Although I had a few issues with terminology in this book, and felt the ending was really rushed (and unclear as a result), Gates of Submission was anAlthough I had a few issues with terminology in this book, and felt the ending was really rushed (and unclear as a result), Gates of Submission was an interesting story with some well-developed characters and a nice balance of fantasy drama and real life romance. Nikki DiCaro works a lot of elements into her plot, from the politics of divorce, to workplace harassment, to LGBT issues, to issues of friendship and romance, creating a story that is almost bigger than itself.
Russell is an interesting character, but also an exasperating one. He wants the best of all words, but often doesn't know what that means. Clearly, this is a man struggling with some deep-seated issues, and it is very easy to sympathize with his gender identity struggles, but sometimes I just wanted to shake him and make him confront the women in his life. Barb was probably favorite character in the novel, a true transsexual woman who has deal with her pain, challenged her tormentors, and come out of it a stronger woman. At times it seems as if she is more than Russell deserves, but precisely what he needs.
Sylvia was over-the-top, the kind of villainous, sexually harassing boss who can only be found within the pages of an erotic fantasy, but important to the plot. It is important that we be conflicted about her, a little aroused by her fetishistic power games, but horrified by the impact they have on Russell. Bethany was a difficult character for me, in that I liked the way she was developed, loved the initial twist surrouding her, but thought her final actions were too much for the story.
As for that terminology I mentioned, it bothered me that Russell referred to Barb on more than one occasion as "a woman who was a guy" (he should understand her situation better than anybody), and there were several instances of "transgenders" that bothered me (it is an adjective, not a noun), but otherwise this was a very respectful, largely positive exploration of gender and gender identity.
As Lyka Bloom stories go, Shrunk! is probably one of her lightest and shortest to date, but it is still a wonderful read.
Reggie is your typical teenagAs Lyka Bloom stories go, Shrunk! is probably one of her lightest and shortest to date, but it is still a wonderful read.
Reggie is your typical teenager, living at home with his mother, but his older sister is somewhat less typical. Having adopted a Goth persona several years before, Sarah has evolved into a full-blown witch. When Reggie barges into her room uninvited, catching her in the middle of some erotic magick, she accidentally unleashes a powerful wish upon him.
Fans of gender transformation will definitely be entertained, but it is the fans of age regression who will have the most fun here. Lyka does a lovely job of making Reggie younger and younger, warping the world to fit his new self, and playing with the fading memories of the older boy he used to be. It's a rather sweet story, with a few surprising moments of guilt and regret, with a happily-ever-after.
While my own tastes in forced feminization stories tend to fall more under the erotic, submissive umbrella of self-discovery, there is no doubt that sWhile my own tastes in forced feminization stories tend to fall more under the erotic, submissive umbrella of self-discovery, there is no doubt that stories of cruelty and humiliation have their place. They free us from our own desires, erase all questions of fear and shame, and transfer ownership of the fantasy to someone else entirely.
As a writing team, Kylie Gable & Claudia Acosta are especially adept at capturing the darker side of the genre. Many of their stories do see a victim broken and able to realize his hidden sissy nature, and some even flirt with moments of romance and tenderness as a result, but it is the process of forced feminization that dominates, not the end result. Whether the victim ever finds happiness is far less important than whether the woman in charge is satisfied with her efforts.
Sam's New Life is a particularly intense tale from their collection, involving multiple young women who all have a hand in humiliating poor Sam. It all begins with his step-sister and her best friend, before their schemes grow to encompass even more of their friends, with a rival group of girls getting in on the action later on. This is a story built on blackmail and threats of exposure, leading Sam make some very difficult choices to protect his privacy. Cruelty is the predominant theme throughout, with nary a word wasted on allowing Sam to enjoy his predicament, but it is all for a purpose – although that is not revealed until the very end.
Although I suspect the most appreciative audience of these tales is dominant women looking to vicariously enjoy the humiliation of a sissy, there is significant appeal for those of us who identify more closely with Sam. Even if he is never permitted such pleasures himself, we can vicariously enjoy the process of feminization, luxuriating in the clothing, the cosmetics, and the public expression. The situations he finds himself in are unquestionably embarrassing, but we can always see that glimmer of hope or delight where we might respond differently.
Of course, all such stories must have a point, a destination in mind, and the final reveal here is one of my favorite from Kylie & Claudia. I will say no more, because part of its power is in the surprise, but I came out of this one with a smile.
Oh my goodness, Meido was such a fun, sexy story! Combining fetishes for anime cosplay, French maid crossdressing, and absolute submission, this is aOh my goodness, Meido was such a fun, sexy story! Combining fetishes for anime cosplay, French maid crossdressing, and absolute submission, this is a story where execution is everything. There may not be a lot of surprises to the plot, but Lyka Bloom can build characters and set a scene like few others in the genre.
It all starts when Derek tries to order the perfect maid's costume for his girlfriend. Not wanting to go traditional and slutty, he gathers individual pieces online to create the perfect Japanese-inspired costume. When one of his orders prompts a bright red warning message that he cannot read, he proceeds anyway, assuming it is just your standard shopping car warning. First mistake.
He thinks nothing of the fact that the bonnet arrives in a completely unnecessary, well-decorated wooden box; ignores the Japanese warning note contained inside; dismisses the thrum of power that emanates from the bonnet; and decides to try it on himself. Second mistake.
With the bonnet in place, Derek's mind and body transform into those of a petite Japanese maid. Completely feminine, completely submissive, and wholly Japanese, he very quickly forgets himself and sets about cleaning the house and making dinner for Casey-san. After a comical misunderstanding with this intruder in her house, Casey eventually tries the bonnet on herself, and the two lovers share a wonderful night . . . before she convinces Derek to try it again. Last mistake.
I loved the magic involved here, and the shift in personality that Derek undergoes. Watching him struggle to remember himself, even as he finds perfect happiness and contentment as a maid, makes for a delicious story. The erotic moments are, as always, gorgeous detailed and sensuous, but this is really a story that works best in the mind. As for the final twist, even if you see it coming (as I am sure most readers will), the way it is handled really ends the story on a high note.
Offering up an interesting mix of genres (with an abrupt change of course in the last act), The Constantine Affliction is a fun, engaging, imaginativeOffering up an interesting mix of genres (with an abrupt change of course in the last act), The Constantine Affliction is a fun, engaging, imaginative read that manages to succeed despite the relative blandness of its main character. That's not to say Pimm isn't an interesting character on his own, but he lacks the quirks and personality traits that make the other characters leap off the page.
T. Aaron Payton (better known as T.A. Pratt), has put together a story here that's equal parts thriller, mystery, horror, comedy, and adventure. At the heart of it lies the aforementioned Pimm (an aristocrat who likes to play detective - when not drowning his sorrows), the far more engaging Winifred (his best friend turned spouse - thanks to the gender-changing Constantinopolitan Affliction), and the rather remarkable Syke (investigative reporter and feminist heroine - for whom the glass is always half-full). Facing off against the unlikely trio of heroes is an even unlikelier trio of villains in Abel Value (criminal overlord), Sir Bertram Oswald (the Queen's consort), and Mr. Adams (cousin to Frankenstein's monster). Throw in some clockwork courtesans and some extra-dimensional monsters, set against the backdrop of a London under siege from darkness and disease, and you have yourself one heck of a tale.
Before we get to the story, let me take a moment to talk about the Constantine Affliction itself. Here we have a sexually transmitted disease, and one that often results in death. Nothing remarkable about that, especially for the Victorian age. Those who survive it, however, do not do so unchanged - upon being restored to health, they find that their gender has changed. Winifred is the one 'victim' we get to know best in the tale, and she is one of the strongest characters in the novel, especially in the latter stages. Hers is not the only prominent commentary on gender in the novel, however, as Syke's character has a lot to say about gender roles. Smart, independent, and damned good at her job, she is forced to masquerade as a man in print if she's to have her stories taken seriously.
Elsewhere, there is an awful lot going on, but Payton manages to keep it all on track, all the while building towards a pair of key revelations that quite cleverly connect the dots between the mixed genres. At times chilling, amusing, and altogether fascinating, this is the kind of book where you just have to give yourself permission to settle in and enjoy the ride. It's paced exceptionally well, so much so that you never begrudge Payton the opportunity to explore a few bizarre tangents (and of those there are aplenty). Perhaps Skye's intimate investigation of the clockwork courtesans goes into a bit too much detail, but it's fascinating, and it does help to justify some plot elements further on. Similarly, Mr. Adam's researches into life-after-death may be a bit too grotesque for some readers, but you'll come away believing in the possibility for romance with a disembodied brain.
Where the story faltered a bit, for me, was in the Lovecraftian insanity of the final act. It almost seemed as if, having so deftly handled so many genres already, Payton simply couldn't resist the urge to go all the way with the monstrous finale. The strength of the characters keeps it from becoming too fantastic, but it was so far removed from what I was expecting that I struggled a bit to keep my disbelief willingly suspended. It does give Winifred, our gender-bent heroine, a chance to shine, and does allow for a fitting resolution to the character of Mr. Adams, but it also cast Pimm a bit further out of the limelight.
All-in-all, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read, with enough plot lines to fill a trilogy of novels. Unfortunately, it seems as if this is to be our one-and-only adventure with Pimm and Skye, but there's always hope for a crowdfunded or self-published follow-up (depending, of course, on what rights the publisher has to the series).
Temptations of Desire was an almost perfect romance, complete with two of the sweetest, sexiest men ever to fall in love between the pages of a book.Temptations of Desire was an almost perfect romance, complete with two of the sweetest, sexiest men ever to fall in love between the pages of a book. I will get to that almost in a minute, but first let me gush about what I loved.
Lexie and Dal are the perfect couple. They are both sweet, funny, and romantic, coming across more as two lovestruck teens than grown men with careers. Seriously, your heart would have to be pretty cold (and your phobia pretty deep) not to love these two. Dal is a big, burly, motorcycle riding cop, but that is where the stereotype ends. He is a tender and compassionate man who acts like the suitor in a fairy tale romance. As for Alex, he is a very feminine young man, openly gender-fluid, who is haunted (but not defined) by his painful past.
As for their romance, it is so sweet, so passionate, it just makes your heart soar. I kept waiting for Tempeste O'Riley to throw a wrench into the works - and she does, but nothing she does can keep them apart. There are at least a half dozen points in the story where a less confident author would allow the conflict to boil over, artificially sundering the lovers, just to come up with a big, sexy reunion later on. Not here.
The cast of supporting characters are fantastic as well, especially Chase and Rhys (you can pick up Desires' Guardian for their backstory). An equally believable, equally lovable gay couple, they really serve to help drive the story along. Kai, Lexie's best friend and brother-by-choice, is one character I would love to know more about, and Mr. Harrison, his wealthy employer, is the kind of man we all could use in our lives.
As for that almost, there is a murder mystery slipped into the story that just did not work for me. Maybe you have to have read the previous book to appreciate it, but it feels very hesitant, and does not mess with the rest of the story. There are points I actually thought it forgotten, only for it to reappear, and the resolution is probably my biggest issue with the tale. No spoilers, but the big, final confrontation happens entirely outside the story, with us only getting a recap after-the-fact.
That almost concern aside, Lexie and Dal are the sweetest couple ever, and Temptations of Desire is just a gorgeous romance that does something wonderful with gender, without making a big deal about it. Of course, if (like me) you are desperate to explore that angle a little deeper, the short story Truth in Lace provides us with crossdressing backstory.
Although it starts out as a standard gender-swap revenge tale (only with a female-to-male twist), The Freshman's Curse: The Complete Novel (With ExtraAlthough it starts out as a standard gender-swap revenge tale (only with a female-to-male twist), The Freshman's Curse: The Complete Novel (With Extra Parts) is a rather massive, well-layered story of a romantic threesome and their wider community of kink. J.B. Rogers throws a lot into the story in terms of gender, sexuality, and fetishes, but it all works beautifully.
As it turns out, that revenge aspect is really just the catalyst for the story, although it does have significant bearing on what happens throughout. It is what transforms Jenny/Jimmy into a character we truly care about; it is what propels Sheila into a kinky kind of love; and it is what allows Mia to claim both her identity as well as her own happiness. The three-way relationship between gender-swapped cheerleader, bisexual submissive, and transgender sweetie, is (in a word) glorious. It is honest and sincere, with real emotion tied up with the passion, and just a much romance as eroticism.
On that note, I must say I adore what Rogers has done here with the whole question of gender, gender identity, and gender expression. There is a genuine fluidity to the whole tale that it is hard to talk about without spoiling the story. When it comes to Jimmy and Mia, Jenny and Manuel are never far from their thoughts. There is a lot of crossdressing, reverse crossdressing, and partial gender expression that allows them to better understand one another, and prove that their love goes beyond the state of their bodies. It is a relationship that could become comical in the wrong hands, but here it never strays from being genuinely passionate and respectful.
As for the wider community of kink, Rogers really knows how to explore that defining line between mere bdsm and true dominance/submission. Even when the story is at its most extreme, with rough, public, anonymous, sex, we are never allowed to lose sight of the psychological aspects at work. I don't want to potentially spoil anything, but there is a prolonged scene with Sheila in the second half of the book that is better than most erotic novels as a whole. It is extreme and taboo, with just about every kind of abuse and penetration you can imagine, along with some bondage equipment you probably cannot, but what makes it all work is the emotional and psychological transformation that Sheila undergoes. Powerful stuff.
If you choose to pick up The Complete Novel (With Extra Parts), Rogers has formatted the book with two ways to enjoy it. You can either read the two halves of the novel first, and the three short stories after, or read all five pieces where they fit in the overall narrative. Personally, I recommend the latter option, as those stories (especially the first two) really do have a significant bearing on the novel, and certainly add to the experience.