Hot Water by Kathryn Jordan seems to want to be a piece of erotica yet at the same time comes across as a contemporary romance. Readers will have to decide after they read this novel about middle-aged woman who needs to escape her suffocating and oppressive marriage. Julia (not her real name), travels across the country from her home in Minnesota to the deserts of Southern California, and spends a weekend at a resort where she knows she’ll have the best time of her life. She has hired a man to meet her at her hotel room to indulge in wanton sex any way she wants, as often as she wants. Not knowing his name, she tells the hotel management she’s expecting William, named after her high school boyfriend. When William shows up, they hit it off from the start.
William has been doing this for a living for a number of years – it’s an easy way to make money. He services women of all shapes, sizes, and wealth, and has even been hired by a man posing as a woman. But Julia is different. When he meets her, he doesn’t see her as another job; he sees her as a woman, the sort of woman he would give up this lifestyle for. As the weekend progresses, both of them actually toy with the idea of whether they could run away together, living happily ever-after.
Between Julia and William’s rounds of sex, the reader also glimpses William’s other encounters. One realizes that William is a sensitive person. While some may say his type of lifestyle is degenerate and degrading, William never hurts the women he’s with (unless she wants it), nor does he do anything she does not care for. He carries with him a suitcase filled with sex toys, allowing the women to choose what they want. But he is getting tired of this so-called career and wants to focus on going back to school, which was his original intent before getting side-tracked.
Julia desperately wants out of her marriage to the man she once loved. His treatment of her over the years has made her want to leave. He doesn’t know she’s in California, or at least she hopes he doesn’t know. If he did, she knows he’d come for her and kill her. For now, she is hoping he thinks she’s visiting her sister, who helped her pay for this trip in the first place.
Hot Water has a lot of promise; if only Jordan had given the characters much more depth, or left the story as it seemed to be at the start: a piece of erotic literature. Jordan does a good job, however, describing the desert areas surrounding the resort, located in the Palm Desert area of southern California. She doesn’t, however, allow the reader to feel any real sympathy for either character. The book almost reads like an assignment in a literature class, a stilted though fast read. The side trip Julia and William make to his childhood home gives the story an unwelcome break. While it is understood that the author is trying to make William into a more three-dimensional character, everything about this book seems forced. The story as a whole is entertaining for a beach read. Hot Water is marginally recommended.