Note: this is based upon an advance review copy of the book. The final version may have changes… like page numbers… and a cover… There’s also exciting book launch stuff over at GOTN’s website 🙂 Enjoy.
To say I’ve been anticipating this book would be an understatement; as in I literally, upon meeting the author at Eroticon last year, asked her about when she was going to do a sequel to “My Not-So Shameful Sex Secrets“. The answer was about nine months and the result of which is a rather different beast to the first book.
That’s kind of to be expected seeing as book 1 (as I shall call it) covers everything from childhood to somewhere in the twenties, it’s kind of inevitable that book 2 will have rather different material to work with. I would be tempted to say it feels like it lacks direction on occasion, but that doesn’t do justice to the excellent job it does of painting a picture of a life, a relationship and a partner that is so well drawn through the pages of this book I feel like I know him without ever having met him.
One thing that book 2 does is focus less on sex, but what it loses in sexy fin times it makes up for in a gut-wrenching depiction of life in a modern anxiety-fuelled career. It is powerful stuff and contains moments that took me back to a very unhappy phase in my life and left me I had to take a moment before carrying on. But sweaty palms and trembling fingers aside, its heart-wrenching stuff and, even in the dark places, GOTN’s characteristic humour shines through.
Overall it was funny, heart-warming, gut wrenching, borderline traumatising but in the best possible way. It’s not the lightest of reads, but it doesn’t get lost in the darkness either.
Being Anna: A BDSM Diary: Spanking Submission and CFS is available now.
Before I begin I’ll just point out that, as a friend of the author, this may not be the most objective review I’ve ever done. But, that said, I shall try.
Being Anna is a collection of short entries pondering different aspects of her burgeoning kinky relationship. It’s by turns, sweet, thoughtful, frank and occasionally deeply sexy. I struggle to call this erotica as such, but it is a very engaging insight into one person’s experiences and has a feeling of sincerity that fiction often fails to capture.
On the downside it feels a little short. There’s a hefty gap between posts, almost all being within a few months followed by a very recent one looking back, which raises the prospect of there being more to come. But then again as with other pieces I’ve reviewed, a book leaving you wanting more isn’t exactly a bad sign. Also, despite having chronic fatigue syndrome included in the title (sub-title, sub-sub title?… sub totally doesn’t sound like a real word now) it makes only a fleeting appearance. Not that it’s in any way unwelcome, just that I’m sure there’s much more to be said on that subject.
A short, positive and engaging read, although (to drag everything down to crudities) not wankable IMHO.
A tedious brief Scene of young Christian,
And his love Anastasia; very tragical mirth.
Merry and tragical? Tedious, and brief? That
is, hot ice, and wondrous strange snow. How shall we
find the concord of this discord?
A film there is, my Lord, some ten words long,
Which is as brief, as I have known a film;
But by ten words, my Lord, it is too long;
Which makes it tedious. For in all the film,
There is not one word apt, one Player fitted.
And tragical my noble Lord it is: for Christian
Therein doth do rope. Which when I saw
rehearsed, I must confess, made mine eyes water:
But more merry tears, the passion of loud laughter
“Look, I’ll admit I was taking the piss a bit with the Iain Banks one, but that’s also an underrated classic and the sex scenes really are hot!”
“Hot in a, knobbing your cousin, kind of way.”
“Yeah, like that’s any worse than Lolita.”
“How did I know you’d bring Lolita into this. Look, what about if I let you make a Game of Thrones joke?”
“I… yeah, alright then.”
Hi Lordship’s Apprentice is a period piece sitting square in the middle of the frankly criminally underrepresented sub-genre of ‘spanking romance’. In many ways it’s a classic tale; plucky loveable and utterly foul-mouthed servant girl and stately lord fall in love and stumble through a minefield of social pitfalls ultimately culminating in the happy union.
On the plus side this book makes excellent use of the period, roping in (pun intended) Harry Houdini to add a very enjoyable theatrical element to something that could have come a little too close to Downton Abbey and gives some wonderful moments including possibly the most unexpected first meeting between protagonists I’ve read in quite a while (and yes you are going to have to read it to find out what I mean).
Overall it’s light, funny and engaging. In fact it’s almost the kind of book I could see myself recommending to my gran. Note I said ‘almost’, that is, if it weren’t for the numerous and glorious spankings. I think the best way I can sum up the overall tone of this book is that, unlike so many period pieces, the main excitement around the couple getting married isn’t the sex, but rather the prospect of doing the spanking “properly” on a bare behind.
In terms of criticism, for me, the spankings could have been rendered a little more viscerally. In addition the plot didn’t twist quite as much as I was expecting. I’d say it could have done with a nice juicy murder, but then again I realise that’s a criticism I could level at pretty much every book I’ve ever reviewed (Big Bad Book of Spanking Positions, I’m looking at you!)
Buy it; read it; recommend it to your nan, she’ll probably love it.
It kind of surprises me that there aren’t more sex-themed graphic novels out there. I guess what also surprises me is that my first exposure to this would be in the form of something quite so brilliantly done.
Let’s get the skinny out-of-the-way, this isn’t really something to wank to. yes there’s nudity and explicit discussion of sex and sexuality that will raise an eyebrow and a tingle in certain places. But it’s no porn, not by a long shot.
I once compared Kick-Ass to Watchmen as being a more human and entertaining take on the same theme, whilst leaving out the heavier connotations (and, some would say, the whole point of the piece). And I feel I can best summarise this by saying that what Kick-Ass is to Watchmen, Sex Criminals is to Lost Girls. It’s funny, it’s very funny, but in an endearing way that’s yes a little crude in places, but done with a light touch and a gentle wit that’s truly endearing. A story that can blend a critique of American society’s morals and education system with a guy stuffing dildos into his mouth; one that can mix Lolita and Queen; defecation and death; is really worth a look in my opinion.
Sex Criminals also makes excellent use of the medium, using the images in a way that whilst being in some ways cinematic, also accomplishes things that could never be done using a moving image.
Does it have failings? Yes. Aside from the non-wankable nature (yes that’s a criterion, get over it) I can’t help but feel that this story doesn’t lend itself to an ongoing plot. The antagonist is unnecessary and, quite frankly, this would be a more convincing piece if ‘Volume 1’ was the only volume.
I’ve been asked in the past to name my favourite erotica writers. This usually creates a fairly predictable list, although there is one surprise that keeps cropping up, the late, great and thoroughly likeable Iain Banks.
Banks, by most people’s standards, isn’t really an erotica writer. Even if we consider (As I’m going to) his filthiest book, The Steep Approach to Garbadale doesn’t even reach the category of erotic romance (not least because it’s not particularly romantic, or rather not conventionally romantic).
In terms of plot it has to be said that Banks’ works grew slowly less shocking as his career went on. Anyone expecting a re-has of the Wasp Factory is in for a disappointment. But by the same token, I would argue that the Wasp Factory is actually the weakest of his works. Yes it has tremendous style, is truly deeply shocking in places, but it’s plot is a little nonsensical, the main antagonist of the piece is, in the end, essentially inconsequential. Garbadale (yes I’m shortening the name, deal with it) is a very different beast. It’s plot spans generations and continents with a diverse but genuinely engaging cast. Even the supporting characters who are predominantly there to either advance the plot of lighten the mood have a real feeling of depth about them, which probably excuses the slightly nothingy protagonist.
“So what?” I hear you cry. “I thought you were some kind of pervert, stop gushing over Banks’ writing abilities and get to the fucking!”
So, yes, the fucking.
It’s mostly between two teenagers, although the book follows them from their initial fumblings through an enforced separation and awkward meetings in later life. It’s not overly descriptive, the scenes themselves are very short and usually fall in the middle of larger pieces of text, but in doing so Banks manages to do something that many writers fail, he manages to add a true sense of the erotic.
I’m working on a theory (so bear with me) that erotica has more akin with Horror than it does Romance (Alasdair Stuart I hope you’re reading 🙂 ). Yes you can do the big jump scares of “OMG! Huge cocks! I wasn’t expecting that!” but it’s too easy, and quickly gets dull. Whereas the really good stuff comes at you from unexpected angles and creeps very slowly and naturally into your consciousness sending little shivers up your spine. Banks’ minimalist writing style achieves exactly this and, in my humble opinion, comes second only to the great Anais Nin in terms of reaching that very vulnerable part of my brain.
There’s no real kink per-se although the primary couple are cousins if that makes it more interesting for you (and unusually this isn’t gratuitous but truly integral to the plot).
Well, it was bound to happen. As soon as I started looking at doing reviews I knew the day would come when I read a book and just didn’t like it.
I will preface this firstly with the vague excuse that this is just my opinion and you may enjoy this book a lot more than me. I’ll also stress that Stately Pleasures definitely falls into the category of erotica rather than erotic romance, so a lot of what’s to come is essentially irrelevant in many respects. I didn’t really like this book, but not to the extent that it could join Jeremy Clarkson or Rupert Cox on my unfinishable books’ pile of shame. But there are some things that bothered me:
I think the choice of perspective is something you only really notice when it doesn’t fit. Unlike romance, it seems the considerable majority of erotica is written from the first person, so Felthouse’s choice of third person is a bold move but one that I found uncomfortably distancing. This was coupled with what felt like a great setup that wasn’t fully followed through. I don’t want to post plot spoilers, but for me there wasn’t enough weight behind the central plot device. The characters felt like they were all pretty much on the same page which makes for great happy sex, but undermines the overall tension of the piece.
Lastly, I just didn’t really buy into the characters. No this isn’t necessarily important, but I felt from an early stage that the book’s core theme of two fit blokes and a curvy lady suffered a little from not making the characters distinctive enough. (I’d be tempted to call them Thing 1 and Thing 2, but that’s both a Freudian and Zeussian nightmare!) This may also be just due to my perspective. I mean, whilst I’m a never say never kind of guy, I think a simple abundance of cocks and hunky manflesh doesn’t make the top ten on my bucket list. In which case, well, that’s my fault and please feel free to ignore me. Also I’m not saying that there isn’t a good variety of activities in here, in fact many of the scenes are pretty good, particularly with their focus on sensuality, and there’s a healthy proportion of kinky stuff going on as well (and no I’m not going to clarify what I consider a ‘healthy’ level of kink the same way I’m not going to tell you how long this piece of string is).
Stately Pleasures is a light piece of escapism that felt a little too light for my tastes. There’s lots of kinky fun in here and the protagonist is explicitly described as a realistically proportioned human being, which is always a plus in my book. I’d say that, for me, it over-stayed its welcome by about a hundred pages, but, as I think we’ve established, this is probably just because I need to learn to stop worrying and love more cock.
Have I said the word cock enough in this review? Perhaps not… COCK!
When I started reading this book I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to follow the plot, having not read the predecessor. I needn’t have worried. I’m not saying that this book falls into the “Plot? What plot?” category just that it’s not a deeply involved plot. The important things are resolved in media pretty swiftly and, frankly, if by the end of the first chapter you don’t know what’s going on, you’re probably not old enough to be reading this sort of smut.
The story fits into that deliciously vague category that blurs the lines between fact and fiction. Depending on my mood this book can be read as:
Autobiography (with name changes)
And I really don’t care. Because what this book really does well is giving itself a sense of grounding. I’m not saying I think every last detail necessarily happened, but it’s described with a richness and general air of something that could have happened. In terms of the plot itself it focuses on a trio in a slightly complicated BDSM relationship that really sits at the heart of this story. Tyler does a fantastic job in making this understated conflict underpin the entire story. Yes there are lots of kinky shenanigans along the way, but she manages to tread the line between dull and melodramatic expertly.
So what about the sex?
Well there’s plenty of it and it’s a lot of fun. There’s a strong presence of kink and a hell of a lot of spanking and the prose carries this with immersive weight and realism. That said it does feel a bit, how can I say, easily interrupted.
You see this is the one real flaw with this book. Yes I’m familiar with the idea that lot’s of erotica books take a structure of one sex scene per chapter, but the chapter divisions crop up far too frequently for my taste. And this isn’t for lack of sex, there’s plenty of that, but an evening’s bedroom session that might last one chapter in many novels can be split into two or sometimes three. Each time this breaks the flow and whilst the narrative voice never feels discordant, it’s noticeably more abstract at the opening of a chapter than when deeply involved in the good stuff. The simple truth is that a (mathematically rigorous) 51/3 pages per chapter just doesn’t quite feel like enough.
But this is only a relatively technical flaw in what is otherwise a very enjoyable and well written book.
The Perfect Submissive is published by Xcite books and is available now.
What’s the difference between erotica and erotic romance?
Some of it comes down to elements such as plot, emotional depth and pacing… erotica should have none of these. Or rather, it should have these but they shouldn’t be taking centre stage.
The Perfect Submissive makes for a perfect submission in this category (was that too far to reach for a pun? Yes, yes it was).
The Perfect Submissive’s setup is pleasingly simple, a nice hotel with a special ‘fifth floor’ for special clients, all of which is explored through the eyes of new staff member Jess and graphic designer Sam as they both become the prey of the proprietor Laura Peters.
The plot is minimal, the cast of characters large enough to give variety but small enough to be both manageable and distinctive. But overall everything about this book has a slightly stripped down feel. There’s no painfully florid prose, no endless chapters of emotional turmoil and heartbreak. This is definitely a book that fits into the one chapter at a time category of erotica, and has a levity of style and forgivingness of plot that works well for this.
But that’s not to say that this book feels in any way incomplete. It’s just that it’s focus isn’t on crawling deep into your brain to play with your heart-strings. Instead it sets out to be something altogether different. It sets out to be fun. And it succeeds, the adventures related in this book never carry anything other than a sense of play, yes it’s kinky painful play, but it has a real feeling of escape, of being in another world where nothing truly bad can happen… at least nothing you don’t secretly want. Put simply this book goes on my list of “Happy BDSM” titles.
Now with the one chapter at a time books the sex scenes are key. And The Perfect Submissive does deliver. There is a truly impressive creativity at work here so that each scene feels fresh and original. The build-up of tension and sensation is well executed.
The only criticism I can level is that sometimes scenes felt like they concluded rather abruptly. I’m not talking magical spontaneous out of nowhere orgasms, but there are times when the incredible responsiveness of the characters leads to the temptation to skip back a page or two to read it all over again.
Overall though this is an enjoyable fun sexy read that succeeds by not trying to be anything else.
Also being a massive rope geek how could I (k)not love a book with a single-line reef knot on the cover?
Disclaimer: This is an extended version of a review that is also to be posted on Amazon. This review is based upon an advanced review copy.
To people of a certain age (Hello thirtieth birthday; no I’m not ready for you yet!) those two words immediately conjure up images of glossy, ultimately unfulfiling, pre-internet late nights of badly scripted badly acted soft porn of the least impressive variety. The very finest the brand new Channel 5 had to offer.
These were films that by and large fell into the Richard Curtiss trap (Romantic comedies that are neither romantic nor funny) of being tediously un-erotic. But there were boobies… occasionally… if you looked hard enough.
But seriously, the ice-cave scene in Logan’s Run had more boobage (Yes I’m re-watching Logan’s Run. No I haven’t got a complex!)
So when I read the blurb for this book that included the words “dark erotic thriller” my heart sank.
And then I started reading.
I’ll admit that, as thrillers go, this isn’t like John Le Carré or Tom Clancy. But what this book really does have in buckets is atmosphere. Lloyd brings a very real sense of place to her writing that comes to the fore in some of the most sensual scenes, really bringing to life the feeling of lying in the woods or sitting inside a cocktail bar whilst the rain forms puddles through an open doorway.
The other thing this book has in spades is eroticism.
many erotic novels fall into a sort of ‘one chapter at a time’ read, where every chapter culminates in a sex scene of some form or other. Not so with Undone. It doesn’t force sex in where it doesn’t fit and the number of couplings is fewer than most of the Nexus books I grew up on. But the sex isn’t limited to the sex scenes. Instead they bleed out into the rest of the narrative like blueberries in a muffin, till even the most disparate paragraphs feel like a long, slow build-up to the next bout of sex.
And the sex is good. Yes it’s kinky, but not in an overly mechanical way. There’s bondage, but it’s all relatively incidental to the psychology and sensation of the piece. Although, that said I’ve never read anything that’s made me quite so eager to go out and buy a hundred pound pair of handcuffs before (although that might be something to add to the birthday list… for the birthday that is not going to happen, I can;t hear you LALALALALALALA!)
So, enough gushing, what about the bad points?
Well it does take a little time to get going. Also, the narrator’s voice, particularly in the early stages, feels a little overly florid. The author’s use of a first person format through journal entries is effective and plays well with the slightly disjointed feel of the narrative although, again, as the book settles into its stride these issues either go away or I simply tuned them out (your mileage may vary).
Lloyd also continues to build on her reputation for slightly ‘problematic’ erotica. There are sequences that fall into an uncomfortable borderline between arousing and chilling and this made me question the narrator’s judgement more than once but, at the end of the day it’s not too bad in the grand scheme of things and, well, it says “dark erotic thriller” on the blurb, so you can’t really complain if it sends a shiver through you every now and then.
Overall this is a solidly paced, well written and very arousing book that works as both erotica and, you know, a book.