By the second chapter of this novel, understanding dawned. What I was reading was really manga without the artwork rather than a traditional novel. A graphics-less graphic novel, if you will. That explained the bizarre addition of extensive character profiles at the beginning. It also explained the strange ‘not the US, not Europe, not Japan’ feel of the setting and culture, and why everyone acted like they were in high school rather than college-aged young adults.
I read a lot of manga, so in a way I’m okay with this weird hybrid. Once I saw it in that light, I could almost forgive some of the narrative issues with this work. However, there were many other issues that were unforgivable.
Who, other than a twelve-year old, constantly refers to breasts as melons? It was just embarrassing. At one point, the writer called a woman’s genitals her “vag.” We’re writing about grown-up stuff, so let’s use our grown-up words, okay?
Call them editing errors, typos, or just sloppy work, there are far too many mistakes with this work. I almost listed the long list of examples I had set aside, but why should I work for free as their copy editor? Someone needs to take a heavy red pen to this prose. Also, providing detailed character profiles does not absolve the writer of having to write characterization into the novel itself. If this had been an actual manga, artwork would have helped me to differentiate between the far too many two-dimensional characters, but they were just a blur of useless names after a while. I didn’t care enough to bother referring back to the dramatis personae.
But of all the problems with this novel, the worst was the rampant misogyny. The “hero” states that: “Girls are all about the money. Asian girls are really all about the money.” Boom! Not only a palpable hit with that old time religion of ‘women are greedy and evil,’ but also drops the casual racism bomb and just keeps going. (I can hear the author protesting: “Oh, but he was Asian too, so it’s all right.” No, it isn’t. Nothing in that comment was okay.)
I originally meant to save this as an example of the clunky writing, but it’s another example of the many misogynistic throw-away lines fouling this book like dog poo on a hiking trail: “Because when they looked at a guy, girls naturally calculated potential long term future and assessed potential status and dollar signs.” Just try to maneuver around that sentence. It’s like a verbal obstacle course with a huge muck pit of girl-hate in the middle.
According to this story, lesbians are man haters who secretly want to have a penis. VERY LONG SIGH.
There’s lots of creepy non-consensual touching and voyeurism – by the “good guy.” The “hero” alters a woman’s body magically so it will fit his masturbatory needs, and this is supposedly a woman he thinks of as a sister. Someone he loves. He makes another woman do an erotic striptease and give another guy a lap dance in class so she’ll be humiliated. Consensual? Screw that. Women are here to give this guy pleasure. And everyone else too, because gang-rapes are disturbingly routine after about the halfway point of this story. Then at the end, the author makes all the females in this story agree that the guy who did it was really a nice guy despite his few mistakes and they kind of liked being anally raped by him. Gross.
That pretty much sums up my feelings about this book. Not erotic. Just gross. Not the worst writing I’ve read, but you deserve better. Thankfully, better is out there for your reading pleasure. Go find it.
In her introduction, Alison Tyler informs us that Bound for Trouble is the tenth bondage-themed anthology she has edited for Cleis. It's hardly surprising that this collection sparkles with kinky energy and glows with heat. Ms. Tyler definitely knows what she's doing. At this point in my editing and reviewing career, I'm fairly difficult to impress, but I believe Bound for Trouble will delight anyone who finds D/s content arousing.
What's so great about this book? Diversity for one thing. Almost every story attacks the theme from a different direction. There are M/f, F/m and F/f tales in almost equal proportion and even one M/m contribution. Some authors write about long-established couples, some about casual playmates, some about just-met strangers. Meanwhile, the bondage mechanisms explored range from classic ropes to robots to symbolic chains made out of paper.
Ms. Tyler's own story, “Sitting Pretty,” keeps the reader guessing. For the first few pages, you have no idea about the identity or even the gender of the narrator. Only at the end do you begin to understand who he is and what he wants. This tale is both beautifully crafted and deliciously transgressive. Who would have imagined that allowing one's hair to be cut could be an act of submission?
“Magic Boots” by Amy Dillon offers one of the most insightful takes on fetishism that I've encountered in a long time. To arouse and entertain her foot-worshiping husband, the narrator secretly buys a pair of expensive, outrageous high-heeled boots they've both admired. As she wears the boots around the house before revealing them to her spouse, trying to break them in, she discovers her own perceptions and desires changing.
Complementary fantasies play a key role in several of the tales. In Benjamin Eliot's exquisite “Unwinding Alice,” the female of the title enjoys being tightly bound and locked in a closet for hours. Her husband confines her in order to please her; he finds the notion far scarier than she does. Meanwhile, he lives for the sight of the rope marks her trials leave behind. Their kinks are distinctly different, but interlocking, providing satisfaction and peace to both.
She flings her arms above her head, and I see the lines on her skin flow north with the motion. She's striped and crossed and dotted with the evidence of my control and I groan. Because seeing that evidence robs me of my current control. I'm powerless against the unwound Alice. I'm humbled by her strength.
The healing potential of dominance and submission is another common theme. Annabeth Leong's “Paper Chains,” Theresa Noelle Roberts' “Ropenosis,” K.Lynn's “Business Wear,” all feature submissives wound tight by worldly responsibilities or hidden fears. Paradoxically, bondage sets them free.
Sommer Marsden's brilliant story “What She Has” struck me as one of the most realistic in the collection. The subtleties she portrays in the relationship between the submissive narrator and her Master, the ebb and flow of envy, anger, fear and love, amazed me. How can love and cruelty be so closely intertwined?
In contrast, Giselle Renarde's delicious fable “It's Not a Scrunchie” is pure play, a man's wildest fantasy made manifest in the person of a voluptuous, uninhibited gal who just happens to like tying guys up.
The mood in Bound for Trouble is lighter than in some of Ms. Tyler's anthologies (her Love at First Sting comes to mind as an example of darker, more ambiguous BDSM), but these authors don't spare the rope or the rod. Nearly all of the stories are entertaining. And a few will linger in your mind, long after you've closed the cover or turned off your e-reader.