The Lemon Grove

British author Helen Walsh's The Lemon Grove is a steamy novel about age-inappropriate vacation lust that inverts the usual genders. Instead of a dapper roué chasing a filly in a bikini, Walsh presents Jenn Harding, a stacked, 40ish nursing-home manager, driven to infraction by a 17-year-old man-boy in blue swim trunks. Although current cultural mores tend to be more lenient toward Mrs. Robinson-type lechery, The Lemon Grove must still (ahem) surmount Jenn's flimsy scruples about adultery and finesse a far more verboten impediment: Nathan-of-the-blue-trunks is the first love of Jenn's stepdaughter, Emma.

The entire novel is set in picturesque Mallorca, where the Hardings have been renting a villa in the titular lemon grove for years. Jenn, who had previously seen her daughter's beau only fully clothed and slumped in the backseat of a car, arranged for Nathan's accompaniment without any lascivious forethought. Walsh establishes the status quo between Jenn and her devoted but preoccupied husband, Greg, before unleashing Nathan's discombobulating swim-trunked presence, serving up an expat's view of Deià's local color. Sticking close to Jenn's present-tense point of view, The Lemon Grove luxuriates in atmosphere, which, if occasionally overwritten, effectively conveys Jenn's appetite for stimulation. The novel's reliably frequent sex scenes--explicit, adventurous and a tad breathless--achieve their aim without provoking an excess of squirms.

The suspense of The Lemon Grove is derived from the spectacle of watching Walsh insinuate enough misunderstandings, yearnings, resentments and physical collisions into the narrative to sell the reader on the inevitability of a holiday attraction between a woman and her teenage stepdaughter's first major crush. --Holloway McCandless, blogger at Litagogo: A Guide to Free Literary Podcasts

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