Book Review Archives

DeSade II: A Brown Recluse Romance

By: Rex Burwell
Reviewed by: Treasure Ingels-Thompson
Livingston Press, 2007
$16.95, Paperback

On the surface, Desade II: A Brown Recluse Romance may seem a traditional romantic mystery as its title misleads the reader. Within the thin cover of this book lie mysteries as esoteric as the origin of humanity and as practical as the human need for companionship and continuance. Priapic and insatiable, Jim Smythe is a man without a wife who has plenty of time to "get down" to business with numerous women. Jim—a good-natured spider to his flies—employs pheromones of his own making, snared in a handkerchief he keeps in his vest pocket, to entice the women he would conquer or oblige. In this, he is not wholly likable, but through wit and intrigue, Rex Burwell—the very man who imagines Jim—lures his readers, too, bringing them to a point that reveals the likable in the reprehensible, the adventure in the sham.

While some would presume that a man like Jim, one who wins women like trophies through his sly strategies and his witty charm, has little-to-no respect for women, Burwell’s perception of Jim contrasts that notion. Throughout the tale, Jim is concerned with what his mother must think of him and how his affairs will impact the women he beds. Although he is affected by each of his women in subtle ways, Molly Suzuki holds a special power over him as she makes a beautiful snare of her own, strengthened by her "mysterious and mirthful truth."

As reprieve for Jim’s apparent nonchalant regard for women, in general, is his deference for his mother. As his tale is told via legal affidavit and through conversations with his court-appointed psychiatrist, Jim continuously asks his mother to stop reading. He is ashamed or abashed by his illicit affairs, at least under the watchful gaze of his mother. And when a female friend reminds Jim that "[a] mother makes that mystical force that permeates all existence," Jim reiterates with a thought of his own—"Mothers are the wellsprings of humanity and culture."

Burwell’s romp through the mind of a middle-aged man finally seeking meaning deeper than the bounce of his mattress is humorous and deft. For Jim, seduction seems the salve for a lonely soul, but priapic and insatiable, Jim’s cure threatens to never come to fruition. It is Molly who may act as the "Buddha heart" to elicit from Jim his own cure. What Burwell demonstrates through Jim’s pursuit of Molly and the mystery that ensnares his readers is that the best affairs require both body and heart.

Treasure Ingels-Thompson lives and writes in Montevallo.