For a little while back in the nineties I had the same publisher as Jennifer Belle (or as her website puts it, "bestselling author Jennifer Belle"), and my then-editor sent me a copy of Going Down, her first book. This is before there really was a thing called chick lit, but my editor did that thing people do routinely now when they give each other volumes of the stuff--she kind of apologized for it.
No need for apologies--the book was funny, and cleverly written. It was about a college student earning money as a prostitute. I didn't pay much attention to Belle's career after that, but Rhian recently got her hands on the new one, The Seven-Year Bitch, which I think is the worst title in the history of ever--but Rhian loved it and went to the library for more. This led me to read her third novel, Little Stalker.
Little Stalker is--well, what can I say, it's a romance. But it's a two-blowjob romance, the first of which culminates with the protagonist vomiting on her boyfriend's penis; the second of which is performed on a man in his sixties by a 12-year-old girl. So, you know, Emma this is not. But the book is simply hilarious. Belle is wonderful at self-disgust, social awkwardness, and family dysfunction--she writes here about very familiar but never-written-about relationship nuances--the casual cruelties of people in love, the disgustingness of intimacy, and weird little rules couples invent for one another without even realizing they do it.
Our literate culture has more or less accepted the idea that a crime novel, or even a science fiction novel, might well be of lasting artistic value. But I don't think romance has enjoyed this relationship with readers yet. Maybe, generally speaking, it doesn't deserve it. But Belle is doing something different here, something odd, slightly gross, and slyly ambitious. The rest of the chick lit world (if there even is such a thing, outside of publishers' marketing departments) ought to pay attention.