Full disclosure: D.L. King is a good friend, and the mastermind behind Erotica Revealed. Part of why we get along so well (unless we’re in Las Vegas, in which case I am persona non grata since I radiate bad luck) is our shared interest in fem dom. I’ve read many of her stories over the years, but as she mentions in her forward, you forget how very good they are. I loved this chance to reread some and to see the ones I hadn’t read yet. One of the things that sets D. L.’s stories apart from some fem dom is the infectious sense of fun. Everyone is having a good time.
And they’re hot.
In the first story, "Let’s Dance," the narrator meets Cute Boy in a dance club and takes him home for some fun with ropes and suspension. In "Cute Boy Gets Squeezed," we get to see these characters again from Cute Boy’s point of view. “Hey Cute Boy, you should come over here. I got something fun for you.” What she has for him is a vacuum bed. There’s a sweetness to these romps that make them a delight to read.
"The Treatment" is a steampunk tale that originally appeared in Carnal Machines (Cleis Press). A woman – well, she expresses it best, herself, here:
The young Englishman has an extraordinary amount of untapped energy, waiting to be harvested. Due to societal propriety and his acceptance that the female of the species is to be cosseted and revered, most of the young men of the upper and upper middle classes have very little experience of the flesh, other than as practiced alone, furtively, under their bedclothes, in the dark of night. She writes in her journal.
She finds a way to tap that energy for her home, much preferring it to gaslight.
Is being fucked in ass a submissive act? What if the person being fucked is a dom and the person fucking her is her submissive? In "Anal Submission… Or Not," this is the question. Philosophical discussions are difficult with distractions like black latex gloves and spreader bars. You start to feel a little sorry for poor Christopher as he tries to keep up his end of the conversation, until you realize how much he’s enjoying himself.
If you like more intense stories, "Perhaps A Worthy Offering" is set in the same world as King’s Melinoe Project novels. If you want to summon a Goddess, no average offering will do. And if that goddess has a taste for pain, then you can be sure the scene is going to push your boundaries with hot wax, blood play, and a bit of sacrifice.
If you like fem dom, you’re going to enjoy this collection. There’s voyeurism, foot worship, extreme play and even a disciplinarian librarian, so you can get your other kinks on too. These women are stern but loving and give their boys what they want. Maybe you should get a little spanking from them too.
I’ll hold my hand up here and admit that I didn’t enjoy Like Slipping Undercover: Erotic Spy Fiction. This isn’t to say it’s a bad book. Maybe I’m going through the male menopause or just behaving like the Easter version of the Grinch. Whatever the reason, it didn’t work for me.
The stories are adequately executed. If I’d been editor on any of these shorts they would have been different. But I’m not the editor. Does this sound like I’m trying to make an obscure point? I hope not. I’m trying to be constructive here and I’m making this observation because, oftentimes, I’ll read through a story, encounter a jumbled clause or a piece of awkward dialogue, and I’ll be wrenched from the story I’m reading.
Keep in mind that it’s the short story‘s job to create and maintain a sufficiently robust storyworld. I say it’s the short story’s job because the division of labour in a published work falls between the writer and the editor. The storyworld those two have constructed needs to be so sufficiently robust that a reader can experience the physicality of the fiction and get to the end of the narrative without remembering that they’ve been experiencing an unreality.
I struggled to achieve the physicality of the fiction with most of these works.
This first example I’ve got here comes from ‘The Masterless Man’ by T C Mill.
Allen Keir knew how very rare he was: an artist whose lifestyle was more interesting than his work.
Not that traffic photography wasn’t a groundbreaking study; a strange and sometimes charming way of looking at something as invisible as the country thoroughfare. Allen wouldn’t have created these sorts of pictures if he didn’t believe in their value to his clients. That was because he couldn’t afford to offer anything but the best, having only clients and not a patron. Allen Keir was a Masterless man.
He lived from show to show, and for the past seven years it had kept him from needing Charity. Not as if many of the Charities would be willing to take him in anyway. Where Masters looked for talent and obedience, Charities would only support those who kept to certain codes of conduct, and there, too, Allen’s lifestyle was rather atypical.
I’m not going to criticise this passage for the unexpected capitalisation in the second and third paragraphs (Masters/Masterless, Charity/Charities). I’m not going to harp on about the intrusiveness of colons and semicolons in genre-fiction. I’m not even going to point out that an expository opening that includes references to traffic photography does not strike me as the most compelling hook I’ve ever encountered in fiction.
I’m just going to say that this didn’t float my boat.
Like Slipping Undercover is juggling two separate genres. In the first instance it’s trying to do something erotic with each story. This is to be expected in erotic fiction. In the second, it’s trying to combine the erotic element with spy fiction – a genre that’s nefariously been associated with jingoism and that sense of ‘otherness’ that is invariably discussed by those dealing with post-colonial literature studies.
In spy fiction the reader can often associate with the main character because that character is confronted by the frightening aspects of a foreign culture. This is a sex scene from ‘Not Exactly Dead’ by Chris Amies.
They kissed again, a collision of mouths, tongues flickering over one another’s. He tried to move away from her mouth and kiss her face, but she brought him back to centre. Then she disengaged from him, took her T-shirt hem in her hands and pulled the shirt off over her head. Her pale-skinned body, firm high breasts bare, came so well to his arms.
“Let’s have sex,” she said.
“Now,” Will said, “you put it like that...”
Emma Kessler laughed and tugged at Will’s shirt. He got the clue and took it off. Standing up, Emma removed the leggings and her lacy, peach-coloured knickers, placing them on a side-table. Her pale body seemed too fragile for this place with its musty curtains and peeling walls. She led him by the hand, a naked nymph at her play, to her bedroom. White curtains at the windows, a low double bed.
She stopped, turned to him. He undid his belt, took off his jeans, eased his underpants over his proud erection. Then he went to his knees on the thin blue carpet. She stepped forward.
“You’ve done this before,” she said in a while, her hands caressing his head, fingers in his hair.
Again, I’m not going to criticise. There’s a dangling modifier in the opening sentence of this passage. There’s such a pervading sense of the mechanical in the descriptions of character movement and interaction that you’d be forgiven for thinking this is robot sex. But the story didn’t excite me.
I’ll say here that this story is one of my favourites in the collection. I thought the overt Britishness was endearing in its reliance on stereotypes. In this scene we have knickers, pale skin and characters called Will and Emma. It’s hard to get more British without having poor orthodontics and a cup of tea. Also, by this point in the story we’ve had references to BRIT awards and later on we get mention of the queen and the rest of the royal family, as well as those quaint folk who make up the British government. It really is rather a spiffing reminder of how those quaint souls in Great England go about their rumpy-pumpy.
However, I digress. There might be something in this collection to titillate the desires of the most ardent reader. This is from ‘Knife, Gun, High Explosive’ by Reina Delacroix. Just read the passage. Don’t bother dwelling on the dialogue.
She ran her hand over his stomach in the same way she had his chest, as if preparing him for something.
And then she leaned farther over and ran her tongue down the front of his half-hard cock to the base, with the same slow pace as she had used the knife earlier to cut cloth. He twitched his hips in reaction, unable to see what she was doing but feeling hotter and harder every second as he stiffened erect.
She stopped and leaned upwards, and he felt her draw the cold back edge of the weapon across his stomach, then hold it flat with a light pressure against his belly.
“Don’t move,” she added.
He froze, desire and fear battling in his head.
“If I wanted you active, I would have left you free to act. Just as if I wanted you to talk, I would have left you free to speak.” Her voice wasn’t harsh or angry, more the long-suffering patient firmness of someone who is, finally, fed up.
“There is one thing you do have to do, though,” she added more softly but no less firmly, and he felt her left hand cupping his balls in a weighing, assessing manner. He strained not to react too strongly in either need or fear, and the strain came out instead in a soft groan that was half-strangled by the gag.
Long story short. I didn’t care for this collection. I thought the editor had done the writers a disservice by not being more scrupulous in the selection and presentation of the stories. However, it could just be that I was in a prickly mood when I read this collection. Other readers, particularly those who savour the tropes of spy fiction, might get more satisfaction.
Surveying the current state of the publishing world, one might conclude that language and literary craft are not important in determining success. Even the biggest fans of E.L. James or Dan Brown admit that these authors will win no prizes for the quality of their writing. I've had my own readers tell me that what they really care about is the characters and “the story.” They're willing to forgive awkward sentences, head hopping and even the occasional grammatical faux pas as long as these problems don't interfere too much with their immersion in the story and their identification with the hero and heroine. Lost in the story world, these readers might not even notice the language problems.
At best, many top-selling authors produce prose designed to vanish into the background: simple, direct, concrete and explicit. We've left behind the days in which the language in which a story was told mattered as much as the story itself.
I guess I'm a throwback to that earlier age. I can't read without being aware of an author's language. A felicitous turn of phrase or a vivid image delight me as much as a fascinating protagonist or a clever plot device. Conversely, poorly written prose will destroy the pleasure of reading for me, even when a book is one I'm predisposed to enjoy.
Rebecca Symmon's self-published opus Seventy Three offers an interesting and moderately original take on the tropes of dominance and submission. Her heroine Kate is no innocent virgin, but a professional woman in her forties, owner of an upscale art gallery and spouse of a technology entrepreneur who spends a lot of time traveling. Kate and Richard enjoy a lively sex life – at least when he is in town - but Kate knows something is missing. She has fantasized for as long as she can remember about giving up control and being forced to perform shameful and degrading sex acts on strangers. When she confesses her desires to her husband, Richard tries to fulfill her fantasies, but he just can't bring himself to be nasty enough to satisfy the woman he loves. Then Kate discovers that one of the artists she represents lives the life of a slave, bound by contract to a mysterious organization known as Oakham. Painter Elizabeth and her master Robin recommend Kate to the administration of Oakham. Kate and Richard complete lengthy applications full of intimate details. Eventually, Kate is accepted for training as slave number 73.
Most of the three hundred seventy odd pages of the novel detail the ordeals Kate must face and her reaction to them. There are whippings, canings, cock sucking, cunnilingus, public humiliation, forced exhibitionism, and lots of unlubricated anal penetration. I liked the fact that, through all of this, Ms. Symmons focuses on the psychological impacts of her heroine's experience. Unlike some fantastical BDSM tales, the severe beatings in Seventy Three really hurt and the Oakham members who use slave 73 are sometimes brutal, callous, or unattractive to the point of engendering disgust. Brave and proud, Kate takes it all. The author emphasizes over and over that her heroine doesn't crave pain or humiliation, per se. What Kate loves is the knowledge, after the fact, that she has successfully endured whatever trials her owners have meted out.
Kate's understanding of her own needs and the true nature of submission evolve over the course of the book. Perhaps even more intriguing, though, is the way Richard changes. He can't dominate Kate himself but, somewhat to his own surprise, he finds turning her over to the members of Oakham to be infinitely arousing. Gradually he becomes complicit in his wife's utter debasement, setting up tests for her and then reveling in her helplessness as she attempts to perfect her identity as a slave.
Anyone who knows me, and my tastes, might guess that I'd love the story above. Unfortunately, although the book has a lot of promise, the terrible writing prevented me from enjoying it. Ms. Symmons' prose abounds in run-on sentences, with three or four independent clauses comma-spliced. The point of view wanders freely from one character to another without any warning. The dialog feels stiff and artificial. Misspellings, malapropisms, and misplaced modifiers pop up on almost every page. Possibly the most annoying aspect of her prose is her tendency to shift from one tense to another, sometimes within a single paragraph.
Here's a typical example:
The two say their goodbyes, kiss and leave the cafe. Kate returns to the gallery to find the electricians near to the completion of their task. By two-o-clock Harry and Keith had finished work, tested the new lighting, cleaned up their mess and left. Helen was up to date with her list of jobs and Kate was hungry. Maybe it was turning out to be a good day after all. “Shall we close up and go to lunch, Helen?”
“I thought you'd never ask, come on.”
“But are you sure it's fun for you Kate, it sounds like pretty heavy stuff?” They both knew Melissa was fishing for more information without asking direct questions.
“It's not as bad as it sounds. The thrill is, that I don't know what's going to happen to me or to be done to me, I've given my permission beforehand for them to do whatever they want, even if I don't agree at the time. But strange as it sounds, I'm still in control, I can say no and end it.”
“Wow, sorry Helen. I mean fancy going out and not knowing what will happen by the time you come home.”
“Yes, I don't make any of the decisions so I'm not to blame for doing things, no guilt see.”
Having arrived at the gym early it was still very quiet, office workers not yet finished with their days toil Once in the changing room Kate prepares to shower, removing her sweat top as she always did in front of Helen.
The meal was a joyous affair, good wine, excellent food and friendly banter. After finishing a generous helping of desert [sic] the liqueurs were passed around the table. The festive atmosphere and copious amounts of drink began to take their toll as the dancing took priority. Returning to the table to relax Richard's roaming hand came to rest on Kate's thigh.
One has to wonder whether the liqueurs enjoyed their dessert, and where Richard's hand had been roaming before it returned to the table.
It's hard to resist the urge to ridicule this sort of error. However, that would be doing Ms. Symmons a disservice. I believe that she put her heart and soul into this book. It has the intensity (and the occasional didactic quality) of a personal quest explored in fiction. I recognize the signs; my first novel was the same way. The dedication reads “To those still living with hope.…” Perhaps I'm wrong, but I suspect that throughout the writing of this novel, Ms. Symmons imagined herself in her heroine's shoes (or bonds), as she hoped her readers would.
Hence, I don't blame Ms. Symmons for this book, as poorly written as it is. She clearly didn't know any better. I blame the current system, which makes it possible for someone sincere to embarrass herself by offering the world the cherished fruits of her imagination, wrapped in such a poor package. Before the advent of self-publishing and the ebook Gold Rush, this book would never have seen the light of day in its current form – and that, in my opinion, would have been a blessing. Although perhaps the story of Seventy Three deserves to be told, I found the process of reading it to be painful.
I gather from Amazon that this tome is the first of a trilogy about Oakham. I strongly recommend that the author hire a skilled editor – or maybe even a writing tutor – before bringing out her next volume.
Bexhill School for Girls, Book 3: Six Across is hard for me to categorize, unless there’s genre for Jolly Good Fun. I did, to my surprise, enjoy it, but I can’t quite consider the book to be erotica, or BDSM, or, for that matter, a book, at only 85 pages. It’s more of an installment of a serial story, but what the heck, Dickens did that and got away with it, so why should I quibble?
Tom Simple, the Bexhill author, sets the mood with his quite amusing note at the beginning directed to “the Moral Police – that ethereal army of self- appointed do-gooders which has taken it upon itself to patrol cyberspace.” Then he kindly includes a reader’s review that provides a clue as to the nature of the book. This reviewer, who has presumably read the first two titles in this series, A Spanking in Time and By the Cane Divided, assures us that this is “One of the very best school spanking stories I have read. Very well written...there is nothing offensive...it is descriptive…easily pictured in the mind...”
Did you know that there was a whole genre of school spanking stories? I can’t say that I’m surprised. I did, after all, read and re-read an ancient copy of Tom Brown’s School Days in my own adolescence, and ferreted out a few old girls-school novels from thrift shops and second hand bookstores. English boarding schools were fertile grounds for fiction long before Harry Potter came along, and the sad lack of corporal punishment scenes in the Potter books has been compensated for by many a writer of fan fiction.
These Bexhill School books may be written to appeal to a mature audience whose formative years were far enough in the past that they have fond memories of the days when spanking, caning, switching, and indeed pretty much any form of punishment were considered perfectly acceptable and even necessary ways of dealing with students. Such historical scenes do continue to be quite popular in some BDSM circles, though, so the audience is probably far more extensive.
On further reflection, I’ll have to rethink my opinion on the erotica front (or, in this case, rear.) Erotica is in the eye of the beholder, and, of course, in the reaction of various other regions of the anatomy. If the beholder is turned on by picturing schoolgirls bent over to receive punitive spankings, then it’s erotica, even though most of the spankings are not presented in a particularly sexual way from the viewpoints of the miscreants being punished. They genuinely dread the canings, in spite of being proud of how well they bear them. Still, four of the girls, recognizing spanking’s potential, form a club to play out punishment scenes in the school’s stables when no else is around. They don’t get much attention in this book, and I’d have liked to see more of them. Apparently they do get more coverage, so to speak, in some of the other books. For the most part the girls seem strangely indifferent to sex as such, even though there’s a boys’ school just over their back fence, and the boys are definitely interested.
Most of the plot devices consist of pranks and other transgressions for which the girls are punished, the punishments being the main point. The major dramatic set piece is a field hockey game that results in a violent free-for-all with the result that just about everybody gets caned afterward. The game itself is described in such great detail that the images of girls in hockey kit rushing up and down the field wielding sticks may have been meant to be as arousing as the resulting paddling of behinds. For readers who appreciate that sort of thing, the book is, indeed, erotica. I still have a hard time considering a book of which a reviewer has said “There is nothing offensive…” to be particularly erotic or kinky, but then again, he (or she) added the part about “easily pictured in the mind…” so it’s clearly a matter of taste, and the pictures in the reader’s mind.
The adults involved—a few members of the school staff, a pair of local constables, one set of parents—do get right down to brief spurts of hot and steamy action, but by far the major focus is on the girls, who are an appealing blend of mischief, wholesomeness, and adolescent angst. My sympathies are all with the girls.
As I said at the beginning, I did enjoy Bexhill School for Girls, Book 3. I enjoyed the girls’ school ambiance, the camaraderie, the British turn of phrase. Tom Simple (whoever he or she may be) does a good job of retaining the rather odd charms of boarding-school stories, and elaborating on what the local constable thinks of as “nubile backsides being tanned” while still showing the girls as sympathetic characters. If you like your school spanking stories mixed in with plenty of adolescent Jolly Good Fun, this—and likely this whole series of books—is for you.