Wiseass surprised me. Usually I try to figure out the intended readership for a book, and do my best to assess it by that standard, but this time it wasn’t long before I was entirely seduced by the narrator and her distinctive voice.
The story is aimed toward aficionados of dubcon and noncon, subgenres of BDSM that have no particular appeal for me, although I understand how folks can enjoy them in a fictional context. (I don’t need to define dubcon and noncon for you, do I? No, of course not, but I’ll do it anyway, just in case. We’re talking about kinky sex and sadomasochism with dubious consent, and even downright nonconsensual torture.) C. W. Stetson starts right out by warning, “I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will anyway: This is a work of fiction. Don’t try any of this at home. If you do, use a safe word.”
The narrator, Linda, doesn’t get to have a safe word. She isn’t a masochist, and she only consents to being a sex slave accidentally (by not reading the fine print in the contract for a sales job at a sex toy store,) and later under extreme duress as a means to survival. Sounds pretty grim, doesn’t it? But Linda herself isn’t grim, she’s smart, resourceful, witty, and, as a kid who grew up in a variety of foster homes, she knows all about survival. In fact she knows a great deal more about many things than is entirely believable, and the explanation (a foster parent who happened to store boxes and boxes of books in his barn) isn’t convincing. Still, as the disclaimer above points out, “This is a work of fiction.”
I kept jotting down notes about passages I found especially witty, or descriptive, or illuminating. Near the beginning, Linda tells us, “About eleven in the morning, a tall, elegant woman walks in like she owns the place. She’s between thirty and forty, wearing a loose grey silk dress that costs more than the car I can’t afford. She is seriously good-looking, although I don’t even really swing that way. NTTAWWT. That’s Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That, for all you non-internet-using readers.” Then near the end, after two members of the secluded estate’s security patrol make the huge mistake of trying to rob the owner, she echoes that early statement with, “Now, you legal sticklers out there might observe that I’m accessory to manslaughter, or at the least obstruction of justice, or I dunno, littering or something. Tell you what: take it up with the attorney general. He’ll be at her next party. Probably drunk and covered in whipped cream in a pile of strapping young men. NTTAWWT.” Of course by that time the relationship between the two main characters has reached the stage where Linda can figure on at least a 50/50 chance of getting away with the wiseass remarks she sometimes can’t resist making. She’s suffered a great deal, but it hasn’t broken her, or hardened her heart (though perhaps it should have.)
I don’t want to do too much quoting, or reveal too much of the plot. Yes, there is a plot of sorts, and more action than just bondage and punishment. There’s even character development, although nothing surprising for a story with the classic premise of a super-rich, super-powerful sadist amusing herself with an apparently naïve young woman who has no family or close friends to wonder what’s become of her. The girl’s wit, intelligence, courage and breadth of knowledge gradually make her captor see her as a real person rather than a pet to be viciously abused or coddled at will, and Linda herself, who knows all about Stockholm syndrome and succumbs to it with eyes wide open, drags the reader with her so that somewhere along the way I stopped hoping against hope that the abuser would come to the bad end she deserved for her unforgivable brutality, and realized that it was too late to resist finding her fascinating.
I was still amazed at how much I turned out to enjoy the story, not so much for the sex, of which there is more than enough, as for the characters and the writing. Whether readers who are seriously into dubcon and/or noncon sex and slavery will enjoy it, I really can’t tell. I knew at least one very-much-in-demand sadist quite well, but she was strictly into consensual bondage and beating, and only with submissives who truly got off on pain and humiliation. She also had no patience at all with wiseass remarks. If you share that mind set, you’ve been warned. If you just want a good, diverting story, well, if you can handle the harsh parts, this might be for you.