Saturday, July 31, 2010

Claudia's Surrender by S J Lewis

The full title of this books is Claudia's Surrender: The case of the reluctant submissive.It was enough to get my attention, as the title and description sound like there is D/s involved.

Unfortunately, the D/s dynamic isn't what I thought it would be, based on the title and blurb. If anything, Claudia is the one giving orders, as she turns around and demands that Sam bind her hands and use her hard. She's the one giving the orders, not him. And often, once he gets her bound she fights him and he must avoid her (very real) kicks and other attempts to keep from being "taken". She is not reluctant, and she does not surrender.

True, once she orders him to "tie her up and use her hard", he does a really good job of it. There is some intense bondage and some really hot sex. But it is not what I expected. Here is the blurb:

Two years before, the lovely redhead Claudia enjoyed a wild vacation of kinky and submissive sex, surrendering body and soul to the dominant Sam. Now Sam Pender is back in Claudia’s life and he expects the same kind of sexual surrender he enjoyed with her before. Once she’d bound, gagged and forced to submit, she can stop being P. I. Claudia Cole, respected businesswoman, and turn into the lusty, horny, kinky submissive ‘Red’. All it takes is her surrender. But submitting doesn’t come easy for Claudia; she questions herself at every turn. When Sam is abruptly called away on business and suddenly requires her assistance as a professional P. I., Claudia answers his call, and finds not only a twisted mystery to solve, but some answers to her own sexual dilemma. From author of the best-selling Female Prey.

BDSM elements:
  • Bondage and Discipline: Lots of bondage, no real discipline.There is some spanking and face slapping, but it's part of the kidnap role play they do, not a D/s type of spanking.
  • Dominance and Submission: Sam is not a Dom, and Claudia is not submissive. They have kinky sex that recreates kidnap scenarios, but they aren't in a power exchange relationship.
  • Sadism and Masochism: I can see a bit of a Sadist in Sam, and a bit of a masochist in Claudia. But that isn't really the dynamic. Mostly, I think Claudia likes the bondage for the sake of being bound, rather than for the sake of the pain. At least once she needs the pain, when she demands he use duct tape even though she knows it will hurt. But for the most part, I think it's the act of being bound and helpless that does it for her.

This is one of those your-kink-is-not-my-kink things, which is normally okay, except that the title and the blurb seemed to specifically say the book is about something that it is not. Claudia is not reluctant, and she does not submit. True, she turns around and gives Sam her hands, surrendering her freedom, but she then tells him exactly what to do, and pretty much demands he does it.

As for the writing elements, the plot is actually a very good plot. Claudia is a private investigator and the non-kink parts of the plot were pretty interesting. The pacing was... okay, not great but not terrible. Prose was good but dialogue needed some help. They say each other's name almost every time they talk to each other - real people don't do that. Character development was good.

If the idea of being roughly bound with a whole lot of really hard sex from someone you really care about turns you on, then this book is for you. If you need the D/s aspects to be involved though, then Claudia's Surrender may not do much for you.  I'm going to give Claudia's Surrender a 6 of 10 for a misleading title and for the dialogue issues.

Book Rating: Claudia's Surrender: 6 of 10
Heat Level: 3 of 5

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Puppy Love 3: Reawakening by Jeff Erno

I reviewed Puppy Love and Puppy Love 2 at my Book Series Review blog, but I'm going to review the third book over here.

I said that the story in the first two books had a good story, but the writing needed a lot of help. Unfortunately, the third book needs major writing help, and the story isn't as good. My biggest issue with the writing is the telling and retelling (and retelling) of things. It's like a sports commentator, you watch it happen and then the commentator tells you what happened. No, that's not quite right. Perhaps more like a political debate - you watch the debate and then the commentators tell you what was said again and add in their own explanations of the meaning behind what was said. It's almost like the author is writing a book to try to convince you why a Master/slave relationship is okay, he keeps explaining and convincing, but if you've made it to the third book then my guess is that you're already mostly okay with that kind of relationship and don't need the constant convincing that the relationship is not wrong.

I was happy to see the relationship between Matt and Petey growing and the parties becoming more mature. I was sad to see the intensity of the relationship go away, but I realize that's how it works when you move in with each other -- you have to merge the fantasy in with real life and find a way to make it work. When you only see each other a few times a week it's not so hard to keep the intensity up... but when you wake up with the person every morning, it's impossible to keep the intensity going 24/7. People have good days and bad days, sick days and tired days. Life happens. It's okay that the intensity wasn't the same. Jeff Erno is trying to show a realistic relationship, and I think he mostly did what he set out to do.

BDSM elements:
  • Bondage and Discipline: There are times when Petey would have been disciplined in earlier books that nothing happened in book 3. I think there is only one actual punishment, and it's pretty anticlimactic. There is a scene punishment, but even that gets cut short. There is very little bondage.
  • Dominance and Submission: Yes, Matt is still Dom and Petey is still submissive. They are working towards how to balance that with the everyday, and there is a good bit of time where the D/s fades into the background - it's still there, but not front and center.
  • Sadism and Masochism: None between Matt and Petey. There is a little S&M (very, very little), and that's all I can say about it without spoilers.

As for the writing elements - let me first say, again, that the writing here is very amateurish. I'm trying very hard to say this without being mean. The story is good, but you need to have a certain level of writing skill in order to get the story across. When you purchase a book you expect the writer to have worked on their craft. Yes, even for erotica.

There is no one single plot - other than the continuation of the relationship. Some plots from earlier books get handled: the situation with Matt's parents and the legal stuff with Ryan are probably the two biggest threads, but there are some others here and there. It's not a great plot, but it's still a decent story. So, I won't say the plot is bad, just that there isn't a single large plot as the focus, other than the growth of the relationship. One of the plot resolutions was very fantastical to me, and that bothered me.

There were serious pacing issues this time. I skimmed large portions of the book, especially the parts where he's just telling us (again) what just happened, even though we just read what happened. There are also a lot of info dumps, and a ton of "telling not showing". Pacing was bad.

Prose was also bad, but dialogue was mostly okay. I rated character development as excellent in the previous books (that's what carried the story, to be honest), but I have to say it's just good in the third book, not excellent.

The sex smoked in the first two books, it was mostly okay in the third book.

Book Rating: Puppy Love 3: 4 of 10
Heat Level: Puppy Love 3:  3 of 5

The focus of Puppy Love 3 is more on relationships, not on sex. There are a few sex scenes, and one really really hot scene. Thus the Heat Level of 3, when the first two books were a 5 of 5. There are also no watersports in the third book - has Matt decided to stop that? If so, there needed to be an explanation of why it was stopped. If it wasn't stopped, then why wasn't it mentioned as still happening? That was a large part of the earlier books, and a huge part of Petey's journey into submission. If Matt decided to stop it for health reasons it should have been explained, and if it was still going on then that should have been part of the book. Didn't have to be a major part of it, could have just been a mention when it happened, but you can't just stop doing something that major without mentioning why.

Jeff Erno's site does not say whether there will be a Puppy Love 4 or not. I do not believe I'll read it, if there is one. I like Matt and Petey, and I appreciate their relationship, but the writing needs serious help. As I said before, Jeff Erno tells a good story, and he's got a good understanding of both the emotions and the physical stuff - many authors either get the physical stuff mostly okay but blow it on the emotions... or get the emotions right but blow it on the physical stuff. Jeff Erno gets both, but... again, I'm really trying very hard to say this nicely... but he needs to work on the craft. Writing is an art form -- coming up with the stories and the characters is a huge part of it, but having the skill to weave it into a story is also a huge part of it.

1. Puppy Love
2. Puppy Love 2: Building a Family
3. Puppy Love 3: Reawakening

Friday, July 23, 2010

Handcuffs and Glory Holes (Rawlings Men) by Kim Dare

Handcuffs and Glory Holes is a nice little short story involving a submissive in an abusive situation at the start of the story. I'm not really a fan of romantic short stories, a romance for me means you have to spend the time to get to know one another - you know, the details, not just the overall impression. Short stories, by definition, don't allow much time for getting to know the details.

But, as short stories go, Handcuffs and Glory Holes manages to give us a nice beginning to a relationship. Will the relationship last? Maybe. Probably. But even if it doesn't, I think both people will be better off for having been together for however short or long they are together.

What I really enjoyed about Handcuffs and Glory Holes that you don't normally get in a short romance is that both people have a chance to prove themselves to the other early on, they aren't operating on blind faith. It bugs me when people who have just met move in with each other or make a huge commitment in some other way - but I wasn't bugged about the way things progressed with our couple.

I would have loved to see this story stretched out into a longer story, I felt like we just saw the first two chapters of what could have easily been a 15 or 20 chapter book. The ending was satisfactory, but not satisfying.

Here's the blurb:

Police Sergeant Conrad Rawlings likes glory holes. As a dominant who’s never learnt how to feel casual about even the most fleeting hook up, he’s learned to cherish the complete anonymity they provide. Still, when he hears a cubicle door open as he leaves the back room of a club, he can’t quite help looking over his shoulder.

Submissive Willis Evans doesn’t know why his master ordered him to make sure the stranger from the glory hole sees his face before he leaves the club, but he knows the price for disobedience. Willis does as he’s told. The moment their eyes meet, he can’t help but hope he’ll be allowed to see the other man again.

They are going to meet again, but it won’t be under conditions either of them could predict. Willis’ master has a plan—one which could easily break them both.

As for the elements of BDSM:

  • Bondage and Discipline: None. There is abuse that is supposed to be discipline in the beginning, but I will never consider abuse as discipline. So, there is no bondage and there is no discipline.
  • Dominance and Submission: We begin with a submissive who doesn't understand he's in an abusive relationship.  There is some D/s, but not really all that much.
  • Sadism and Masochism: None.

As for the story elements: the plot is a good one - too bad it was used on a short story. The pacing actually has a few issues, which is rare for a short story. Prose and dialogue were both good. Character development is very well done, especially considering it's a short.

Heat Level: 2 of 5
Book Rating: Handcuffs and Glory Holes: 7 of 10

There are no BDSM scenes, though there is some sex. Handcuffs and Glory Holes is a touching story with the idea of kink, but without any actual kink.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Comfort Food by Kitty Thomas


The types of BDSM books out there are much more numerous than most people understand. One of those types has to do with the capture fantasy, the idea of being captured and then trained into servitude. Trained so well in servitude, taken care of in such a way that you can never be on your own again. So much that you never want to be on your own again. It's the comfort of childhood, of being taken care of... all wrapped up in a sexual fantasy. I've read a number of these types of books -- some of them manage to get you there, most of them don't. I don't want to tell you whether Comfort Food gets you there or not, because I think that would be giving too much away. I will simply say that Comfort Food is a deeply disturbing book -- one I couldn't put down, and one I highly recommend if you enjoy the psychology behind being owned by someone, the psychology of what it takes to get you from independent personality to someone who is completely and totally owned - physically, mentally, emotionally.

Here's the blurb:

Emily Vargas has been taken captive. As part of his conditioning methods, her captor refuses to speak to her, knowing how much she craves human contact. He's far too beautiful to be a monster. Combined with his lack of violence toward her, this has her walking a fine line at the edge of sanity. Told in the first person from Emily's perspective, Comfort Food explores what happens when all expectations of pleasure and pain are turned upside down, as whips become comfort and chicken soup becomes punishment.

The sex in Comfort Food is touched upon, and a few scenes are given in detail.. or at least semi-detail, but the sex is not the focus of the book. The psychology of what is happening is the focus. So the BDSM Breakdown looks like this:
  • Bondage and Discipline: There is discipline, but it's not what you'd expect. As the blurb says, chicken soup becomes punishment. There is bondage of a sort, she's locked into a cell, but she can move around and dance. She is tied up, restrained, later in the book, but it's not a big part of the book.
  • Dominance and Submission: Tons of it. The book is about how to train (or brainwash) someone into being a submissive.. more than a submissive, someone who is totally owned and is accepting of her ownership.
  • Sadism and Masochism: Yes, eventually, but we don't see much of it. A few paragraphs.
The author gives the disclaimer that "This is a work of fiction, and the author does not endorse or condone any behavior done to another human being without their consent", along with a few other words that let you know she's exploring this through fiction, and she has no real desires to see this acted out in reality.

As for the story elements: the plot is genius and very believable. The pacing is perfect. Prose and dialogue are natural, both worked for me. The book is written in first person and it confused me at first when the first sex scene was written in third person, until I realized that it was showing us how she was disassociating herself from it. Character development is exceptionally well done.

Heat Level: 2 of 5
Book Rating: Comfort Food: 10 of 10

Please remember that my Heat Level ratings are in comparison to Erotica in general. Someone who has never read anything more risqué than Sookie Stackhouse's sexual adventures will think Comfort Food a 5 of 5, but someone who is well versed in Erotica will understand why this book gets a 2 of 5 from me, I think. And, really, I think most who read Comfort Food will be well versed in the language of Erotica.

Comfort Food is an exceptional debut novel, and I will be looking for more books from Kitty Thomas.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Owning Wednesday: a BDSM romance by Annabel Joseph

Owning Wednesday is the second book I've read by Annabel Joseph. After reading Comfort Object, I wanted to read everything this author had ever written.

I'm not so sure of that after reading Owning Wednesday.  There is the same voice, the same understanding of what happens in a BDSM relationship. But.... I think, for a writer trying to show a realistic relationship, as opposed to the BDSM fantasy relationship... I think that coming up with story ideas must be difficult. I enjoyed watching the relationship grow and evolve, and there was enough of a plot for there to be good closure at the end. But, with all of that, the over-all story is a bit weak. I kind of hate to admit that, after wishing I could read something more realistic... when I get it, I find myself thinking it's not enough.

Here's the blurb

Wednesday has been with Vincent, her dominant and former teacher, for eight years. His detached ownership of her feels more like understanding than love, but she has
thrilled under his hands all the same. When Vincent decides it's time to end their formalized relationship, Wednesday is lost. 

But another man watches from afar, determined to make her his own. This man, Daniel, demands much more from Wednesday than the uncomplicated obedience she offered Vincent. What's more, he shares a complex secret with Vincent, with Wednesday at its core. 

Can Wednesday bear the excruciating demands of  intimacy with her new lover? What will happen when she discovers the secret Daniel and Vincent keep? Most importantly, who owns Wednesday, and what is the difference, ultimately, between being owned and loved? This book contains explicit scenes of dominance and submission, discipline & training, bondage, oral & anal sex & double penetration, menage a trois, and both harsh and loving bdsm scenes.

To break down what is in Owning Wednesday:
  • Bondage and Displine: Yes. Lots of both.
  • Dominance and Submission: Tons of it
  • Sadism and Masochism:  Both.

One of the things I appreciated in Owning Wednesday was the distinction between seeing someone a few times a week and following their every order, and living with someone and following their every order. As nice as the fantasy is, too much of a good thing is still too much. How do you balance real life with an Owner and owned relationship? How does the owned one not lose herself entirely? Some want to lose their own identity, but not everyone does. And Wednesday still wants to be her own person, wants to offer that to Daniel. But how to hold onto yourself so you have that to give? Daniel and Wednesday eventually get there, but it's not a smooth road to figuring it out.

As in Comfort Object, there is some abuse that happens when the Dom feels he has been pushed too far. Not terrible terrible horrible abuse, no fists or anything, but standard BDSM activities that get taken too far. And the Dom later gets mad at the sub for not safewording, for not stopping him. That's wrong, the Dom is supposed to be in control. But then... it's right, too... the sub should safeword if she realizes things have gone past the whole safe and sane thing. So yes, it made me think, but I don't like that this has happened in both books.

There is also another familiar plot device from Comfort Object, where the Dom destroys the most important things to the submissive, to try to prove ownership in some sort of twisted way. I don't like that, and I hope it's not a recurring theme in Ms. Joseph's books.

As for the story elements, the plot is mostly the evolution of their BDSM relationship, with a few twists to try to make it more interesting. The pacing had issues, but wasn't terrible. Prose and dialogue are natural, both worked for me. Character development was okay - not great.

Heat Level: 5 of 5
Book Rating: Owning Wednesday: 8 of 10


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Comfort Object by Annabel Joseph

I've been playing around with the idea of a blog dedicated to reviewing BDSM books for a while. I've reviewed some on my Book Series Review site, but mostly only those in a series that I felt were substantial enough to be listed over there.

Comfort Object touched me enough to finally get me to create a blog to review just this sort of book. I have a list of authors in my head that, if they write a book, I'm probably going to read it: Joey W. Hill, Molly Weatherfield, Sean Michael - to name a few. They know how to get the mechanics and the emotions of a BDSM relationship into the story. I'm now adding Annabel Joseph to that list.

Honestly, I wouldn't be a bit surprised to learn that Annabel Joseph is yet another pen name for Molly Weatherfield - the writing style and dialogue and even the emotions protrayed are very similar to Molly Weatherfield's writing. I'm probably wrong about that, but the writing is on the same par.

As for the story -- I started out by not liking Jeremy very much. In fact, if we hadn't heard his viewpoint a few times, I'm not sure I could have liked him at all. He does a few reprehensible things to start out, and BDSM is supposed to be about trust. But, the BDSM here isn't so much about trust as it is about an arrangement. Here's the blurb:

Nell, an out-of-work professional submissive, is desperate to find a job when she meets handsome film star Jeremy Gray at the restaurant where she works. He says he needs a personal assistant, but the work contract he shows her details not organizational duties, but sexual ones. Jobless and homeless, Nell agrees to work for him anyway, on the promise that he will pay for her to finish her college degree when her stint as his “assistant” is complete.

The start of their formal Dom/sub relationship is rocky, but they soon fall into a mutually satisfying, highly sexual routine. They play vanilla boyfriend and girlfriend in public, while Jeremy uses Nell as his kinky comfort object behind the scenes. Then a stalker threatens their secret lifestyle, and their contract may not be strong enough to hold them together.

Basically, she's being payed to be his submissive. Bought and paid for, she does what he wants, and he pays her weekly. She can leave at any time, she stays as long as she wants the job. There is a good bit of objectification in that, and even the title tells us this. He sees her as a live blow up doll, an object, not a person. Or, that's the way he wants to see her, anyway. And it's the way she feels.

To break down what is in Comfort Object:

Bondage and Displine: Yes. Lots of both.
Dominance and Submission: Tons of it
Sadism and Masochism: Lots and lots of Sadism. Not so much Masochism, she's a service oriented submissive, she takes the pain because it pleases him for her to take it, not because she enjoys pain. She takes a lot of pain for him, though.

The BDSM is realistic. Jeremy has the intention of never punishing her when he's angry, but at a certain point he loses his control and does so. That was a problem for me, personally, but I totally understand why the author chose to write the story that way. 

On my Series Review site I have a number of items I go over for each book. I'll start out doing that over here, see if it's still relevant when reviewing erotica.

The plot in this case is mostly the BDSM relationship, and it's a good plot. The setup for their situation, for their contract, it's a very good one. The pacing is well done, the prose and dialogue are natural, both worked for me. Character development was good.

Heat Level: 5 of 5
Book Rating: Comfort Object: 10 of 10