The Clarkes have written a very concise and helpful little book as “a practical guide to honeymoon sex and beyond”. They describe the book as deliberately brief and introductory … it certainly is that! … but their reason is so that people will read it, rather than leave it amongst the many other things to do, in the busy-ness of preparing for marriage. And it is eminently readable, interspersed with stories of either real or imagined people, to illustrate the point under discussion, and providing helpful issues for a couple to discuss together, under the “Pillow Talk” symbol. For couples in a hurry, and with much to do, this book is a gem, as it can be completely read in a matter of a couple of hours.

And once having read it, there is a smorgasbord of information at one’s fingertips … or maybe at the tips of other parts of the human anatomy! It is frank, honest, and deals easily with many sexual issues which many other “christian” books on sex often seem to avoid. It is unusual to read about masturbation, oral sex, manual, visual and oral stimulation, etc, in ways which are not regarded as “sinful” or “abusive” in intimate and christian relationships. Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of this book is that it gives newly married christian couples much to think about, and to talk about together, which will enhance their understanding of each other, and their ability to grow together in their sexual experience, from an early stage in their relational development.

The book is presented in four parts … a christian understanding of sex; sexual basics; starting out; and some common problems. Each area is helpful, and provides thoughtful and practical material for those beginning this journey together. Again, each area is significantly understated, in the interest of keeping it short, readable and therefore accessible to a greater number of readers, but references are made to further reading material, if it is desired to explore particular matters further. This “introductory nature“ of the book is one of its great strengths … it whets the appetite (if you’re allowed to say that about sex), and leaves room for further discussion and growth for couples to pursue together.

One of the weaknesses of the book as a whole, however, stems from the first section, which seeks to provide a biblical basis for the sexual relationship. Although the Clarkes refer a couple of times in this section to Ephesians 5:22-28, and seem to focus strongly on the words of Paul from this passage, at no time do they attempt to help the reader understand what these words actually mean. As a consequence, some of the more practical areas raised in later sections of the book appear to be developments of a particular interpretation of these words, with which not all christians will agree. While it is never stated (and perhaps that is part of the problem) there seems to be a consistent element (particularly in the illustrative material) that the woman’s chief role in the marriage relationship, and especially in the area of sexuality, is to serve the needs of her husband (based presumably on the submission required in Ephesians 5:22), while the husband is clearly required to selflessly love his wife (Ephesians 5:25), but how that works in practice is not as clear. The book would be strengthened, or at least the issue would be greatly clarified, if the Clarkes were to present more of their understanding of this critical text. For my part, I would like to see a greater emphasis on equality and “balance” in the serving of each other’s needs, and the provision of selfless love each for the other, based on the love of Christ for us all, so that both husband and wife realise their shared responsibilities in these matters, particularly in this very significant area of physical intimacy within their marriage.

But having said that, I hasten to add that I will happily recommend this book to the many couples I have opportunity to engage with in pre-marriage education … I’d recommend that it be read mostly by its targetted readership, but also by clergy and other marriage educators, so as to be used by them as a resource in their marriage training procedures.