Sex sells.

Everyone knows that. Marketing professionals especially know that. But does the inclusion of sex necessarily make something better? Erotica has become more mainstream in popular fiction within the past few years and can make any genre book more appealing to the right audience. In some cases, however, the sexual element can detract from what would otherwise be a great story.

Unfortunately, I think that Hidden Design: the Prophecy, marketed as an erotica dark fantasy, is a perfect example of this.

At its core, this novel is a modern-day fantasy with an intriguing magic system and hidden culture of magic users. Main character Mikki eventually learns that she is a wayward child of this hidden culture and that her life is in danger when her newly discovered half-siblings are targeted by a mysterious demonic creature with the ability to sniff out their magic. It’s chock full of memorable characters, and it’s obvious that the authors have created a well-crafted magical society. If that was all there was, I would give this novel a solid 4 stars and encourage any urban fantasy fan to check it out. This storyline is not without its flaws: the climax felt a bit rushed and a few lose ends are left hanging. But it hits all the important tropes without ever veering into stereotype.

Except that this book also includes the erotica. And there’s where it started to fall apart for me. Because on top of everything I mentioned in my previous paragraph, Mikki is also a psychic who uses sex to learn about her interior design clients’ hidden desires in order to create their perfect spaces. This leads her into a variety of sexual situations with multiple characters that serve more as titillation for the readers (such as outdoor sex and a kinky three-way) than necessarily integral to the plot. Ironically, it was these sexual situations where I also questioned the main character’s agency, which made Mikki into less of a sympathetic character. I was too busy rolling my eyes at her to cheer her on.

On the writing side, though this book shows many of the traits I’ve learned to recognize in debut novels, the authors show much potential. I hope that they learned a lot from the process of writing and publishing Hidden Design, and I look forward to giving them a chance with future books.

Rating: 3 (out of 5) stars

Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads

Currently reading: A Second Chance (Chronicles of St. Mary’s #3) by Jodi Taylor

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