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on 14 June 2013
This novel juxtaposes the light and darkness of human life. The light is the relationship between Kit, a photographer, and Daneka, a mysterious and gracile Danish woman. The secret wounds that scar Daneka's heart are the darkness.

Kit and Daneka enjoy a languorous intimacy, which could be the subject of a whole book. The author strikes a classy balance in his depictions of the sensual and emotional aspects of their romance. Their bliss, though intense, turns out to be fragile. Kit puzzles over the real identity of his lover; her background and social connections are opaque. Their international travels terminate in Denmark, and here the accumulation of secrecy seems likely to burst its banks. Kit loves Daneka as deeply as man ever loved a woman; but is that enough to heal her wounds?

I recommend this book to those who seek erotic fiction that doesn't shy away from emotional and mature themes.
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on 12 June 2013
The male protagonist of "Trompe-l'oeil", Kit, is a glamorous photographer in the mould of David Hemming's character from "Blowup".

Daneka is a petite Danish woman who becomes Kit's client. She is a few years older than him, and the most feminine woman he's ever met. Beautiful models are old hat to him, yet he is instantly smitten by her perfect neck and charming accent. Daneka is quietly impressed by Kit, but she keeps an impeccable cool, assessing him from a distance.

Kit and Daneka soon fall for one another. Their romance is deep and intense, its sensuality deepened by exotic locales such as Paris and the Algarve. However, the pain and grief that Daneka left behind in Denmark begin to seep into her new life with Kit. Will her dark secrets poison their relationship forever?

This romance novel is dark, erotic and beautifully composed.
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on 16 May 2016
The beauty of good writing is not just in the choice of words or in their assimilation. It's in the intellect that presents it to us, the thought processes that bring and paint complex pictures that the rest of us ordinary mortals can only marvel at.
This is not an easy book. It's hard, cruel, pungent and it never aspires to being anything else. It's the story of cruel humanity, of the failings in our universal and so-called 'sophisticated' society to appreciate how lives are destroyed at a developmental stage by insensitivity and a failure of understanding - even, cynically, of a wish to know. We blind ourselves to unpalatable truths we don't wish to understand, because they're inconvenient and unwelcome. Russell Bittner knows all about this.
Kit and Daneka are just two people who meet and fall in love. However, their every moment is shrouded in a mystery of the past. The story is filled with pain and the question is - is this a problem that can be resolved. Is it about 'happy ever after'? You'll have to read it to find out.
This is writing of such impeccable quality that it is an affront that it should be rated along with lesser material in a one-to-five star system. There should be a five-to-ten element for brilliance and were that the case I would rate it at a much higher level.
Thanks Russell, you deserve recognition for your talent.
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on 6 November 2013
Ordinarily here I would copy in the book blurb, but in this case I find it very wordy, which is much like the rest of the book. Instead I offer you my very brief synopsis:
Meet Daneka Sorenson, a very wealthy Danish transplant to New York City. Enter Kit, a financially poor New York Photographer. After a very short romantic encounter they then don't see one another for another 11 years, when they are once again thrown together. What follows is a steamy love affair, but with a cloud hanging over the relationship. They leave New York and travel together through many European cities ...
"What gradually comes to light in the space of two continents and one return transatlantic flight is that, while love's bite may initially be sweet, the aftertaste may be exceedingly bitter--when not downright nauseating." (This last bit is taken from the end of the book's blurb).

The book starts very slowly, and even when it reaches speed the book remains a complicated read. It feels as though the author has tried too hard for a colourful array of vocabulary, which ends up confusing and hard work. This comes across as a very intellectual book, which makes it very difficult to place. Whilst it definitely satisfies the criteria for outright erotica, I would have to say that this would be erotica aimed at the highly intellectual reader. This book sits very definitely within the Adult genre, and is not for the faint hearted.

The first 20% of the book is given over to a commentary from the author - we don't meet the characters really until this point - a fifth of the way in. The point of view changes often from one paragraph to the next, with a sudden shift of point of view mid flow on at least two occasions. We start the narrative with a lengthy foreword, and then leap 11 years to the first chapter. More detailed description and commentary follows, and finally - at about 30% of the way into the book - we are introduced properly to Daneka and Kit. However, the wordiness continues, which may explain why this is such a long book - over 160,000 words (approximately 450 pages). The book could do with some further editing, and there are enough instances of inadequate proofing to interrupt the read. Throughout, the dialogue is presented in many and various languages, each instance accompanied by an English translation. One nice touch was the inclusion of links to Youtube for the different pieces of music described, unfortunately - here in the UK at least - not all of those links work.

There is no doubt that this writer can write, and has great powers of description. However, the language used in this book is complicated where it could be simple. Whilst there were a few lines that I really liked, for the most part I simply found this book hard work. If you are a highly intellectual reader who enjoys erotica then this would be the book for you. At 450 pages this is never going to be a quick study. This is not a book for the faint hearted, and not just because of the sexuality. There is one scene in which we are treated to an incredibly graphic description of an automobile accident and its physical consequences for the bodies involved. Overall this is a decent enough read, and the author shows potential. He does, however, need to polish and simplify the writing and smooth out a few rough spots. I offer a soft 3 stars for this book.

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review

AIA Reviewers
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on 17 December 2011
Russell Bittner's novel Trompe-l'oeil is a love story, and a wonderful piece of writing. In photographic detail, it calls upon every one of the senses, to create the sights, the tastes and smells of every morcel of sensual pleasure that can come with infatuation. The novel is also a tragedy. But it is not the usual, mundane tragedy brought on by time, as passionate love grows stale and fades away like the morning dew. It's the sort of tragedy that ensues when one person in the story is happy to see the illusions fade away, because it will allow the nurturing of a real long-term relationship, while the other side tries to maintain the facade of better than perfect beauty.

Kit Addison is an up and coming fashion photographer in New York, made blasé by the amount of naked flesh he has to photograph during the course of a normal working. At heart he is still a "simple boy from a simple state, from the comparatively simple United States". When his lucky path crosses that of Daneka an older, very wealthy and successful European lady, who edits one of New York's major magazines, he is all too ready to succumb to her perfect body and sophisticated way of life. He knows that one day the perfect illusion will end, but he feels sure he will be able to handle it. In the meantime, he intends to make the most of the experience.

Daneka takes Kit on a tour of some of Europe's most beautiful spots, where she dazzles him with her command of languages. Kit is no mean slouch at Italian or Russian himself. At heart, he is a decent person, ready to hitch his wagon permanently to that of Daneka's, but is she willing to devote herself to him? Hours of passionate, erotic engagement can be immediately followed by episodes of withdrawal, when she refuses even to acknowledge his presence. With every European beauty spot they alight in, Kit's pain and puzzlement at Daneka's behavior become more troubling. Perfectly aware that one of the best ways in the 21st century to drive a woman away is to lay a spoken claim to her, Kit accepts that he must seek no form of commitment from Daneka. He seethes with the need to express real love, that can complement the sexual pleasure they get from each other, but in his behavior he stoically maintains the studied indifference expected of a modern man.

At times, Kit manages to escape from the beautiful way of life represented by luxury hotels and unfailing perfection, to experience a taste of a younger, more gritty Europe. He refuses the many invitations which are tacitly thrown his way by the beautiful young women they bump into on their travels. But Kit begins to suspect that at least some of the men, in the beautiful hotels Daneka takes him to, have had more than a fleeting intimacy with her. As Daneka takes Kit closer to Denmark, her personality begins to undergo some radical changes. As Kit's first illusions fade, he realizes that he loves this woman, and he will for the rest of his life. Daneka senses that with Kit she can escape from the vacuity of a certain life style, at least as it is lived by the incredibly rich inhabitants of New York, but she also fears that abandonment of the illusion may throw her totally into the jaws of the demons pursuing her.

Kit's love for Daneka takes him from the peaks of European high culture to the foul troughs that harbor the worst sorts of abuse to be bought in the dark, back streets of New York. As with any tragedy, the end of Russell Bittner's novel raises in the reader's mind the sad surmise, 'If only....'

In this novel, the trompe-l'oeil is so perfectly executed that it continues to resonate hours after the final page has been turned.

A longer version of this review can be found on my blog:
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on 28 October 2011
In a perfect world, lust, romantic love and universal love would co-exist. That, at least, is the modern fairytale of the Romantic novel we all get suckered and entranced by.

In reality, lust, passion, love, compassion etc. are all over the place and those who have unravelled already are either wound as tight as a ball or unravel again as soon as they are picked up and thrown around a little.

This is such a story, where the horror of the past poisons the affairs of the present and Kit, I am afraid, appears to be too dumb to notice its insidious influence.

This is a tale that starts as an intriguing romp and ends in one of the best and most affecting denouements I have ever read, pitched up right next to Marguerite Yourcenar's Le Coup De Grace, and that is one of the best compliments I can think of for a wild, reckless, threatening and haunting tale.
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