When a husband convinces his wife to join him in a tryst with another woman, there are unintended consequences in this sharply observed erotic tale about the challenges of modern marriage As a divorce lawyer for Manhattan’s elite, David Greenfield is privy to the intimate, dirty details of failed marriages. He knows he’s lucky to be married to Blair—a Barnard dean and the mother of their college-age daughter, she is a woman he loves more today than he did when they tied the knot. Then seductive photographer Jean Coin asks David to be her lover for 6 weeks, until she leaves for Timbuktu. Tempted, David reasons that “it’s not cheating if your wife’s there.” A 1-night threesome would relieve the pressure of monogamy without wrecking their marriage. What harm could come of fulfilling his longtime sexual fantasy?
|Publisher:||Open Road Integrated Media LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Jesse Kornbluth is the founder of HeadButler.com, a cultural concierge site. He has served as editorial director of AOL, cofounded Bookreporter.com, and has been a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and New York. The author of 4 nonfiction books, including Highly Confident: The Crime and Punishment of Michael Milken , he has written screenplays for Paul Newman, Robert De Niro, ABC, PBS, and Warner Bros. Married Sex is Kornbluth’s 1st novel. He lives in Manhattan with his family.
Read an Excerpt
A Love Story
By Jesse Kornbluth
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2015 Jesse Kornbluth
All rights reserved.
"The most beautiful woman in the world is a woman reading a book."
I didn't mean to say that. Or anything, really. It just came out — an awkward, schoolboy admission, sincerity gone wrong.
Blair was the woman with the book. She sat on the couch, looking like tens of thousands of New York women who know they're attractive and don't want to have to deal with it every minute of the day. But she was a corporate nun only from a distance. Her straight navy skirt stopped above the knee, emphasizing long, bare runner's legs. And her white silk blouse was unbuttoned just far enough to reveal fairly significant curves.
People who knew her back in Iowa would be stunned to see Blair now. As she stepped into middle age, she had her breasts done. She didn't go too far — just the suggestion of far, the suburbs of appropriateness.
To say I'm interested in those curves is to understate — when it comes to breasts, I'm a first responder.
Blair was ignoring the skirt inching up her thighs and the glass of white wine on the table by her side.
Whatever she was reading, it was serious enough to merit a pencil in her hand.
She finished making a note, looked up, saw me studying her, and had no trouble reading my mind. Her laugh was instant. Also eloquently dismissive. She didn't really need to say "Be a nice boy and let me read." But she did. And then she waved in the direction of the kitchen.
"Dinner in five," I said.
"Ten," she countered, and tapped her pencil on the book. "Pages."
Salad dressed with lemon juice and a chicken breast beaten paper-thin — there are women in New York who consider that a meal. It's not my idea of dinner, and it's nothing I'd cook for anyone I care about. For Blair, I'd made real food: sautéed zucchini to start, served lukewarm with chopped mint and a drizzle of olive oil, then roast chicken with fresh herbs tucked under the skin, and boiled small red potatoes and French beans, both glistening in melted butter.
Calories don't count, especially when you know you're going to burn them off.
Blair read more than ten pages, but I didn't care. While she read, I made unnecessary trips to the living room — "More olives, Blair? Let me refresh that wine" — just to look at her. Not for the outfit, though I find classic and corporate to be oddly hot. I went for the visual of a woman reading a book.
Over the years, I've come to think that the best way to learn about a woman — the best way short of spending a night with her — is to watch her read. When she's deep in a book, you can easily imagine what she was like as a kid, curled up on the porch or in her room, ignoring her mother's call as she races to finish one more chapter, one more page. She's all essence. And what you see there — that's valuable information.
The information here: intensity. Total absorption. This is a woman who can focus on a project long after everyone else has gone home. Or wrap her legs around a lover and, eyes closed, thrust as if her life depended on it.
During the last serious real estate crash, when anyone with a job and some savings could live high above his means, I bought an apartment on the tenth floor at 94th Street and Central Park West. Its special attraction: In late summer and early fall, as the sun sets, the great limestone fortresses across the park begin to transform. From my living room, the heat of the day leaving the park makes the Fifth Avenue buildings look like they're on the far side of a misty valley in Tuscany; the windows in those buildings could be the lights of a distant hill town.
At that hour, in that light, the apartment also glows. And with candles lit in the dining room, time seems to slow. I started the sensual music of Cesária Évora and filled wineglasses with second-growth Bordeaux.
Unoriginal? Worse — corny. But the scene was set.
The aroma of the herbed pan gravy was restaurant-worthy. The wine was so smooth we drank it like water. As we ate, I felt the edges of anticipation moving in.
"What are you reading?"
"Lesley Blanch. The Wilder Shores of Love. You've never heard of it. She wrote it in the fifties."
"What's it about?"
"Four Victorian women who went off to live in the Middle East."
"How did you hear about it?"
"It was summer reading for the new First-Year Class."
"And if they don't read it?"
"They'll be embarrassed at my lecture ... maybe."
This was so like Blair. Conscientious to a fault. Always hoping for the best. There are Barnard deans who attract the cool kids — Blair specializes in the afflicted. She attracts the never-been-away-from-home-befores, the evangelical Christians on their first tour of Gomorrah, the closeted gays. And, behind them, the usual crop of wounded eighteen-year-olds, with their predictable troubles: parents stricken by cancer just weeks after dropping their daughters off, parents who waited until the nest was empty to split up, parents hurt because they're no longer writing every paper.
Blair is also a lecturer in Women's Studies. I'm sure that the first time any number of new Barnard students knock on her door they're expecting a West Side feminist from a time capsule: frizzy-haired, cosmetics-challenged, badly dressed and proud of it. But Blair is more like Gloria Steinem than Betty Friedan. Her hair is professionally streaked, she gets treatments for her skin, and she dresses for her office as if she were going to a C-suite. "Role model" applies here.
"Why this book?"
I sensed a preview of Blair's lecture ahead and poured more wine.
"In an un-liberated era, these women broke the narrow restrictions of their class."
"Forged their own identities," I suggested.
"Went on their own journeys," she said, and we laughed, because Blair knows how that word grates on me. It's stupid to be annoyed by such a little thing, but I seriously think journey belongs only in the mouths of Best Supporting Actresses and only when they're accepting their Oscars.
"What's this book say about love?"
"I think I can quote her. 'There are two sorts of romantics: those who love and those who love the adventure of loving.'"
"Which are you?"
Blair didn't hesitate. "Both."
On the far side of dinner a thin joint awaited. Never before, never during — that's just an invitation to gorge. After, it makes apples and cheese seem like a real dessert and coffee like exotic nectar. And it gives definition to an evening; one segment is over, another begins.
It was almost nine o'clock; everyone who was going somewhere tonight was there now. We were going nowhere. Dinner finished and plates pushed aside, we sat at the table, making progress on a second bottle of wine as Otis Redding sang about women who please and tease you, love and wrong you, hope for a little tenderness.
Comfort surrounded us.
I lit the joint and handed it over. Blair inhaled with a ruthless efficiency.
"Somewhere out there," she said when she could hold the smoke no longer, "is a client who would be very disturbed to know you muddy your mind like this."
"Somewhere out there is a client who would love for me to muddy my mind with her."
"Ah yes, the always available divorce lawyer," Blair said, and took another puff.
"I'm far down the list of desirables."
"Gynecologists. Tennis pros. They're ... kings."
"True," Blair said. "Here's some consolation: You're above gardeners."
Blair surrendered the joint. Then she looked blank; she'd gone interior. I watched as she tried to follow her thought to its end. But she got lost in the middle — she wasn't getting there anytime soon.
She blinked and returned to Friday night on Central Park West.
"Sorry," she said. "Where were we?"
"You were in the ozone. I was here, looking at you and thinking about a picture."
"It was after dinner. They've finished the meal, but they're happy to stay at the table and chat. She's smoking a cigarette. He asks her to open her blouse. She does. She's not wearing a bra. She inhales. And just then, he takes ... one picture. One very memorable picture."
"Helmut Newton," she said. "It's a picture of his wife."
Without prompting, Blair opened more buttons and unhooked a clasp at the front of her bra. Her breasts took center stage: round, almost heavy, the nipples pink and hardening.
"Like this?" she asked.
In a flash, I was up and moving around the table. Blair pushed her chair back. I slipped a finger into her mouth. She licked and sucked it. I removed my finger, circled her lips with it, set it on a nipple, and, slowly, started to make gentle circles. I varied the speed: faster on the way up, a slow graze across the top, a swoop down, a light pinch at the bottom. And again. And again.
My mouth was pressed to her left ear; I tongued it lightly. I could feel Blair arch her back, hear her breathing change. I reached under her skirt, my right hand stroking the inside of her thighs.
My fingertips rested between her legs. Slowly, slowly, I stroked her, up and down, side to side. Her eyes were closed, her arms were limp.
If I had my way, we'd never have made it to the bedroom — I would have pushed plates off the table, undressed Blair right there, and had her standing up. When it was over, I'd have dropped to the floor, panting, head spinning. And I would have been thrilled, because we'd taken all the complexity of a relationship and dialed it down to animal heat.
Blair had more self-control.
"Oh my God, oh my God." Blair gently pushed me away. "Let's go to bed."
In the bedroom, I undressed quickly, carelessly, and lit a candle. The CD player clicked, and we were joined by rum-and-reggae dreamscapes, music that made me picture camels gliding across sand in the moonlight, a woman lowering herself onto a man on a chaise on a Caribbean beach at midnight. Movie music, the soundtrack of lush sex.
I turned to Blair. She was already in bed, face down, arms at her side. This is a woman who thinks she's carrying five impossible-to-lose extra pounds — all of it in her ass — and who never runs around the reservoir without a sweater tied around her waist as a butt cover. Which is madness; those five pounds are her glory. But face down on the bed — here was a different Blair, free and loose.
Kneeling beside her, I stroked her ass, my hand drifting across the line where buttock met thigh. Blair shivered.
"So hot," she whispered.
But although Blair tensed, although a series of small external orgasms had her moaning, that large, final, internal spasm eluded her.
There are nights when nothing gets your lover there, when you're drenched with sweat and she says, "Come ... you come." And because you've done your best and it's not in any way a defeat, you lock your hands on her wrists and let go.
And then there are nights when you're so committed to her orgasm that you'll run through the catalogue of positions and techniques.
This was one of those nights.
Blair's breath was ragged. She was digging her nails into my back. Attention and technique had become just ... activity.
"Get off," she ordered, and when I wasn't fast enough, she pushed my chest. I pulled out, and we reached for the water glasses we keep on our night tables. Like boxers between rounds.
"Now what?" I asked, panting.
"I take care of you," Blair said.
Blair circled her hand around me, tugging gently, her tongue barely touching me. If I had died just then, it would have been from excessive joy.
This is what it's like to be a woman, I thought, and surrendered to being unmanned. Blair glowed with power, and I glowed with powerlessness, and then the wine and the smoke and the woman converged. I saw colors — gold and royal purple — and then my head emptied of everything.
A violent thrust. I grabbed her head. But I've never liked finishing that way — it's too much like a ritual in a porn movie, too disrespectful, too raw — and, somehow, I unhooked from Blair, threw her on her back, called her darling, dearest, only.
With that, bliss flooded through me, and I reared back one final time and drained myself into my beloved wife of twenty years.CHAPTER 2
At nine in the morning on the second Monday in September, I knew — as I've known for a decade now — exactly where my law partner was and what she was doing.
Victoria Denham was in Wainscott, at her house overlooking Georgica Pond. In the Hamptons, it doesn't get better than that. Her neighbors include Steven Spielberg, Martha Stewart, and so many Wall Street executives that cynics call it "Goldman Pond." But these residents shrewdly follow tradition and call their mansions "cottages."
Victoria's house is a real cottage, an ivy-covered bungalow begging for an upgrade it will never get. She doesn't care. For her, the house is all about the view from her picture window — a large bathtub of a pond separated from the ocean by a thin strip of beach, and the ocean beyond.
Water, sand, water, sky: the most privileged view in the Hamptons.
Victoria bought her house in 1980, and not because she has a knack for real estate. She rows. A big-ass rowboat in the beginning. Then a canoe. Now she's got an Ocean Shell — a light but solid boat that's nothing like the featherweight arrows you see in regattas — that she drags from her ragged lawn to the pond. A dozen strokes take her across the pond to the beach. Then she hauls her boat over a few yards of sand to the ocean and sets off, parallel to the shore, toward East Hampton.
You can do that — row in the Atlantic — in September.
Most mornings, the ocean's dead calm, flat as the pond. The sun is gentle, and there isn't a hint of breeze. It's the best time of the year, made even better by the general absence of New Yorkers — only the very rich or indolent can be out here to enjoy it.
Victoria isn't rich or indolent, just old-fashioned New England practical. When she graduated from law school, representing women in divorce cases was like Atticus Finch defending a black man in To Kill a Mockingbird — going in, you knew you were going to lose. That didn't bother her at all; for Victoria, law was simply the quickest way of changing the world for women. And thanks to the prodding and lobbying of lawyers like Victoria, it became possible to build a practice — and make a nice living — getting big settlements for women, especially if the women were married to rich men on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Unlocking wealth was the least of it for Victoria. From the beginning, she took on unprofitable clients — women in jail, women on welfare, women in shelters for the battered and broken. She got them divorced, and she helped them with appeals and parole, and, even more remarkable, she hired them. For most of the last two decades, Victoria's receptionist has been a woman so well dressed and soft-spoken you'd never guess she'd escaped an abusive man or spent a decade in jail for larceny.
Every few years, New York magazine runs a feature called "New York's Best Divorce Lawyers." Ten years ago, my cousin the journalist was assigned to write it. He called Victoria. She asked who else was being considered for the list. He produced the usual names. She suggested some lawyers who represented poor and beaten women. "Talk to a few of them," she said. "Then call me back."
My cousin didn't reach out to those lawyers. And he didn't connect again with Victoria. But he told me about the conversation, and I got a picture of Victoria that was almost exactly who she turned out to be: savvy and openhearted, cynical and pure, knowledgeable about the man-woman game and happily retired from that messy business — a mass of interesting contradictions.
I'd spent a few unhappy years in a big corporate office. Family law struck me as a better solution than leaving the law entirely. I called Victoria.
Excerpted from Married Sex by Jesse Kornbluth. Copyright © 2015 Jesse Kornbluth. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
“Don’t…pick…up…the rope. Because there is always someone at the other end. And once you have the rope in your hand, you’re in a tug-of-war. And you’ll lose. Even if you win, you’ll lose.” Genre: Romance. Number of Pages: 246. Perspective: First. Location: New York. A book called Married Sex can only be about one thing, right? Married people having sex. Yes, kind of. Except this couple had an agreement that if they were ever considering cheating, they would have to bring that third person home so that they could be a part of it together. Strange? Yes. I have to start off by saying that it was refreshing to read a book about marriage that was written by a male author and that also used a male perspective [and not a husband and wife alternating perspectives book]. This made me trust the opinions and thoughts of the main character more. Typically any love story written by a female but told from a male perspective feels inauthentic. This felt honest and raw to me. That rawness really made me feel uncomfortable. Here’s this couple that has been married for over twenty years and seem perfect on the outside. Then all of a sudden, things are no longer good and everything feels broken to both of them. It was an unpleasant look at marriage that I would really rather not read. It wasn’t written in a way that made me have new beliefs about marriage, just uncomfortable. I can’t describe it any better than that. When I read Fates and Furies, I was uncomfortable with the way it presented their marriage, but I appreciated some of the ideology behind it. Some of the things that happened in the book were just too unbelievable. I was also left with many unanswered questions. At first, I thought this book was going to be about a marriage made better by more sex, but really the relationship seems to be ruined by sex. The wife makes many complaints about how the husband behaves, but I thought that what she did was way worse than anything he did. None of it really made sense to me in the end. To read the rest of my review, go here: http://judgingmorethanjustthecover.blogspot.com/2016/01/married-sex-jesse-kornbluth.html
"What harm could come of fulfilling his longtime sexual fantasy?" Famous last words from a lawyer who should know better than to ask a question to which he does not know the answer. He is caught in his twenty-year marriage's mental aura. After twenty years you think you know the person you are married to. You try not get too comfortable and always keep the relationship exciting. How do you really know you have met your goal? Reality is usually our perception of what goes on around us. When we least expect it, the veil that covers our eyes is lifted and we are left staring at reality in the face. What we do then will shape the future ... This is not an autopsy of a marriage. I would say it is a long-delayed, wellness check-up that produces surprises and realigns the status of a marriage. Amazingly well-written, with an intelligent plot line, you will not be satisfied until you have turned the last page.