Ryan and Jennifer are at the end of their rope. Childless and at the moment, sexless. This ordinary suburban couple doesn’t have much to hold onto as far as their marriage is concerned. The marriage counselor doesn’t help. The advice of their friends doesn’t help. Their own impetus to move their marriage forward (or really in any direction at all) is faltering. And then by chance, they stumble upon swinging.
Cooper S. Beckett’s first novel A Life Less Monogamous documents this couple’s introduction to swinging–from their lucky first exposure to the point of no return and back again. Spoiler alert: yes, it saves their marriage; but only after taking them even closer to the brink of divorce.
What starts out as a lighthearted account of two (often adorably awkward) people swimming in unfamiliar waters, quickly spirals into a tale of love, almost loss, and a very steep learning curve.
The novel serves equally as an introduction to swinging to the reader as it does to the protagonist couple, Ryan and Jennifer. Who, before their first exposure to swinging, lead a modest and sheltered life.
They don’t go out much save for a dinner party here or there with the same group of friends they don’t find particularly interesting. In our only glimpse into their free time, Ryan plays video games and Jennifer sits somewhere nearby in the same room.
Prior to their marriage, both partners had only one previous sexual partner. Needless to say, the two enter the swinger lifestyle wide-eyed and open-mouthed.
Perhaps out of fear that the land of swinging would not seem foreign enough to this couple (and the reader). Or maybe just to add an additional layer of wonder to the novel, Beckett tops this swinger universe with a generous serving of wealth, upper-class swank, and that which is familiar only to the financially elite 1%.
Very briefly, at the beginning of A Life Less Monogamous, swinging is taken out of the reader’s fantasy realm and placed in a very realistic setting–at a friend’s dinner party. Jennifer and Ryan flirt dangerously with new acquaintances separated from them only by six degrees. It’s a situation most readers can actually picture themselves in.
But the addition of seemingly unattainable wealth and glamour quickly yanks swinging back into a world of fantasy. It is a world Jennifer and Ryan are simultaneously separated from and entrenched in the deeper they progress into the lifestyle. The couple is always envious of the wealth they’re confronted with. Particularly as it pertains to Ryan, often intimidated by it.
The association between wealth and swinging is an easy one to make after reading A Life Less Monogamous. Particularly in the wake of Fifty Shades of Grey, another novel that pairs an upper-class lifestyle with a sexually adventurous one.
A more troubling pairing focused on in A Life Less Monogamous is that of swinging and alcohol, which is served in abundance throughout the book.
At first, it seems as though wine is utilized as a social lubricant to help this uptight couple relax around new friends and prospective play partners. But the (very expensive) wine keeps on flowing even after Jennifer and Ryan begin easing into their new surroundings.
It gets to a point where martini and lowball glasses become fixtures as ordinary as re-upholstered antique chaise lounges and hot tubs–if such extravagances can ever become familiar.
However, there is a point where drinking becomes a catalyst for the plot. Ryan’s insecurities surrounding the swinger lifestyle bubble up a little more than halfway through the novel while attending a party with his wife. Alcohol is the ingredient that allows his insecurities to explode in an utterly appalling drunken fit.
This outburst is followed immediately by a dry spell for both Ryan and Jennifer, one that pertains to both alcohol and swinging. It would seem as though alcohol is a part of that lesson, that it isn’t only a means by which problems are expressed but also a part of the problem.
That problem is a lack of rules and communication worsened by the ingestion of alcohol. But promptly after Ryan and Jennifer settle their issues, both swinging and alcohol return to their life–simultaneously. And again, the reader is presented with the pairing of drinking and swinging.
To conclude, while A Life Less Monogamous contains many truthful and insightful statements about the lifestyle (and for relationships in general), it is still a novel. Consequently, it should be used and enjoyed as such–both by veterans to swinging and for those who are new to it.
Zoë Tersche is a New York-based writer focusing on fetish sexuality and the freedom of sexual expression. Follow her on Twitter @ZoeTersche and find out more about her here.
Have you read A Life Less Monogamous? What were your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below - or better yet, recommend your favourite book on swinging.
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