Well of course it changes you,’ Leonardo leans forward and looks at her earnestly. She can feel his breath on her lips as he talks. ‘Through sex we can actually purge ourselves. Become new again. Sex can be the purest, most innocent communication between two souls, and at the same time the darkest, most abusive interaction between two humans.’
Noelle Harrison, writes under her nom de plume Evie Blake to give us the first of the Valentina series as she puts it. With a rather interesting cover that puts it very simply – ‘Liberate yourself…’, Valentina is an attempt to discover a connection between physical passion and ‘true love’.
As Blake adds as an end note of sorts, the original Valentina is inspired by an iconic character created by Italian illustrator Guido Crepax. Drawn up along the lines of a graphic novel, the original Valentina was known for the psychedelic, dreamy storylines with a liberal dose of eroticism.
A photographer by profession, Crepax’s Valentina would travel around Europe on projects, the edgy character living out exciting, glamorous and erotic adventures among the artistic elite of 1960’s. The cult figure of Valentina was known for her signature short black bob and a taste for vintage clothing.
Blake’s Valentina and her alter-ego Bella are modelled with Crepax’s brush. They both have the same hair style, the same love for chic, sexy clothing and desires that they don’t fully comprehend. Shuttling between the Venice of 1929 and the Milan of 2012, Blake weaves a story where the mind is incited by passion to break barriers one enforces on themselves.
Valentina Rosselli, in 2012 Milan, is a photographer who has been living with her lover Theo Steen, for a year. Bella on the other hand, known in her 1929 Venetian social circles as Louise Brooks or Signora Louise Brzezinska, is stuck in a loveless marriage where pain from domestic violence scars her life is many more ways than she can imagine.
Decades apart, the two characters have a strong bond in common, besides photography. It is a desire to want to liberate themselves from the life that ties them down.
While Valentina needs to learn to let herself admit that she’s in love again after a heartbreak in childhood, Bella must break out of her marriage for the only love she will ever get. And the only way the two women can do so is by testing the limits of their physical passions, breaking those barriers first.
As the story goes, when in Milan, Valentina’s lover Theo leaves on a job leaving her with a bunch of negatives to develop and a project leading her to a sex club and back in Venice, Bella meets a free spirited sailor she falls in love with – lives of the two women are going to change forever.
Valentina won’t change the way any reader might comprehend sexual passions or true love, but there are momentary spells of brilliance from Blake that explains the connect between sex and love perfectly.
Not that a connect is elusive or impossible, but perhaps, liberating the self is a bit more than just about physical passions. For the characters, however, sex seems to be the all comprehending solution. One does tend to wonder.
Learning to deal with what the body truly desires sets the mind free, gets it back to the stage of honesty and innocence that allows an easy ‘I love you’ to escape in controlled dialogues.
Perhaps that is where Blake heading to. Valentina leaves readers in a lurch as Theo walks out. Now Valentina’s only desire is to find him again. Valentina on the Edge is next in line.