According to its front cover the much-hyped first novel from L.S. Hilton, Maestra, is "the most shocking thriller you'll read this year." Well, it's still only March so we'll reserve judgment on that. But what is the fuss over the book being billed as the new Fifty Shades of Grey all about?
Lisa Hilton is a history writer who was born in Liverpool and lived in Key West, New York City, Paris and Milan before basing herself in London. The former journalist, art critic and broadcaster decided to opt for L.S. Hilton on her book's cover because she worried the "four old ladies who read my history books would be upset" if they picked up a copy of Maestra. (It's also possible the success enjoyed by J.K. Rowling and E.L. James didn't go past her.)
Packed with sex scenes and super-rich jet-setting types, and flitting between the London art scene and the world of European billionaire playboys, the book tells the story of Judith Rashleigh, an art auction house worker turned nightclub hostess. After uncovering a conspiracy at the auction house she is fired and accepts an offer from one of the bar's clients to accompany him to the French Riviera — but things take a dramatic turn and she ends up fleeing for her life.
So far reviews of Maestra (the first in a trilogy) aren't bad at all. The Sunday Times described it as "an erotic novel that is fantastic fun," while Isabel Costello on The Literary Sofa says it's "a pacy, entertaining and yes, sexy, read."
Anna Matheson gives it 6 out of 10 on GoodtoKnow, writing that the "sex scenes can be gratuitous and at times unnecessary" but it has "a strong plot to fall back on."
It has an average of 3 stars from reviewers on both Amazon.co.uk and Goodreads. (It may be worth noting that the paperback edition of Fifty Shades of Grey scores 3.5 stars on Amazon.co.uk with 13,265 reviews.)
To help you make your mind up, here's a snippet:
"F***ing can be such a very uncomplicated pleasure, as ancient and elemental as the salt-earth taste of an olive."
"I’d have to say no," says Costello. "If you want a well-written story, this is better. If you want a heroine with some backbone, even if you can't stand her, this is better. If you want eye-wateringly explicit sex scenes that leave nothing to the imagination (they're not aimed at the place between your ears) — this is for you."
However in terms of the publisher's faith in Maestra to become a runaway success it may indeed be the next Fifty Shades. It's been published in 37 countries (so far) and has been sold for a six-figure sum to be adapted into a film.
Comparisons have also been made to — deep breath — Kill Your Friends, Gone Girl, The Goldfinch, Fatal Attraction, The Girl on the Train, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and The Talented Mr. Ripley.
Yes — loads is the general consensus. Hilton herself said all the sex scenes were "crucial to the plot" and pointed out that it's only the British press who is obsessed with "the shag count." Inquiries from French, Italian and Spanish journalists have focused on the book's themes, she wrote in The Guardian.
"It’s not a 'sex book', it’s a thriller," said the author. "Women can contain multitudes, too, and a conversation about sex on the page obviously doesn’t preclude the ability to discuss anything else."
The executive producer is Amy Pascal (Skyfall, American Hustle) and Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary) has been tapped as screenwriter.
In terms of who might play Judith Rashleigh in the film Hilton said she had "no control over this" but, during conversations with Pascal, they both liked "the idea of all the victims played by famous actors, and to have this unknown who's the last woman standing at the end."
Maestra is available to buy from Amazon.co.uk.
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