Frances and Martin Andrews have a serious problem: he’s addicted to pornography, and she’s addicted to spying on him to secure evidence of his transgressions. The lack of trust between them has shattered their marriage, and even counseling doesn’t offer much hope. Martin’s repeated lies render impotent his protestations that he’s changed. He desperately wants her back, but she desperately wants to be free of him.
That’s the set-up. What follows in this fast-paced and relatively short novel spans a few emotionally-charged years in which husband and wife must face their own flaws as well as each other’s. It’s a compelling read about a life-destroying indulgence that has ensnared all too many people, particularly in the Internet age. Turner does a creditable job of portraying the addiction and its effects, although I suspect she’s captured the wife’s trauma better than the husband’s. Frances grows considerably through the story, while Martin’s journey through hell ultimately seems fruitless. I’ll grant that’s one plausible outcome, but I found it disheartening. Maybe that’s the point? I at least would have liked a bit deeper glimpse into Martin’s psyche at the end to understand better how he ends up where he does.
The writing is good enough, although I thought phrases containing the word “porn” occurred a bit too often, and some of the dialogue, particularly with the counselor, seemed a bit stilted. (However, I’ve never been in a counseling session, so maybe that’s how it really is.) I also think the author missed some opportunities to delve deeper into the characters through the action. This is a complex situation that could easily support another fifty pages of development without feeling stretched.
A word of caution: Although this work is neither romance nor erotica, there are a few explicit passages, not excessively graphic but very direct.
The strengths and weaknesses of “Mind Games” had me hemming and hawing over a rating. I’ve settled on 4.5 stars for story and a bit better than 3.5 for the writing, yielding 4 stars overall.
I recently asked Stevie Turner about the novel and her writing. Here’s what she said:
It looks like you’ve written a number of books. What subjects have you addressed, and where does “Mind Games” fit in?
Yes I have written a number of books over a 5 year period. I always try to tackle subjects that haven’t been written about too many times before. I am more interested in writing about relationships between middle-aged couples, as I find their problems and issues more interesting. With young people there is always the sexual chemistry and the bed-hopping which has been covered countless times in many different ways, but what happens to a couple when they age and passion dies away? I prefer to write of problems that can occur in fifty-somethings, as they are more likely to face this scenario.
Addiction has become a major social issue. Readers might see aspects of their own lives mirrored in your fiction and wonder if they could help someone who has an addiction. What has your research suggested?
No, it is not possible to change somebody who has an addictive nature. The change and motivation to stop needs to come from the person themselves. Usually they would have to hit rock bottom before they decide to stop.
Which at one point in Mind Games seems to be where Martin ends up. But did he learn anything through his experience, or as the title suggests, has it indeed all been a game to him?
Martin is the kind of man that will not be told what to do by a woman, as he feels this will emasculate him. However, he still loves Frances and wants her to return to the marital home. If there is any chance that this might happen he would be prepared to do and say anything, but just as long as he can remain true to his own beliefs.
What are you working on now?
I am working on a novel-length version of one of my short stories which is in my published book Life: 18 Short Stories about Significant Life Events. I think it might be ready later this year, because at the moment the words are tumbling out!
What advice to you have for readers or writers?
I would say for a start that unless writers read a lot, then they won’t learn to hone their craft. It’s no good saying “I don’t get time to read because I’m too busy writing.” If nobody is reading, then what’s the point of writing? Also it’s best to have another source of income rather than rely on book royalties! Beaver away and don’t give up writing just because somebody thinks your book sucks; sooner or later somebody will like it, it’s all a matter of opinion.
Where can readers find you? (You can just give me the links. I’ll format them for you.)