As many will attest, it is no idle sentiment when Cassandra Park says, “It’s supposed to hurt,” which serves as the title for her new collection of stories and essays by the same name. Be forewarned that Ms. Park has created some genuinely painful images of strict spanking. At the same time, she is good-natured about it and clearly has a sense of humor about herself and the service she provides that is both caring and respectful from her description. She, as the principal character of her book, seems devoted to giving only what the spankee needs and wants. In fact, she gives over a fair amount of her text to the nurturing effects of a good, hard spanking including when it is applied to her own bottom.
It is worth pointing out here that Cassandra Park is not only a member of the BDSM community in New York City. She is one of New York’s divas of domestic discipline with a particular passion for the spanking, strapping, paddling and caning arts. She often appears as a featured player at most of Gotham’s spanking parties and other events. Her fiction appears in print elsewhere such as the recently published Logical Lust volume, Spank!
Thus Ms. Park has not earned her reputation through mere show, but through the diligent application of learned detail from having adjusted the behavior of hundreds, if not thousands, of wayward bare bottoms. Her book, It’s Supposed to Hurt, is a composite of stories and brief essays in which the two forms tend to merge. That is to say that some of the stories clearly feel as though they are based on personal experience while many of the essays are so intense that they acquire the otherworld feel of fiction. It is an interesting approach to an increasingly narrow field of fiction.
Interspersed in and among the longer pieces are photographs, each sporting a short reflective caption that reflects the spanking significance of each image. Many of the essays end in a question about the merits of what the author reports, rather like Camus’s Stranger wondering reflectively about his own thoughts, feelings and reactions.
Her stories and descriptions sometimes contain elements that will seem extreme to some readers such as a young lady who is given a long, hard paddling OTK [over the knee] with a bath brush. In response to that extremity, we are invited by Ms. Park’s book to remember two things. First, that it is the character’s choice to be thus soundly spanked, and secondly that it is the author’s fantasy, not necessarily an experience she wants or recommends for others. The book pleasantly invokes the reader to think about what they really want from BDSM and life in general.Erotica of late has taken on a more and more formulaic approach -- as writers look for more sure-fire plotting for submissions -- and publishers seek out niche audiences for both actual books and online publications. Perhaps the profound instability of our times makes the idea of a guaranteed happy ending more attractive. For those who seek more than simple comfort from their reading, Ms. Park has potentially created a new mode of erotic art, in which expression is neither confessional nor instructional, but designed specifically to deliver the sensual experience of the moment. Thus It’s Supposed to Hurt offers the reader a refreshing immediacy.
Maxim Jakubowski, editor of the Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, offers a new line of anthologies with stories set in London, New York, Paris, and Dublin. I'm always excited to see what Maxim has to offer, with good reason. Sex in the City: New York was one of the best anthologies I've had the pleasure to read.
In addition to these wonderful stories, each contributor included a short non-fiction piece about their story. I'm one of those people who actually reads author bios in the back of the book, so to me, the essays were a stroke of brilliance. After reading this, I plan to read the other three in the series.
I've only been to New York City once. A friend who lives there met me at the train and showed me around. While she went to a business meeting, I sat in a small park and just let it sink in. That's the way I like to experience a city. It was only a brief taste, but it was enough to get a feel for the rhythm. Reading these stories brought that vibe back to me.
Usually, I pick a few standouts from an anthology to talk about in further detail, but each of these thirteen stories is so sophisticated and literate that it's hard to play favorites. I'll tell you what - you read this anthology, and then we'll go out for drinks (make it The Algonquin for the proper atmosphere) and have a friendly discussion about the top picks. I'll bet your list is different from mine, and I'll bet that you'll have a hard time narrowing it down to just three.
Sex in the City: New York
With contributions by
Donna George Storey, Maxim Jakubowski, Polly Frost, Jeremy Edwards, Tsaurah Litzky, Shanna Germain, Thom Gautier, D.L. King. Michael Hemmingson, Lisabet Sarai, Thomas S. Roche, Cara Bruce, and Ira Miller.
Those of you who have toyed with or even lived a term of service may wonder at just how hard it could be to attain the level of excellence required by the Marketplace. After all, you muse, these are people who will be called slaves. Owned chattel, their lives formed and polished for the pleasure and use and amusement of those whose need is to control and improve.
Many of you believe that the right attitude combined with some physical charm would be more than adequate to the task. It is not. Even the most gifted of naturals, those individuals whose wrists are naked without restraints and whose souls are bleak without guidance, need to be trained.
This passage from the introduction to The Marketplace introduces the (submissive) reader to a fictional, international organization for the training and sale (or lease) of voluntary slaves. The unnamed narrator adds: I shall be awaiting you. You will learn to hate me.
The discreet narrator is never clearly identified, and most of the novel seems to be written from an omniscient third-person viewpoint. By the last page, it seems clear that the person most likely to be telling this story is Chris Parker, the majordomo of the slave-training establishment. He serves the owners, Alexandra and Grendel, by training novices who wish to be made ready for sale to private bidders. He is not clearly a slave, yet he is not a master. Even his gender seems ambiguous.
The reader is introduced to four slave-trainees when they arrive at the training house, one by one. Claudia is small, cute and exquisitely poised when pouring tea, but her Mistress finds her limited and boring; if Claudia can't be trained to serve in a variety of ways, her Mistress is willing to sell her. Brian is an attractive young man in leather who persuaded his Master of the moment to bring him in for training. He thinks his looks and boyish pout should be enough. Sharon looks like a centerfold and is a magnet for men outside the world of the Marketplace; she finds her own way to the training house by dishonest means, and thinks her looks will assure her a position as a pleasure slave. Robert is a large man who left a suburban marriage and a good job to become the "maid" of a pro Mistress; after he lost all his confidence and was given away, he was brought in for training.
Alexandra and Grendel agree that none of the four novices has the quality they are looking for. They seriously consider rejecting them all as inferior "merchandise," yet the four characters have complementary flaws, and therefore they have potential as a group. They are all accepted, placed under Chris Parker's command, and kept naked for weeks. Under the authority of the owners, he develops a regimen for the four trainees that is intended to break their egotism while nurturing group spirit, new skills and true pride in service.
Interspersed with the third-person narrative are the personal stories of Claudia, Brian, Robert and Sharon, as told to each other after lights-out in their shared dormitory. Each tells the others how they came to the training-house that serves as a gateway to the Marketplace, the ultimate destination for those who are drawn to service. Each life-story is moving in its own way.
First published in 1993, this novel is one of the classics of the genre, and it is worth reading more than once. The discipline and the sex scenes appeal to a variety of tastes, but none of the characters is a cliche, and their development drives the plot.
Like representative human sinners seeking spiritual refinement, three of the four seekers discover their own potential. Sharon, the character who comes closest to being a stereotype, provokes punishment and gets it, but for her it is not a learning experience, and her fate is much different from that of the submissive Barbie dolls of BDSM porn.
The novel, like the trainees, began life in need of polishing. The original Masquerade Press edition, credited to "Sara Adamson," was full of minor grammatical and typing errors. After the demise of Masquerade, the book was reprinted by Mystic Rose Press with a subtle, upscale gray cover showing a photographic image of the training house that resembles a vintage postcard. The manuscript, however, was brought into print with the original glitches intact. The current edition, published by Circlet Press under its new Luster imprint, has been lovingly copyedited so that its style is now worthy of its content. The cover features a photo of a lock for a Marketplace slave collar being handed to an impeccably-suited character over the bent back of a slave-trainee against a background of Edwardian wallpaper.
Although Circlet Press specializes in erotic fantasy and science fiction, the realistic setting and plots of The Marketplace and its sequels seem like a good fit for Circlet and vice versa. Laura Antoniou's novels already have a cult following, and Circlet has a niche market. The launch of the Luster line, like Circlet's growing collection of e-book mini-anthologies, seems likely to help the press to survive in hard economic times. The other novels in the "Marketplace" series are all scheduled to be launched by Circlet in the coming months. In order, they are The Slave, The Trainer, The Academy (a theme anthology), The Reunion and The Inheritor, forthcoming.
In the sequels, the reader learns more about slave contracts, specialized slave roles (including "grudge slaves," or official scapegoats for bitter or frustrated owners), training for the trainers, the administration of the Marketplace, individual relationships and the background of the mysterious Chris Parker. This is the kind of virtual world that has the same enduring appeal as those of the best fantasy novels.
I have to be honest and admit I hadn’t encountered R Paul Sardanas’s work before. However, after reading this title, I’ve got to hold my hand up and say I’m hooked. The story was intriguing; the characters were well-developed and fully rounded; and the erotica sizzled.
The Order of the Golden Rose is the story of Siobahn Bishop’s investigation into the authenticity of a copy of The Rose Missal.
She gasped as a sensual tingle ran through her. A normal beginning. The sensations took root in just that way even when she had no specific purpose other than to pleasure herself with energy masturbation. Activating those energy points in and above her body always got her hot.
It brought a smile to her lips. If only people realized how absurd drink, drugs or porno were, with power like this resting inside each and every one of us.
Letting her muscles slacken, she allowed herself to become limp. Her pussy had become wet already. A phantom lover might well have been caressing her there, taking her with fingers and tongue. She moaned a little, the luxurious heat spreading through her.
The rose. Never was there a more apt euphemism. The lips of her vagina opened and spread like petals in the sun.
The set up for the story is wonderfully simple. Olivia Dorrian comes into possession of a rare book on Sex Magic. Olivia, with her acquisitive, mercenary and somewhat selfish personality, is probably not the right person to own such a title. But that aspect of the story unfolds as the whole tale develops.
Determined to find out more about her acquisition, Olivia takes the book to Siobahn Bishop for authentication. And, because she is an expert in these matters, Siobahn is able to cast some light on the title. Siobahn is ideally placed to research this title. An antiquarian and an occultist, she is familiar with Sex Magic in its many guises and understands the importance of the Rose Missal. More importantly, Siobahn has heard of the Order of the Golden Rose.
The Order of the Golden Rose is a secret society. The society is so secret it’s never been fully established whether it’s a depraved cult for the literati and the intelligentsia, or a serious religious movement. Early indications at the start of the story suggest the depraved cult. I won’t spoil the story’s development but I will say: once I’ve written this review, I’m going to see if I can enroll.
This is from an early scene where Siobahn gets a better understanding of what goes on behind the Order of the Golden Rose’s closed doors:
Small tables dotted the perimeter of the dance floor, with even more overt passion displayed there. Two women, both in short, revealing party dresses, kissed languorously, each with a hand between the other’s legs, not caring in the slightest that anyone watched the movement of their fingers inserted deep inside one another’s sex. One of the women arched her head back, breaking the kiss, but only so she could cry out with what must have been a delicious orgasm. Strange in the way that the cacophony of the club made the cry of ecstasy seem silent. Still, Siobhan found the illusory silence beautiful, like sex made into a painting. In the next moment, the woman’s partner also opened her mouth wide in a climax. Juliette, Siobhan felt sure, would by now have settled in some corner to sample similar uninhibited pleasures of her own.
It’s a pleasure to know that Siobahn’s adventures continue in The Blood Jaguar. R. Paul Sardanas is a competent author who has created an enchanting blend of magic and contemporary realism that make for a thrilling combination.
This is the Da Vinci Code with an erection: an intriguing story filled with rich characters, a well-constructed plot, and the perfect balance of excitement, erotica and everything else. For those who enjoy a well-told story with an innovative approach to erotica, The Order of the Golden Rose is a have-to-have title.
Unashamed is a collection of eighteen sexual adventures from the pen of British author Saskia Walker. Sixteen of them have been previously published in various anthologies. Although I recognized a few from books that I'd read or reviewed, many were new to me. Collecting one's back list of stories into a single volume is a perfectly reasonable endeavor, especially when epublishing has made production and distribution relatively straightforward. Unfortunately, in this case, I felt that the whole was less than the sum of its parts.
Erotica can be defined as stories about sex, and certainly Ms. Walker's tales fit this definition. Alas, they are for the most part just about sex. Nearly all the tales in this book focus on a single sexual encounter, spun out for most of the length of the story, with little conflict or suspense and almost no concern with issues other than arousal and satisfaction. Personally I prefer more variety and perhaps more depth in the erotica I read. Obviously this is not true for everyone. For someone seeking a book of quick, hot fantasies, this might be just the thing.
The sexual encounters in Unashamed are moderately intense, offering heterosexual, ménage and lesbian scenarios, with plenty of fetish wear, toys and exhibitionism thrown into the mix. The overall effect (for me), however, of reading one tale like this after another was boredom. One story of this type, read in the context of an anthology and contrasted with other authors' work, can be fun. A long series of such stories eventually becomes tedious. (Again, this is my personal opinion.)
My favorite stories in the book were “In Pursuit of Knowledge” and “Edward's Experiments.” The former differs from most of its companions in that it takes place over a matter of days, as the narrator gradually draws closer to a regular visitor to the library whom she finds attractive. Ms. Walker ratchets up the sexual tension, bit by bit, as the narrator moves her seat closer to her target's habitual place, embarrassed to reveal her lust and yet unable to stop herself. This story climaxes (in every sense) with a lovely encounter, drenched in moonlight, in a dusty, hidden room after library hours. The latter story describes the narrator's relationship over a period of time with her quirky empiricist lover Edward, who views even sex as a way to satisfy his scientific curiosity. Ms. Walker brings Edward to life – he is by far the most real of any of the book's characters.
Other stand-out stories include the two lesbian tales “Making it Easy” and “Matilda's Touch,” both of which involve a more knowledgeable and confident woman initiating a nervous beginner. I found the lesbian interactions in this book, in general, to be more arousing than the male-female scenes. They have a greater emotional intensity and quality of honesty than many of the heterosexual encounters. In fact, even in Ms. Walker's three- and four-way scenarios, the woman-on-woman interactions are better written and more engaging. I am fairly confident that this is more a reflection of Ms. Walker's preferences or style than my own predilections. Of course, one can never be completely sure when reading erotica how much of the effect is the responsibility of the author and how much derives from one's own kinks. There are few genres that depend so strongly on the reader's psychological constitution.
Another weakness of this collection was its need for better editing. Perhaps due to the fact that I've been spending so much of my own time lately wearing my editor hat, I noticed frequent problems that should have been caught and corrected before publication: purple prose, repeated words and phrases, run-on sentences, incorrect word use, grammar mistakes, and so on. These issues definitely diminished my enjoyment. The prior publication credits are at the end of the book. I was surprised to discover that most of the stories had been previously published, given the roughness of the language and the grammar. I wonder if Ms. Walker used her original manuscripts for the stories in assembling the book, rather than the edited versions that appeared in the original sources. I do know that eXcessica, unlike many epublishers, does not supply editors but rather expects authors to have edited their own books. (It is an authors' collective rather than a profit-making publisher.) In this case, Ms. Walker could have benefited from an external editor's eye (and red pen).In summary, Unashamed offers short, relatively simple tales of hot sex. If that is what you're looking for in your erotica, you will probably enjoy the book.