had no love for this character and honestly hoped that he would be the one to die at the end. His crude way of thinking, in addition to how he treated his wife throughout the novel was horrendous.
On the other hand, Steve’s character appears to be the most morally conscious, for he is the last to even consider the suggestion of sleeping with another person’s spouse. Despite what appears to be a dead-end marriage, Steve has major qualms about entering into such an agreement. Of all the characters, he was the most pure, hiding emotions of great desire and pain while trying to do the right thing by everyone. He never allows himself to act upon his emotions, no matter how cloying they may become. In all honestly, I was rooting for something good to come his way throughout the novel.
I loved the way in which the authors were able to foreshadow so much with so few words, e.g. after Scarlet seductively teases Marty’s character- ‘She had a bad feeling that she’d set something in motion that night, something that couldn’t be stopped.’ Immediately, I got the sense that something bad would happen, something final and set in stone. I recall the hairs raising on my arms as I read this phrase. It truly chilled me to my core.
The novel made for an enjoyable erotic comedy read, with sections that branched off into far darker territory.
Much darker themes such as childhood abuse and murder are afoot, but they aren’t the only negative themes displayed in this book. We also see the three female protagonists treated frequently as though their self-worth comes only from their physical appearance.
While this is a realistic viewpoint within our modern society, it seemed off that so many married men (friends no less) would feel so cold toward their wives, seeing them only as pieces of meat at times. Even the caring and morally conscious Steve seems more interested in a woman’s looks than in her brains. I feel that the stereotypical portrayal of men may have been a little too so, showing men of varying ages as all being the same. It made their characters appear not only shallow, but hollow too, as if there were no personality there besides wanton lust, except perhaps for Steve (on occasion.)
The main focal point of the men’s lust is Scarlet, a twenty-something year old blonde with luscious fake breasts that men can’t help but to gawk at. But, Scarlet is so much more than a nice body. We see her display a vast range of emotions, from lust to terror. She attempts to reach out to Steve at one point in the novel, seeking meaning and true companionship in her dismal life. Although Steve clearly has affections for Scarlet, he rebuffs her.
However, one man who never rebuffs Scarlet is Marty, though he is the last person Scarlet wants to become close with.
It is ultimately her beauty that drives Marty’s character to become obsessed with her as he is increasingly unable to separate their erotic poker games from his own reality.
Overall, Going All In made for a gripping novel with many complex themes. There wasn’t a wasted word and it is certainly a story which can be analysed from many angles. These two authors have an amazing gift for storytelling, particularly when it comes to creating vivid images within the mind, e.g. ‘…that hissed of death in the air; visceral, yet at the same time palpable, like the sight of the Grim Reaper’s scythe.’ This phrase paints an intricate picture of the author’s subject and stayed with me throughout the book.
Despite a rather abrupt ending, where little is said about the death of one of the main characters, this was by far one of my favourite reads of 2017.
Rated 5 stars, and recommended to lovers of erotica, romantic comedies, and mystery novels.