The Miami Herald reviews Leslie McDowell's Between the Sheets, a provocative study of nine women authors and their literary liaisons: "Power that once belonged to male gods alone, they took for themselves. So proclaims Scottish author Lesley McDowell about nine 20th century female writers in her distaff version of the Prometheus myth distilled into a modern and accessible literary study. In McDowell's feminist account, Katherine Mansfield, H.D. (Hilda Doolitle), Rebecca West, Jean Rhys, Anaïs Nin, Simone de Beauvoir, Martha Gellhorn, Elizabeth Smart and Sylvia Plath are heroines who snatch literary fire for themselves and - by extension -- other women writers.
McDowell's approach to her subject is governed by what, in her view, has characterized love relationships between all men and women since the dawn of time: a struggle for power.' Though much has been written about some of the relationships covered here -- Nin and Henry Miller, de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, Plath and Ted Hughes -- McDowell offers an original framework through which to view these often unequal partnerships. She believes that the writers under discussion voluntarily decided to endure all manner of hardship with difficult and even abusive men, because the payoff would be apprenticeship to experienced and well-connected authors able and willing to shepherd them to literary greatness. As such, we shouldn't view these women as hapless victims but rather as clear-eyed realists who gave their literary pursuits precedence over all else."