“The sin we had done once, and with loathing, we would do many times, and with joy.” ― Oscar Wilde
First off, let me say I feel obligated to start this review by warning readers this is not an LGBT novel. It’s neither gay nor bi fiction that aims to satisfy your romantic itch on any level, so if you elect to read it, don’t venture into it anticipating a story that portrays Dorian Gray as a man who searches the world over to find his soulmate, falls in love with him and then lives happily-ever-after. That’s not this book. The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray is not M/M fiction as much as it is a book which portrays men occasionally having sex with each other, and doing it violently: there are trigger tropes in this novel that might cross your personal reading boundaries, including non-consensual and dubiously consensual sex, so consider yourself forewarned.
This book also contains copious M/F content, so if that’s not your cuppa, don’t bother reading the rest of this review because this definitely isn’t the book for you.
The abundant sexual content does serve to make a point; though if you attempt to look at this novel from the angle of a plotty drama, you’ll be disappointed. This is erotica, nothing more, nothing less, for the purpose of provoking and titillating. If you can look at it as a character study, however, it does work a bit better. In the author’s interpretation of Wilde’s iconic character, there is only one way Dorian Gray could progress through time after submerging himself in the hedonism of which he’d only dabbled in The Picture of Dorian Gray: his entire person becomes corrupted by it, embracing an increasingly more aggressive sexual depravity as he wanders through the decades, stagnated physically, stunted emotionally, and needing more psychologically to satisfy his insatiable appetites.
The novel eventually takes on a contemporary and somewhat incongruous paranormal twist as Dorian makes his way to 21st century New Orleans, a turn that does gradually become anticipated as parallels were drawn to the ways in which Gray leaches the life and will from his sexual victims. He’d struck a Faustian bargain, sold his soul for the price of his vanity, which in turn costs him even more as he searches for ways to fill and fulfill his needs, finally meeting his match in a man named Patrice, the patriarchal figurehead of a group of night wanderers, who becomes both temptation and nemesis to Gray.
Dorian Gray is an entirely unlikable and one-dimensional figure in this novel, thinking and acting with his cock, the story absent of any of the artistic and aesthetic pursuits of Wilde’s original story, so sex is the way Gray passes the decades, defiling men and women, being defiled by men and women, and killing with impunity when he determines the circumstances warrant it. Gray is a narcissist of unparalleled magnitude, and it’s not until the eleventh hour that the author attempts unsuccessfully to redeem him, altogether too late for his salvation.
If it seems as though I loathed this character, the truth is, I did, with a white hot passion. He’s utterly distasteful on every possible level, with absolutely no redeeming qualities to make him even the slightest bit palatable to the literary taste buds. So, why three stars? Because “Wilde Passions” is well written and accomplishes exactly what the author set out for it to do—to tell a story that’s meant to arouse, provoke and invite speculation as to what might have happened to Dorian Gray after the end of Mr. Wilde’s own novel. The question is not at all how well this story is told but whether you can buy into where the author has taken Gray in this book. Liking the novel will depend entirely upon whether you can relate to the way she has developed the character, can buy into where she’s led him astray, are not disturbed that the author has so thoroughly corrupted a classic literary figure, and can read it without the prejudice of a fan of Mr. Wilde’s eloquence and grace. Unfortunately, it’s the latter I had a difficult time overcoming.