While reading How Not to Fall by Emily Foster, I found the perfect romance for a sapiosexual. The novel is a work of erotic fiction custom designed for a nerd, especially an intellectual who has a fondness for psychology. A far cry from so many romances which are written for the lowest common denominator, How Not to Fall seamlessly integrates psychological theories and knowledge into its text and often into the sexual foreplay of its very smart characters. Despite its intellectual content, Foster writes in a conversational tone that is accessible to all potential readers.
Building on a taboo relationship of a post-doctoral supervisor and an undergraduate student falling for each other, the book explores the month-long relationship that the two of them consummate once she has finished school and they can legitimately be together. Charles, a post-doctoral researcher, is the slightly older, more sexually experienced man who brings Annabelle, the recently graduated virgin, into a new phase of her sexuality. Aside from many vivid sex scenes, the book contains a lot of conversation, dancing scenes, and rock climbing scenes. Foster weaves all of these together in a coherent novel that feels like an excerpt from two people’s lives, not just a bunch of sex scenes thrown together surrounded by weak dialog to sell a book.
Most important to Foster’s objectives for this romance, the relationship between Charles and Annabelle is one built on equality and respect. From the beginning, Charles refuses to cross a line where he would be taking advantage of Annabelle because of his position of academic power over her. Once they are able to freely enter into the relationship, Charles still insists on taking the relationship slowly so that Annabelle gets to have the best introduction to sexual activity he can possibly give her. Even before they enter into slightly more kinky activities, Charles makes sure he has full consent from Annabelle and verifies that she knows and remembers their safewords (a term not used in the book) so that she can always stop whatever they are doing if it no longer feels right to her. It’s a relationship built on mutual understanding, respect and trust.
From one of the earliest conversations in the book, I began to wonder if Foster had been sitting in on an event in my life. Word for word, Charles and Annabelle said almost the same words as I had exchanged with a previous love in my life. As the novel progressed, I again saw scenes from my own life unfolding on the pages in front of me. While the novel is a fantasy, it was clear to me that this was a work grounded in reality. Much of what happens during the novel could be a part of its readers' lives.
I was hoping How Not to Fall would be a romance I could share with my teenage daughter, but I think it is still a bit too explicit for her at this point in her life. In a few years, I plan to give it to her so she can have a better understanding of what romance could and probably should look like. I also will insist that she should use condoms, something that Charles and Annabelle do not do because she is on hormonal birth control. However, even with frequent STI testing, many people carry strains of HPV that they are unaware of because they aren’t tested for them. I’ve also had a partner whose one set of STI testing did not include Herpes Simplex 1 and 2 because his doctor’s office told him that he’d know if he had them, a very erroneous idea in regard to viruses that can lie dormant for a while before manifesting. Hormonal birth control offers no protection against STIs, and thus, it is in people’s best interest to use condoms when they are not in a permanent monogamous relationship.
I breezed through this sexy intellectual novel in only an afternoon, unable to put it down for very long. How Not to Fall is a fabulous read, and I’m anxiously awaiting its sequel which is due to be published in 2017. I’ve already recommended it to several feminist sapiosexual friends whom I know will enjoy it as much as I did.
© 2016 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC