A contemporary retelling of DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover, I Take You introduces readers to blonde waif Connie Carven, once a model and now thA contemporary retelling of DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover, I Take You introduces readers to blonde waif Connie Carven, once a model and now the dutiful trophy wife to an aggressively successful American banker, Cliff. After a youth of unsatisfying sexual encounters with men who never tried to awaken her, Connie finds herself married to a man she can't even stand kissing. But after his horrific skiing accident leaves him paralysed from the waist down, Connie submits herself further to the role of submissive wife by sharing her dormant desires with Cliff, opening the door to a new and more sexually exciting relationship - as long as Connie believes in her role in it.
Yet her newfound love for her husband is a façade that begins to crumble after he pushes their dominant-submissive relationship a step too far, and emptiness fills Connie. It isn't until she sees the new gardener in the communal garden of her home in London's Notting Hill that something comes alive in her. Mel is a seemingly taciturn, aloof man, separated from his wife and wishing nothing more than to be left alone. His first impression of Connie is replaced by one of concern and growing love after he sees what her husband has done to her, and their illicit relationship sets Connie free.
Or does it? She is still the wife of a dominant, domineering man who, now more than ever, needs to retain control over everything in his sphere of influence - especially his wife. Connie's presence by his side is not something he's willing to lose; and Connie has little experience fending for herself or living a life of low income. Can she find the courage to make a new life for herself? Can she find the courage to realise what she really wants in life, and give herself permission to grab hold of it?
Forbidden love. Repressed desire. A coming-of-age fairy-tale. The interesting thing about this retelling of Lawrence's classic novel is how it starts. Gemmell turns the current popularity for dominant-submissive, sexual-awakening stories on its head by presenting a couple who have already established such a relationship, and then drawing the heroine away from it. Unlike other erotic-based novels, in which the female narrators discover their own latent desires and then find the courage to explore them and express themselves in positive ways, we meet Connie in what seems like such a relationship, but which slowly dissolves into a different kind of repression.
Instead of Connie suppressing her submissive desires, she has embraced them for the sake of her relationship with her husband, Cliff. She has unconsciously recognised in him the need for control, for keeping up a particular appearance that will benefit him in his work; and in herself, a self-sacrificing element to her personality that ensures she will martyr herself - both to prove his family wrong in their judgement of her as a gold-digger, and to prove to herself that she made the right decision in marrying him.
Her cage and she has constructed it, of course. With her obedience, her compliance, her truth. Cliff continues reading the paper, lost in his mergers. Connie now gazing out the window, thinking of Picasso, how he said that all women were goddesses or doormats and if they weren't doormats at the start of the relationship then he'd do his level best to crack them into it. Herself? She's never been any threat. It's why his tight, moneyed family likes her, she knows that. One of those sweet ones who will not rock the boat; a pleaser, primed for a rubbing out; instinctively his family of strong women recognized it despite the slight niggle of a gold-digger, she can sense it; but she's sure they're like that with anyone who comes into their fold. [p.75]
She's allowed herself to be subsumed by Cliff and is torn between the genuine excitement and thrill and sensual pleasure she gets from their new sexual relationship - not to mention the first orgasms she's ever had - and a new feeling of coldness, rawness, of being "skinned by her husband." She's lost herself and is only now realising it.
Cliff wants to participate with an observer's coolness, wants others to admire, covet. Draws power from envy and adulation; is smooth with it, silvery with his thatch of greying hair, buoyant. Has always seen his hedge fund clients as objects rather than people - fools, sops, muppets - and Connie wonders how far this extends into other areas of his life.
To her it means almost nothing except that she gives herself to him, as the good wife. It is a kind of love, what he allows her to do now; no, it is love, she tells herself. Generosity of spirit, finally, yes; to be fulfilled by other men. The small price to pay: that he be allowed to watch. Control, yes, always that, for he is a controlling man. Pure head, no belly, no heart. And she is his adornment, his most beautiful trinket, her pliancy and servitude his triumph. [p.81]
It's been many years since I read Lady Chatterley's Lover - a class at university, though I can't remember which one - and I wasn't terribly impressed at the time. A bit obvious, I found it; can't help that dose of presentism sometimes. But I really don't remember it well, so I can't give any kind of proper comparison or analysis in that respect. Yet, the symbolism is present and correct, and still obvious. Cliff: moneyed, controlling, abhorring of nature, children, all things untamed and out of his control. Tight, heartless, cold, all those adjectives that position him clearly in the mechanical spectrum.
Contrast Cliff with Mel, the gardener, who is posited as "a real man". Not afraid to get his hands dirty, lives amongst the plants and trees and weather, understands the true patterns of life and death. Has no money, possibly not much education, but is everything Cliff is not. He represents nature. Connie, meanwhile, has been dazzled by wealth and glitz, comfort and ease, but has lost her soul in the process. Her shift back to reality, to the natural world and the path to discovering her real self, is a journey akin to many other fables that position the modern, industrial world as the antithesis, or enemy even, to the natural one. It's not original, no; it's as old as industry itself. So where does Gemmell break free of the tropes and make her own mark?
Possibly, it's in the language. Gemmell's prose - written in third-person present tense (and we all know that the use of present tense is a pet peeve of mine these days) - is both lyrical and poetic, but also oddly awkward and at times even jarring. You could say it is reflective of Connie's life and journey itself, but I'm never convinced that it's all that consciously done (in the past I've been impressed by McCarthy's The Road and Saramago's Blindness, applauding their prose as artistically creative and reflective of the nature of the stories themselves, only to discover afterwards that those authors always write like that - so I've learned not to give authors too much credit, sadly).
There were passages that I loved, lines that spoke volumes and that grasped the heart of the matter. At other times the prose style seemed almost an obstacle to real understanding, character development and a kind of integrity that stories like this need in order to feel grounded. I Take You never quite planted its feet firmly on the ground; it always seemed to float in way that gave it a daydreaming quality, a lack of realism even. But there were also great insights, not just into human nature but into the wider worlds of art, storytelling and truth. This one gave me pause for thought:
Are all female narratives of empowerment narratives of escape? [p.197]
I Take You began strongly, with a great sense of atmosphere, suspense and that thrill of uncertainty that invigorates the reading experience: you assume things that turn out not to be true, and you have to reassess quite often in the first, oh, hundred pages. But the drawn-out ending lacked a sense of oomph. The mystery was gone, the thrill and eroticism completely vanished, and it ends up a simple narrative of "will she won't she" leave Cliff. My interest in Connie - as a person, as a woman trying to write her own narrative after years of living someone else's - waned. In truth, she reminded me rather vividly of a Christine Feehan-esque insipid romantic heroine. She is bland, not just lacking in strength of character but in personality as well. She ended up Cliff's beautiful but simple wife because she really is simple. She comes across as frighteningly naïve, and while it's true that the story wouldn't quite work if she wasn't, it still makes it a little, well, dull.
There are strong, important and interesting themes in this novel, but for me their impact was overshadowed by the plot, the under-developed characters, even the prose, which was hit-and-miss for me. Each short chapter is prefaced by a quote from Virginia Woolf, and the one thing Gemmell did succeed with here, was to make me want to tackle Woolf again and see if age, experience, maturity and so on, would give me a better experience with her work than I had at university. The fact that my final thoughts on this novel centre around a completely different author will tell you that I didn't find I Take You as satisfying as I'd hoped, but I did find it thought-provoking and while I didn't love it, it has its merits....more
Sarah is a writer of romance and erotic fiction in the UK but had never actually experienced the things she wrote about - she borrowed heavily from thSarah is a writer of romance and erotic fiction in the UK but had never actually experienced the things she wrote about - she borrowed heavily from the fantasies in her own head. Married to an older man with old-fashioned ideas who was rather dull in bed, their children older teens and young adults now, as Sarah's story opens her marriage is finally ending and she is moving on with her life as a confident single woman.
After several useless dates with unexciting men she meets through an online dating site, Sarah decides to take the plunge and explore her so-called perverted sexual fantasies. She spends months exploring the internet and learning all about the lifestyle of BDSM, what excites her and what doesn't, and finally adds her own profile to an international BDSM website, stressing her inexperience and that she's seeking a man to guide her slowly into it all. She goes about it all carefully, knowing how important it is to her not just to find a man who isn't flat-out weird or psychotic, but a man she has a spark of chemistry with. Finally, she meets Max, and he's everything she was looking for.
Max is divorced with adult children, and has a little girl with his ex-girlfriend Abby. He's a successful man who does a lot of business in Europe, and he carries himself with the kind of quiet confidence that comes with being perfectly at ease with who you are. After a great deal of discussion and some laying out of the rules - Max stresses the importance of rules and a contract, not because it's legally binding but so that they know they have a mutual understanding and agreement which leads to better trust - Max begins to lead Sarah into the intoxicating world of pleasure and pain.
As Sarah explores her limits and the things that work - and the things that push her - she finds herself sleeping better, more at peace with herself, and her confidence growing. Many elements that come with the BDSM lifestyle are confronting and humiliating, and she finds the paradox - that something humiliating and embarrassing can be such a big turn-on for her - interesting but not strange.
Through Sarah's eyes we see the very ordinary, normal people who enjoy this kind of thing, and through her perspective we learn something about what appeals to people about this lifestyle, and how pain can lead to pleasure.
I'm glad I read The Diary of a Submissive by Sophie Morgan just before reading this (I wanted a comparison, as they're clearly similar), because it proved to be an invaluable comparison in understanding just what kind of book this is and who it will appeal to. Both books are marketed as true stories, but unlike Morgan's book, this one was easier believe. With Sarah's frank and open voice narrating events and what's going on inside her head, it's easy to believe that this really is a memoir; unlike with Morgan's book, I read it that way too.
It wasn't until after I finished this when I was looking through the kind of erotica that appeals to me personally, did it click what feels different about this - and Morgan's - book from what I'm used to reading. These two books have come out specifically in the wake of the mainstream success of the Fifty Shades trilogy - they have nothing in common with EL James's books, really they don't, no matter how often the publishers call them "real life Fifty Shades". What they are is a response to the mainstream popularity that arose in recent years, books for people - women - who've never read erotica before to dip their toes in once again. Neither book is particularly confronting, not compared to the erotic fiction I usually read, which is sharper, more up-front and assumes the reader isn't a newbie to the genre - there's no padding, and often no justification or defence either (the psychology of it is handled more subtly).
I wouldn't recommend The Diary of a Submissive to anyone - it just wasn't well written at all - but I would recommend The Secret Life of a Submissive. Sarah's journey takes the reader slowly into the BDSM world, broadening the horizons gradually, and countering assumptions along the way - and not quite countering others. For example, the idea that people who practice BDSM are perverts or "not nice" (as in, "nice men/women don't want that") is never overtly countered, though it's there in the characters and scenes if you read between the lines. I would like to remove the "pervert" judgement from the equation, it's rather tired and doesn't even match. (I don't know about you, but when I think "pervert" I think old men in flasher-jackets, jumping out from behind bushes to flash you their little willies.)
One of the refreshing things about this book - and one of the things glaringly absent from Sophie Morgan's version (I did say I wanted a comparison!) - was how Sarah often wonders how things that are normal in the BDSM world work in the everyday, asexual world. When she meets a young submissive woman called Carly who goes about indoors naked, she observes that Carly's labia "had a row of studs up either side: shiny stainless-steel balls like a row of ball bearings. I stared, wondering what the hell she said when she went to the doctor. Lord only knows what she would do to an airport security scanner." [p.135] And while exploring the playroom at Georgina's house during a BDSM party:
On the wall on a shelf above the baskets of condoms were a selection of dildos and strap-on cocks that varied in size from oh-yes via good-lord to bloody-hell and then alongside them were other things that defy description or identification. Georgina caught me looking at them and smiled. "You can try anything you want, dear," she said with a wave of the hand. "Just help yourselves." At which point I said the first thing that came into my head, which was, "They must be hell to keep clean." "Not at all, sweetie," said Georgina, helping herself to a cup of water from the cooler. "Barry just pops them all in the dishwasher." [p.161]
That one gave me a giggle. She wonders a lot about these things - about whether she would have to sleep on a mattress on the floor all the time, whether she would ever be able to snuggle with her Dom - because she herself wants a blend of the two, and Max is all hard-line Dom. As he clearly puts it, the rules between them are important and remain in place even when they're not in a scene - such as her calling him "Sir" and not speaking unless given permission - because it makes the whole thing more psychologically real, and BDSM is all about the psychology. This is true of the pain as well, and the giving up of control over oneself (as a sub): it is freeing. It makes a person feel alive (the same goal, I've always thought, behind why people cut themselves or do drugs or any number of self-destructive things: BDSM happens to be one of the ways you can achieve the same ends without destroying yourself, or doing any real lasting harm to yourself or another). Sarah doesn't enjoy being whipped - it always hurts - but it also arouses her and when the pain reaches a certain point she finds that she can fall into it, and her mind floats free - euphoria. Needless to say, the orgasms she experiences during scenes with Max are intense. And as I mentioned before, she sleeps deeply and well afterwards.
In the end, Sarah finds the balance that she needs, and that's the key message that runs through all BDSM stories: it's an individual thing, and only fulfils its aims if you are in the situation that works for you. Someone like Sarah could never live the BDSM lifestyle 24/7, and that's what she learns through her time with Max. Max himself is a bit of an erotic-romance cliché, but his commanding presence and charisma comes across clearly and overrode my eye-rolling. With him, Sarah has found a safe, trustworthy and experienced person with which to experiment and explore - I would think that this is quite rare, because I can't help but have a very prosaic view of humanity and our many flaws, that the kind of man (or woman) who would make an ideal Dom isn't very common. He's a bit of a fantasy, I tend to think, but when I follow the thought through I also see that, just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder (we don't all find the same people attractive), so is the individual who you could "work" with in this way a subjective thing. Max was ideal for Sarah, but he might have been "off" for others. You see that at Georgina's party, where Sarah meets a wide range of ordinary people who get off on BDSM play in many different guises, and they have clearly found someone who works for them. And sometimes it doesn't work, and as with everyone else, they go back on the market and keep looking.
Plot-wise, this struggled a bit. I know that people have drama in their lives, but no matter how real the plot of this is, it reads awfully cheesy and had me rolling my eyes a bit. What started off strong ended rather lamely. Well, such is life really yeah? I just don't like being distracted by questions of "did that really happen?" It touches on a less stable element of BDSM - Abby is unhinged to say the least - but thankfully steers clear of linking her "condition" to the lifestyle (obviously BDSM doesn't actually cause you to become obsessive and stalkerish, but it probably does attract such people. Perhaps). The other thing to note about the way this was written is that, during "play" when Sarah is totally in the zone, the narrative switches from past tense to present tense, giving it an extra dollop of intensity. It was quite effective really.
While I did like this book, having read much more intense erotica than this (and erotic-romance, for that matter), this wasn't a very satisfying read for me - but then, I don't think I'm the reader she had in mind. This is the step I skipped when I started reading the genre, because books like this weren't really available then. Therefore, reading this was like sitting through a first year lecture for a degree you've already completed. Or having someone show you how to ride a bike even though you already know.
As interesting as it was to read Sarah's story - to follow someone so familiar and relatable as she treads on a new and unknown path (I am impressed by her bravery and courage, I don't think I could do what she did) - it was tame compared to what I'm used to, and didn't really add anything new to my understanding of BDSM (which is an on-going work in progress from the safety of my couch!). It was often fun, humorous even, and Sarah was a believable character in her own story, but it wasn't very exciting, and some of the best (more exciting and interesting) scenes, she glosses over, only mentioning them in passing. Really, this is an ideal book for readers who are just like Sarah: young at forty, married or separated, reexamining their lives and questioning their choices, and curious about things they've never been exposed to before. This is most definitely their book, a good, well-written intro to the genre and to BDSM in general.
My thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book via TLC Book Tours. ...more
English journalist Sophie Morgan recounts her journey into the world of BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, Masochism), beginning with an American boyfEnglish journalist Sophie Morgan recounts her journey into the world of BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, Masochism), beginning with an American boyfriend at university to her friend-with-benefits, Thomas, and later James, a more serious partner who in the end couldn't reconcile his tender side with her needs (more on that later). She describes her childhood, seeking to assure readers that she had a happy one, a very ordinary one even, as well as the gradual build-up of thoughts and desires that led her to explore the kind of relationship that she feels she needs.
This work is marketed as a memoir, but having read it, I am unconvinced. From very early on in the book, I started reading it as pure fiction. Perhaps the author did base it on certain experiences she had, but she hasn't written it as a convincing memoir, certainly not as a "diary". In fact, due to the tone it's written in, her attitude, and the way the story plays out, it reads more like kinky chick-lit than erotica, and as such, it was extremely unsatisfying, very disappointing, and often annoying.
I've had this on my shelf since it came out in 2012, and finally got around to reading it recently because I wanted a comparison in mind when I read another so-called erotic memoir, The Secret Life of a Submissive by Sarah K. Both are British, both are written in a breezy, sometimes humorous style that is so reminiscent of British chick-lit, but the latter was rather more believable in terms of realism, and a more satisfying story. But let's talk about The Diary of a Submissive.
The first thing that I noticed that ruined the realism was the simple fact that one minutes Sophie has a brother, the next it's suddenly a sister (page 15 of my edition). Later, the sister reverts back to a brother and remains one for the rest of the book. This is a minor character - in fact, we never "meet" any members of her family - but it was a glaring error in the early sections when she's describing her family and her relationship to them. And no, she doesn't have a brother and a sister, just one sibling. If you were writing your memoir, would you have trouble remembering whether your sibling was male or female? No I didn't think so. (In other editions of this book the names of the men are different - Russell instead of Thomas, Josh instead of James, and of course it's to be expected that she would change people's names. But changing your brother to a sister and then deciding no, it worked better as a brother but forgetting to fix all the edits? That's not the same thing. That's just making it up and being sloppy.)
The other elements that just made the whole thing rather laughable was a) the ease and convenience of Sophie's experiences (it all just seemed to fall into place for her, she had no real negative experiences); and b) her own disconnect with her preferences. Regarding the first point, I know I'm not alone in finding her introduction into BDSM a mix of lame cliché and neat coincidence. Sure those things happen in real life - again, it's not really the veracity of her account that I'm questioning but the way she's written it, which is entirely up for critique. It's her sex-only relationship with Thomas that gave me my first pause. It begins so conveniently:
We'd been fuck buddies for a while by that point, so it was inevitable we would end up having a conversation about long-term unfulfilled fantasies. But as I knocked back a glass of red, told him a vague summation of what had happened with Ryan an my foray into internet smut before shyly admitting I fancied unleashing - or should that be leashing? - my submissive side properly with some experimentation into BDSM, I really didn't see him as the guy who would take me there. And I wasn't even expecting him to become that guy - as far as I was concerned we were having a bit of horny chat as a prelude to a perfect end-of-week pick-me-up fuck. I'd come to appreciate his intelligence and his deliciously dirty mind, but little did I know I had crossed paths with someone who it would turn out was ying to my submissive yang. [pp.63-4]
Well that worked out neatly! So lovely that her first real Dom/sub relationship was with a man she already knew, trusted and was having sex with. Though you wouldn't have much of a story if she never met a man who was into playing Dominant. And speaking of Thomas, it was her relationship to him that really made me realise that I couldn't relate to Sophie. The friends-with-benefits thing, his irritating smugness, the way they don't even seem to click together - no chemistry, I don't even remember her expressing much sexual attraction to him - none of it appeals to me and she never gave me the insight I needed to understand her and what she was doing. Which is telling, because I don't think she knew either.
Her relationship with James was even more weird, albeit in a different way. He seems a complete contradiction, coming across as an arse at first, then a lovely, sweet man who would be shocked by the thoughts in her head, then he turns into a demanding Dom who constantly drives her to higher and higher, um, heights, and then he very abruptly, with no warning whatsoever, has a crisis of conscience and decides that he likes her too much to hurt her. WTF? While this development did point out the often overlooked side of BDSM - the Dom who must be at ease with their needs as much as the sub does - it just wasn't written well. As a character, he was all over the place. It's not that Sophie was completely unobservant and missed the signs (though she doesn't strike me as someone who's very observant), it's that, according to the way she describes things, there weren't any. I just didn't find it believable, regardless of whether this is fiction or a real memoir.
And then there is Sophie herself. No matter how many times she tells us that this is what she wants and needs and desires, she never actually comes to terms with it herself. She doesn't think very deeply about why this appeals to her, or what she gets out of it, and she doesn't own it. This is evidenced by the fact that she's constantly justifying it, or defending it - often weakly, without conviction - and despite the proud last lines, she failed to really show us that she embraces her nature and isn't ashamed of it. More than that, her behaviour while "playing" was at odds with her desires as she lists them. I couldn't count how many times she would glare at her Dom, all angry and reluctant and stubborn. She's one of those cliched characters from romance and chick-lit who is so stubborn she stunts relationships before they have a chance to go anywhere. In this incarnation, her self-proclaimed stubbornness makes her BDSM play a kind of joke, or something she does against her will.
I couldn't understand her really. So many times the things that she was submitting to made her really angry, and for her, being submissive involved not acting on her anger. That's fine - but what is her real desire, the things being done to her or submitting to a man? I couldn't really tell, and I don't think she knows either. She doesn't like anything she's made to do or is done to her, but she loves it? Actually, that contradiction I can understand (though it's poorly expressed), it was more that the way she describes things, complete with her attitude, made it all seem so ... silly. As the writer of The Secret Life of a Submissive points out (or her Dom does), the rules of BDSM are only as affective as the players make them. The more you buy into it all and go along with it, at a deeper level, the more you'll experience and get out of it. Treat it like a joke and it all suddenly becomes ludicrous.
It wasn't always like that, but Sophie generally managed to ruin the atmosphere of pretty much every "scene" she took part of. She was more reflective and insightful outside of a scene, and points out some key elements to the lifestyle, like the simple fact that "only submitting to the fun stuff isn't submission" at all, which is why she does things that she's ordered to do but which she really, really doesn't want to do. But she doesn't really delve deep into the psychology of it all, and she's so resistant that I kept wondering why she was into it at all, aside from the fact that she seems to be constantly horny. And I baulk at the idea that to be a strong woman, you have to be difficult and stubborn (and angry). That's bullshit. Sophie spent a lot of time asserting that she was no victim or doormat, but her inability to really submit showed that she wasn't fully comfortable in her own skin, that she doesn't really understand it all, and that while she may be a strong woman underneath the surface, she's actually inhibiting it, her true self, by behaving like a petulant child half the time. You just can't get close enough to her to really know her or get the sense that this is real.
That and her lack of self-reflection made it a very light erotic read. She does reflect on the "lifestyle" at times, and offers some interesting personal insights, but it's the times when she's most vulnerable and open, in the throes of a scene, that she shies away from really thinking about, as well as trying to understand the other half of the equation, the Dom. In not really delving into her own nature, all of it just seemed vacuous and unrealistic.
One of the things I find particularly interesting about the D/s dynamic is that it pushes you to do things that otherwise you might not do. Not because you don't want to do them - so often you really, really do want to - but because they're things that you think might be hot/fun/interesting/unusual but that a small part of your mind baulks at, for some reason - whether that's because you feel it's 'dirty', or it's too embarrassing, or you're worried your arse'll look like a small country or whatever. I love that I can be pushed past the small part of my mind that feels that to experience these amazing new things is wrong. And, no, that's not being pushed into doing something I don't want to do, coerced or whatever - my body simply reacts before my mind has a chance to catch up; my body betrays the fact that it's something I'm into even if my eyes or words might for a time not make that obvious, and even if I can't exactly explain why or how it's making me wet. It's more about someone knowing how far I'd like to go and helping me find the courage to go for it. [p.129]
That is, quite neatly, the crux of submission in the sense of BDSM as I've come to understand it from all the other, better books I've read: The giving up of control (in a controlled environment) and handing yourself over to another person in every sense of the word, so you can stop thinking for once and simply feel and experience and to take you farther than you realised you can go. To free you. I rather think it takes a lot of courage to go there and do that. It also speaks, obliquely, to the importance of having a Dominant you can absolutely trust - and that's where it blurs into fantasy-land. Too often the men (or women) described in erotic fiction are just so super-duper at observing the submissive women (or men) in their care and they all have their heads screwed on right, that they know exactly what you need and what's okay and so on.
I had hoped that a book touted as a memoir called The Diary of a Submissive would show the practical, day-to-day life of a submissive, which to me is the part that doesn't seem doable. The sexual demands are one thing, but what about the other side of it: having someone else decide what you wear (and what you don't, like knickers and bra), what you're going to eat at a restaurant and so on. Does the super-duper Dom realise you need to use the loo? What about when you have an upset tummy, or your period and you're crabby and hormonal? How does that dynamic play out? What is it like being with a Dom when you're not engaged in a scene but going about the ordinary things in life? To be fair, there is a sequel out now called No Ordinary Love Story that does, apparently, explore all these questions as Sophie moves in with her boyfriend/Dominant, Adam, but unfortunately hers is not a story that I feel much interest in continuing to read about.
Everyone who enjoys this lifestyle (I'm using that word because that's how I've seen it described and I don't have a better one) enjoys it in their own personal way, and to different extents. But we don't learn about Sophie's personal life in the way you would expect. Just what are her aims in writing this? If it's to introduce new readers to the world of BDSM I would call it absolutely the wrong book to read first. If she was seeking to explain and justify and share BDSM ("real" BDSM) with people who were curious after reading EL James' Fifty Shades books, then I would say she's failed miserably. For me, after all the erotic-romance and erotica novels and short stories I've read over the last several years, this one just didn't add anything new to the genre. ...more
Zachary Easton is something of a big-shot literary editor who's left England - and his wife, Grace - for a job at Royal House Publishing in New York.Zachary Easton is something of a big-shot literary editor who's left England - and his wife, Grace - for a job at Royal House Publishing in New York. He's got just six weeks there before moving to L.A. for a new position within the publishing house, and his chief managing editor, JP Bonner, wants him to take on Nora Sutherlin's new novel. Nora writes erotica, and Royal House wants to get in on the big-selling genre bandwagon by snapping up the hottest author in the country. But Zach is a literary editor, he thinks Nora writes romantic fluff - even though he's never read it - and he hates romance, even if it does sell well. But after picking up the manuscript and reading some of it, he decides to visit her at her home with a proposition.
Nora isn't what he expected. Petite and beautiful, she's got a smart mouth and shocks his upright English soul continually. He also can't deny that he's immensely attracted to her. After much sharp banter, Zach agrees to take on her book, but with conditions: she has to listen to his editorial advice, she has six weeks to rewrite the book, and he won't sign off on the contract until he's read the last page of the rewrite. Nora agrees promptly.
Nora introduces Zach to a world he'd never glimpsed before. Nora used to be the submissive to a man called Søren, a man she describes as a sadist. She loved him but, after years of being his submissive, had to leave him, though she isn't really free of him - and perhaps doesn't want to. But what Zach doesn't know is that, to augment her income, Nora is one of the highest-paid and most sought after Dominatrix's in the city. She can "top" as well as "bottom", but she plans to quit it entirely once Zach's signed off on her contract.
Nora's life is far from simple, and as Zach learns more his attraction grows in equal proportion to his conflicted feelings. He still loves his wife, Grace, but his guilt over the past shadows his understanding of what's happened to their relationship. Søren gives Nora an assignment: to help Zach overcome his guilt and face the past. And Nora, a queen of pain and pleasure, knows exactly how that has to be done.
This is a wonderful work of erotic fiction, excellently written and both subtle and complex in its characters. I want to be clear from the outset, in light of the recent mad scramble for books dealing with BDSM, that this is erotica, not romance, and certainly not erotic romance. There is a big difference, though I'll let Nora explain, since she says it so well:
"A love story is not the same as a romance novel. A romance novel is the story of two people falling in love against their will. This is a story of two people who leave each other against their will. It starts to end the minute they meet." [p.55]
Which helps me understand my own confusion around my belief that Wuthering Heights is a love story, since it's not romantic. The two do not have to go together - which is why there are so many love stories that aren't published by Harlequin and sold in the Romance section (ironically, this is published by Harlequin and I did see it in the Romance section of Chapters). Love and romance aren't synonymous, but two separate things. Perhaps romance can't happen without love, but love can happen without romance. Nora has written a love story that doesn't have a happy ending. The Siren is a love story but definitely not a romance. Likewise, this isn't erotic romance. For a start, there isn't hardly enough sex - in fact, there are very few sex scenes that are described in full. Another trait of erotica, giving you snippets and letting your imagination do all the dirty work. It's like a mind fuck, which you could argue is very S&M right there!
As a work of erotic fiction, The Siren excels at its aims. It brings to life interesting characters who are all very, very different: Zach, Nora, Wesley (her virginal "houseboy" from Kentucky), and Søren just to name the key ones. It deftly balances two love stories (Zach's and Nora's) with an entertaining plot, an examination of the psyche of Doms and subs, and an exploration into the S&M culture - all without ever losing steam, getting sidetracked, or being predictable. The Siren is a novel of several themes, all inter-connected and requiring each other for support, not least of which is an examination of the psyche of BDSM, of the Dom/sub relationship, of why people do what they do. Nora has some enlightening things to say about the topic, or moral or ethical question, though she speaks from a personal perspective and so doesn't make the ultimate connections:
"They know what He's feeling. The women always know. They know it isn't just a beating or a murder they're being forced to witness. It wasn't even just a crucifixion. It was a sexual assault, Zach. It was a rape." Nora took a deep breath and Zach felt his own breath catch in his chest. He wanted to say something but didn't trust himself to speak yet. "That's why I believe, Zach," Nora continued. "Because of all the gods, Jesus alone understands. He understands the purpose of pain and shame and humiliation." "What is the purpose?" Zach asked, truly wanting to know. Nora's eyes returned to the two women in the foreground [of the painting] clinging to each other in sympathy and horror. "For salvation, of course. For love." [p.122]
It is mentioned, somewhere (I didn't take note of the page), that the beating of others for mutual pain and pleasure partly originated in the English boarding school, but as the quote above shows, it's older than that. Nora's not saying that it originated in the Christian church per se, but that humans are predisposed to it. Our psyches are complex, and some religions just happen to latch onto certain emotions over others, I suppose (such as guilt, which is why BDSM seems so very Catholic, or Anglican, or any of the other denominations). As Nora says,
"S&M is as psychological as it is physical and sexual, Zach. Imagine being as deep inside a woman's mind as you are inside her body." [p.62]
When Nora takes Zach to the top-secret underground club where all the S&M-ers come out to play, she has to educate him on the attraction, the appeal:
"Are you a masochist?" Zach asked, fascinated despite himself. "Not exactly." Nora smiled almost shyly. "Not everyone who practices S&M is an actual sadist or masochist, not in the pathological sense anyway. With Søren, I loved submitting to pain. I loved the submission, though, not the pain itself. There are a handful of actual masochists down here, though, if you want to meet one. Fair warning, they can be almost as dangerous to play with as the sadists." "Warning taken. You don't seem like those people down there." Zach nodded toward the pit. "Those people down there are doctors, lawyer, stockbrokers, politicians, you name it. If I'm not like them it's only because I don't have a real job. And I have played in the pit before, I'll have you know. It's like Sodom and Gomorrah down there sometimes. Tonight's Monday so the play's a little tame." "You say 'play' like this is all a game. But people are actually getting hurt down there, Nora." "I have one word for you, my uptight English editor - rugby." Zach winced. Rugby - the sport as rough as American football but without all the padding. "A lot of people think we're crazy, Zach. Some even think we're evil. But I'm a Switch so I've seen both sides of the whip. I know you can't imagine it, but this is love to a lot of us. When Søren hit me, it was because he loved me, because that's how we loved each other." "Sounds horrifying." "Horrifying is the last thing Søren is. Dangerous, yes. I'll give you that. But S&M's only dangerous if you play with someone you don't trust or if you forget your safe word." [p.216]
That brings us neatly to the subject of Søren, I think. He was really the only surprise for me here, and it was a delicious one. I loved the truth of Søren. More than that, though, his charisma and leadership is excellently rendered, it fair blazes out of him and sucks you in as deftly as it does Nora and everyone else. You can really believe in him as a character, not just of fiction but someone who could be real, too. He's scary though, his sadism frightens me much more than his obsessiveness - because I'm not in love with him like Nora is and I'm not a masochist! But his charisma is enticing, and matches that of other "dark and dangerous" men I'm always drawn to in fiction. Søren is also scary - or intriguing - because of his ability to understand people, beyond the facade, which is really what makes him such a good Dom:
"I saw a book at Nora's. The Jabberwocky. You, I presume it was you, wrote, 'Never forget the lesson of the Jabberwocky' inside it. But it's a nonsense poem. It has no lesson." "But it does," Søren countered. "A handsome prince fights a terrible, beautiful dragon and slays him then carries the head home strapped to his saddle. The lesson is obvious. When one is a monster, one does well to beware knights in shining armor. A good lesson for Eleanor." Zach heard the meaning behind Søren's words. "Nora is not a monster. She's not perfect obviously. But she's a good person, and to call her a monster is ridiculous." "You know her that well, do you?" Søren asked, turning to face him full-on. "Before tonight she scared you, didn't she? Her fearlessness, her brazenness, I'm sure it's terrifying at first. Foreign to those who lead the proverbial life of quiet desperation as I imagine you do. She scared you with the sheer force of her life and being. But now you look around and think her courage is merely a byproduct of her damage. You imagine I abused her, changed her. And you would save her, as Wesley imagines he can? You would be her knight in shining armor? Yes, before you feared her and now you pity her. I assure you, Zachary, you were right the first time." [p.256]
I had one problem with the plot. Early on, when Wesley asks Nora why she doesn't tell Zach about her other job, she says that she doesn't want Zach to then dismiss her new novel as a memoir. That seemed weird to me, since he'd already learnt (I think, or soon does), about Søren and what she used to be. That seems like a much bigger deal to me than being a Dominatrix, which is a legitimate career for some people. Not only that, but when Zach learns about it from a co-worker, he gets all pissy with Nora and throws a big childish tantrum about it, and it never made sense to me. What's the big deal? Who cares if she has a second job? He whines about how she lied to him: well what business is it of his? Sure they were becoming good friends and she'd introduced him to her world - right into the heart of it - but if I were in Zach's position, as Nora's friend and editor, I'd be surprised if she wasn't keeping things to herself! It's not a part of their agreement that she tell him everything, right down to her bank balance. That was the only weak part of the plot, a flimsy, cliched attempt at tension and conflict that greatly surprised me, considering how well written the book is otherwise. It seriously ticked me off - for letting down the story and also for lowering my opinion of Zach.
Overall, The Siren is as intriguing as it is entertaining, but more than that, it's success at delving deeply into the psyche and emotions of its characters really makes it stand out. Do no compare this to Fifty Shades of Grey, I beg of you - they have nothing in common. They're not even the same genre! Reisz has taken erotica to a new place, one that welcomes new readers to the genre, and she writes with great talent. The good news is: this is only the beginning. Nora's story continues in The Angel, which I'll be reading soon....more
(First let me apologise if I've got any little details in my summary wrong - the frustrating thing about e-books is that you can't flip through the pa(First let me apologise if I've got any little details in my summary wrong - the frustrating thing about e-books is that you can't flip through the pages, finding those things your memory is fuzzy on!)
Katlyn and David met while studying pre-med together in New York; instantly attracted to each other, David didn't even want to be friends with Kat at first because of his upbringing, his father, and his track record with women. His father, Richard, a successful surgeon and a powerful man in his community and industry, brought David up to be in his own image: to treat women as little more than objects for his enjoyment, in whatever form that would take, and to see to their domestic needs and wishes. David's own mother, Ellen, has spent decades under Richard's abusing control, and David has been a witness to it. Richard is a controlling, brutal man that David must put a second skin on for, sleeping with a different woman every week because he knows his father will ask.
A real relationship with Kat seemed beyond David's ability, beyond his understanding and something he wasn't sure he had any right to even want. How could he possibly introduce her to his father? How could he keep his father from interfering in their lives? So he keeps his distance, until one night when he finally stops fighting his feelings for Kat - and learns that she is a trained and experienced submissive, one who would very much like for him to be her Dominant.
David is untrained and inexperienced as a Dominant. He doesn't even understand the concept of a D/s relationship, until Kat explains it to him. It is eye-opening for him, to say the least: in this kind of relationship, the woman has the power, and he must earn her trust - the opposite to his parents' relationship. Afraid of hurting her in his inexperience, David secretly contacts her previous Dom for help and advice.
Years later, David has nearly finished his medical training (to be anything other than a doctor is unthinkable to Richard, who's paying his way) and Kat has a year of teaching under her belt, having dropped out of pre-med and lost her scholarship when her father died and she dropped out in her grief. Not only that, but they have married in a private ceremony. The time has come to introduce Kat to his parents - not as his wife and long-time partner, and certainly not as his submissive - but as his new girlfriend. But all the preparation and warnings for Kat cannot really prepare her for the reality of Richard and his cruel, misogynistic brutality.
This is a stellar work of erotica, only available as an e-book (at this stage anyway) - Blair has the first two chapters up on her website for you to read before purchasing. I was warned about the first chapter so I knew what to expect, but it was still a hugely confronting scene that really set the tone for Richard and everyone's relationship with him.
The characters are very well drawn for such a short book - Kat and David we take some time getting to know, while Richard and Ellen are presented more consistently - until toward the end, when we discover a whole new side to Ellen that'll really make you warm to her. And in a way, BDSM is a kind of character in this story. While this isn't a good introductory book to this kind of story - it's much heavier and less romancey than the mainstream erotic romance novels, even the ones containing some BDSM (like Maya Banks and Beth Kery) - it does provide a really sound, clear and healthy understanding to BDSM and why some people need it. Kat, for example, is a strong, intelligent woman (and I loved the way she was written, so refreshing from the Maya Banks heroines, for instance, who are more reminiscent of Christine Feehan's petite and gentle creations) who understands her own sexuality and her own needs and doesn't waste a moment feeling guilt or shame about them. I love that, I love characters (and real-life people!) who know themselves and embrace their own desires and sexuality, and aren't self-indulgently agonising over it all the time. Kat and David's relationship is depicted in such a way that you would be sure to feel immense respect and understanding for them.
The contrast is Richard and Ellen. To really highlight the difference between a respectful D/s relationship and one of plain abuse: domestic, sexual, physical and mental abuse. In the light of his parents' relationship, you can clearly see how healthy David and Kat's is, for them at least (the lifestyle is hardly for everyone). Blair starts her story off with a quote that really does capture - in some ways - the essence of the story, as well as being very apt and wise. I have to include it here:
"Violence is not merely killing another. It is violence when you use a sharp word, when we make a gesture to brush away a person, when we obey because there is fear. So violence isn't merely organized butchery in the name of God, in the name of society or country. Violence is much more subtle, much deeper, and we are inquiring into the very depths of violence." - Jissu Krishnamurti
The story is written by turns in the present, and in flashbacks to the past and how Kat and David meet and get together. The chapters alternate and as we learn more about the past, it builds a stronger picture of the present - the structure worked really well. The chapters are short, and while in general I'm a reader who loves depth and details, the concise, well-crafted writing means you learn what you need to know: Blair is nothing if not articulate. And perhaps, for such a heavy, at times dark story, short is better than too long. There is palpable tension in the story, residing in the expectations Richard has of his son's relationship with Kat; in fact, it gets a bit nail-biting at times, with that feeling of a looming electrical storm on the horizon.
The plot takes an interesting turn towards the end, in resolving the problem with Richard. I wasn't at all sure how it could be resolved, or what awful things would happen before it got to that point. What I loved about the resolution was what it did for Ellen, David's mother, and how the emotional scarring affected David - and, in turn, his relationship as Dom to Kat. The story does end abruptly, though; as I got closer and closer to the finish (thanks to that little bar and percentage mark at the bottom of the screen), I kept thinking, "no, not yet!" I suppose it would have been weaker to drag it out any further, but I still wasn't quite ready to say goodbye to Kat and David. I also wanted a few more scenes between them, because their chemistry and intensity was so engrossing.
At its heart, this is a story about facing your past and your fears, and about the effect of violence on people, be they the victims (Ellen) or the onlookers (David) - as well as the different types of violence, especially the subtle kinds - because David is a victim too, and it takes the love of a strong woman to help him recover, grow strong and learn the difference between sexual play and abuse.
[At time of writing, this e-book was available for US$0.99 from Amazon.com.]
Note: I've seen that people are doing lists like "What to read after finishing 50 Shades of Grey" and this book is listed in their recommendations. Be wary of such lists! It really does depend on what you've been reading and where your comfort level is at on the scale of erotica/erotic romance. Read Blair's wonderfully articulate and intelligent post on "Why My Book is Not 50 Shades of Grey" and I think you'll get a clear grasp of whether this book is for you or not. :) ...more
This is the companion anthology to a book I previously reviewed, Yes, Sir, also edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel. Please, Sir is similar but there isThis is the companion anthology to a book I previously reviewed, Yes, Sir, also edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel. Please, Sir is similar but there is a notable difference in the style of stories, and I found I liked it less than Yes, Sir.
A woman makes a bad joke about her husband at a party and must pay the price. Another discovers the power of her lover's choking hold on her neck. A woman's lust for her martial arts instructor leads to an exciting battle of power. Foreplay in public, at the opera. All kinds of sex and sexual play are on the table, and while some of the stories have great tension and interplay, some were more lacklustre.
These stories aren't porn: they aren't sex for the sake of sex. They all explore women and men's minds (but especially the former) and what makes us tick. They explore our darkest fantasies and liberate our desires. As Bussel puts it in her introduction:
If you ask me, submission is an art form. It requires dedication, focus, commitment and desire - and there’s no single way of doing it. It’s about unlocking something within yourself so you can reach beyond your normal limits, exposing your body and soul in order to go somewhere you cannot get to alone.
That's what I love about erotica, that psychological aspect, but I'm less keen when the writing gets too artsy-farty, as a couple of these stories did. I don't think of erotica as the kind of genre in which you want to play with experimental prose styles. It's just too distracting, detracting.
Of the 22 stories in this collection, the majority are nicely kinky, fun and thrilling. Some of them stand out, like the one about the woman who's fitted with a dog collar and leash - and nothing else - and taken for a walk in the park. Exhibitionism makes me cringe, but the story was fun despite it. There's great variety here, but not too many stand out in my memory, and they seemed somehow less than the first volume, Yes, Sir. A good read, but a bit forgettable. ...more
I know, the cover is very, ah, eye-catching isn't it? This isn't the sort of book you want to read on the subway, if only so over-the-shoulder readersI know, the cover is very, ah, eye-catching isn't it? This isn't the sort of book you want to read on the subway, if only so over-the-shoulder readers don't get excited in a crammed carriage. Because this is a pretty raunchy book, and one of the better ones I've read.
This collection of nineteen stories from mostly female authors oscillate between structured BDSM and a more playful exploration of sexual desire - which is, if anything, psychological first and foremost. The theme of women gaining power and confidence through "submission" is strong here, as it generally is in erotica of this kind, and is explored through a wide range of scenarios, from the woman whose husband tells her exactly what she can have for lunch to the woman who takes a brave step in facing her secret desires.
I would have to say that this was the most fun and intelligent collection of erotic stories I've read so far, and I use those words deliberately. Reading the mini bios of the authors in the back, they come from all over the English-speaking world and from a wide range of backgrounds, and all of them sound like people you'd want to meet and have a laugh with. Their stories are refreshing and original and unpredictable, and my only complaint was that they were short stories - they often ended at such a great moment I definitely wanted to read more.
I have a feeling that even I, with my non-religious and open-minded upbringing by two unrepressed parents, will keep reading playful erotica well beyond the point where my sense of shame finally evaporates. Because even though I'm an atheist, it's inherent in my western culture that strong sexual feelings are, if not exactly wrong, to be kept quiet and hidden. Something to be embarrassed about, even now in so-called modern times. So far I've made great progress in being open about my appreciation and enjoyment of such stories, but those stern judging eyes of society are still there. I admire the women who write these stories, and are proud of what they produce. I would like to have that kind of confidence. ...more
This is a short book - a novella really - and honestly you wouldn't want it any longer. The Toy is a prime example of how unsexy Erotica can be, and fThis is a short book - a novella really - and honestly you wouldn't want it any longer. The Toy is a prime example of how unsexy Erotica can be, and for very good reason. In fact, I'm rather surprised this one was published, as I thought rape was a pretty firm no-go area for erotic fiction.
In this story, Gina is a young woman from a dull, conservative and religious family who volunteers at the Christian Outreach Center and is not long away from marrying her equally dull boyfriend Dwayne, mostly because they've been together so long and that's what's expected of her. On her way home one evening she is kidnapped from her bus stop by two men who keep her locked in a windowless, soundproof padded room for months while they "break her in". One, Gordon, is a misogynistic homosexual who is disgusted by women but toys with them anyway, and is brutal and cruel. His own personal boy-toy is Frank, a young, handsome man who is much kinder to Gina and teaches her the gentler side of sex, among other things.
Aside from completely changing Gina into someone who could never go back to her old life, there seems little point to this story and a whole lot of horribleness. There are a few erotic stories that I've read that I feel have left a taint behind in my mind, and this would be one of them. It's not safe, consensual sex, for a start. And there's nothing much else to the story but the gross interactions between the three characters. And, of course, Gina falls in love with Frank. I wasn't impressed. ...more
This is one of the better erotica novels I've read in a while, being well written, interesting, exciting and even humorous, with a central female charThis is one of the better erotica novels I've read in a while, being well written, interesting, exciting and even humorous, with a central female character who is well developed and not annoying. It's Erotic Romance in that it has a happy ending, but there's nothing really romantic about it.
Sarah has long promised herself that on her twenty-first birthday she will have her first drink and lose her virginity. When her boyfriend David seems to have forgotten her birthday entirely, Sarah goes ahead with her plan to have some champagne - but when she arrives at the Toledo Royal Avenue Hotel she's mistaken as an escort and ends up losing her virginity anyway - to a man she's never met before. It isn't until she wakes up the next day to an empty hotel suite and an envelope with a lot of money inside that she realises what happened, and it isn't until after she's spent all the money that she gets a call from the escort agency, wanting their cut.
In order to pay back the money she owes, Sarah agrees to her first assignment - which turns out to be watching a couple who like to be watched - in the most interesting of positions. Each assignment that Sarah agrees to further broadens her new-found interest in sex and her knowledge of the many kinds of sexual desire. She finds that she's good at it too, though still yearning for something she can't put into words.
Then a weekend-long assignment comes her way and she meets John, an older, well-educated man who introduces her to the kind of play she's been fantasising about; it's a weekend she can't get out of her head. When "John" turns up at her university as her new Honours Philosophy Ethics professor, things become more complicated for Sarah's once-orderly world.
This book actually reminded me of a similar story I had to read for an English class at university, in which a young, sexually-innocent girl married to a much, much older man has a brief affair with a man who encourages her to become a call girl, and enter a world of wild and kinky sex. I can't remember what it was called (though the cover image isn't one you're likely to forget in a hurry, of a woman in stiletos wrapped in straps of leather, holding a whip - ah that was a great course!), but that one had a much different ending.
I found Sarah a much more interesting character than you usually get in this kind of fiction - she was just as believable as a student as she was as a call girl, and her growth as a character was natural and plausible. It was certainly titillating - some of her assignments were rather unusual, such as the grown man who had a nursery in his house and wanted an escort to pretend he was a baby and she his mother - there are so many different kinds of people in the world, that the idea of "normal" is a ludicrous one to hold onto. That was definitely a part of the book I really appreciated, and it's so fascinating to delve into the psyches of other people, even if in fiction. ...more
These three-and-a-bit short stories are more Erotic Romance than straight-up Erotica, but not by much. The first story, "Breaking Skye" by Eden BradleThese three-and-a-bit short stories are more Erotic Romance than straight-up Erotica, but not by much. The first story, "Breaking Skye" by Eden Bradley, is about a young woman called Skye who posts an ad looking for a dominant man to introduce her to the world of BDSM. She meets Adam Dunne, a dark, handsome and charismatic man who instantly captures her imagination. The only trouble is, as Adam sees it, is that he's equally captivated by Skye, and that threatens the whole relationship.
The second story, "Submissive Secrets" by Eliza Gayle, is about a private investigator, Carli, whose once-innocent ex-boyfriend, Aidan, comes back into her life in unusual circumstances - Aidan's now part of a secret government agency that's investigating Carli's brother, who they think has committed treason. Carli discovers that Aidan has changed in other ways too, and can now offer the kind of kinky sex she craves. The third story, "Cupid's Captive" by Reese Gabriel, is about a sexually dominant man taking his colleague's younger sister out for Valentine's Day and discovering that she knows what he is and she very much wants to be his. The last story, "Listen to Me", is very short, more of a snippet really, and not very interesting.
These were all fun, non-violent, non-taxing stories that were ultimately not all that satisfying, perhaps because they were rather short. "Fluffy Erotica", if you will. Perhaps the one I enjoyed the most was "Cupid's Captive", which was written well and was the most fun. ...more
There are several different "shades" of Erotica, and this belongs more to the porn shade than anything else - which is indicated by the cover "art" -There are several different "shades" of Erotica, and this belongs more to the porn shade than anything else - which is indicated by the cover "art" - especially in terms of style and how graphic it is. That is to say, it is exceedingly graphic. But it also questions the motives and psychology behind people's desires and sexual needs, which makes it rather more interesting and adds substance.
Cole is a real estate agent who, in his spare time, carefully explores the BDSM scene that he's been newly and unexpectedly introduced to. The first is Kate, a small woman whose needs he learns to satisfy until he realises she wants what he can't give, namely to be physically abused. He helps a plump older nurse enjoy herself for the first time, and meets a couple of women at an expensive condominium - the kind of place where he'd like to live himself - in their sexual play, realising as he does that what he wants is something more serious, something that lasts twenty-four hours, not just a fun session.
Then Lana enters his life, as a newbie at his agency, and Cole has to mentor her in the business. Knowing straight away that she's a natural submissive, Cole lays the rules down clearly: while he's mentoring her, there can be nothing else between them but their professionalism. Once Lana is financially independent and his mentoring ends, their relationship can begin - as long as it's understood it's just play and can end at any time. Lana takes it seriously from the beginning, but it takes Cole a lot longer to realise Lana is just the right woman for him.
For what it was, this was quite good, though many of the scenes are too starkly graphic and less than appealing, and it all starts to feel pretty excessive pretty quickly. It's set in Toronto, which makes a nice change (most erotica books I've read to date have been American-authored), though it's essentially irrelevant. I liked that Cole needed an emotional attachment to the women, and because he was new to it all, he seemed almost innocent in comparison to them. The book doesn't shy away from anything, it's consistent and not at all ashamed, and the characters are well developed, which makes it far better than porn! ...more
This is quite a neat concept: from one side, you get thirty short stories from the perspective of the "master", or sexually dominant person (usually aThis is quite a neat concept: from one side, you get thirty short stories from the perspective of the "master", or sexually dominant person (usually a man); flip the book over and turn it upside-down and you get thirty stories from the perspective of the "sub" or submissive person (usually a woman).
Some of the stories are quite good, some are okay and some are weird and silly or dull. I expect which stories fall into which would be very different for everyone. With so many stories on offer, it's hard to talk about the book as a cohesive whole, or as individual stories. They all had the BDSM theme in common, but to wildly varying degrees, and most of the stories were just fun explorations of the genre, without over-thinking it or analysing it or getting too weird about it.
Overall, there were probably more good stories than bad ones, but then again there were so many that they do start to blur together a bit. It's a good one to read now and then, rather than in one go. ...more