Webcam Venuses

“The Venus Fix” is a schizophrenic novel, a multi-strand thriller with erotic overtones.

At its center is sex counselor Dr. Morgan Snow. While her boyfriend, New York police detective Noah Jordain, is investigating the murder of an online performer, who died in agony during one of her shows, she’s treating patients who may have a connection to the case. One is a mystery man who needs therapy for his addiction to Internet webcam shows, while the other is a group of teens from the same school.

Rose has said in interviews that she wanted the novel to reflect accurately the trauma caused by Internet sex addiction, and she has done so effectively, showing the lure of graphic images on the part of the men, and trauma such behavior inflicts on the women in their lives, and the girls who feel pressured to imitate the looks and behavior of porn stars.

But depicting behavior is not the same thing as telling a story. While the patients struggle with their obsessions and the murders of the sex performers follow the thriller template, the far more compelling story lies with Snow’s personal life. Morgan and Noah, each with enough emotional baggage to fill a 747, feel their way toward a hopeful greater intimacy, which is threatened when Morgan’s ex-husband returns, wanting to make things right with her. Morgan also has a problem with her daughter, who at 13 is acting in a Broadway play and has the potential of making a career out of acting. To Morgan, who saw her actress-mother self-destruct, this is unacceptable.

It is Morgan Snow’s struggles to find her place in a relationship, to retain a connection with her daughter and her need to protect herself from her patients’ traumas that give “The Venus Fix” its kick.

Score (out of 100): 88

Genre: 11 There’s nothing here that violates the thriller template, but at the same time I didn’t feel particularly thrilled. At one point, a major plot turn hinges on a character not calling Morgan, which would have been logical but would have short-circuited the ending.
Realism: 15 Top marks here. I never felt thrown out of the book by a descriptive shortcut or an inaccurate depiction.
Character: 15 Rose did an excellent job of depicting the inner lives of her characters.
Setting: 15 Again, top marks.
Theme: 13
Style: 12 Straightforward, with some nicely done flourishes.
Bonus: 7 Rose packed “The Venus Fix” with plenty of characters and material, clearly told and expertly plotted.

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