As any devoted reader or author of erotica knows, complementary fantasies are a potent aphrodisiac. Dom and sub, voyeur and exhibitionist, butch and femme - whatever the pairing, it's an incredible rush to realize that by satisfying your personal kink, you're giving your partner exactly what he or she desires. Charlotte Stein's original and arousing novel Control uses this dynamic to wonderful effect. In Control, two rather quirky and twisted individuals gradually discover the erotic power of their mirror-image desires.
Madison is the introspective, insecure, perpetually horny proprietress of Wicked Words, a bookstore that specializes in erotica. She's a woman who lives as much in her mind as in her body, fiercely determined to chart her own course in life, yet puzzled by her seeming inability to commit to a relationship. When she hires shy, nerdy Gabriel Kauffman as a shop assistant, she tries to convince herself that it's an intellectual decision. After all, she could scarcely hire the other applicant, Andy, who somehow managed to fuck her during his job interview. Despite Gabe's social awkwardness and bookish appearance, he stimulates Maddie's fertile imagination to the point where she can't leave him alone.
Gabe Kauffman is the most anti-alpha hero I've ever encountered. He's big and rather clumsy, with thick glasses, heavy eyebrows and tons of body hair. A thirty year old virgin, he was brought up so strictly by his possibly schizophrenic parents that he's been permanently warped. At the same time, he's obsessed with sex, a diligent student of dirty books who, as he puts it, is good at putting theory into practice. I adored him.
As Madison teases and flirts with poor Gabe, she begins to understand his desires: to be controlled, "forced" to do things he's afraid to try on his own, pushed beyond the limits imposed by his strange history. Meanwhile, she discovers that taking what she wants coincides almost exactly with giving Gabe what he craves. They're perfectly matched. Every encounter - even those in which cocky, ambi-sexual Andy plays a role - brings them closer. Yet Madison almost loses Gabe when she underestimates his deep-seated lack of confidence in himself.
The description above might suggest that Control is BDSM erotica. It's true that the book includes a bit of spanking, some humiliation, and lots of power games. The interactions, though, are not really typical of the BDSM genre. Maddie's far too much at the mercy of her emotions and physical reactions to be a true top. She really has no idea what she's doing; she's just following her instincts. Her scenes with Gabe rely on inspiration and intuition, and she's as much a slave to her arousal as Gabe.
Control is written in the first person present tense. The intimate perspective allows Ms. Stein to mix sensory detail with minds-eye fantasy. Ms. Stein has a breathless, dizzy, stream-of-consciousness style that conveys a sense of urgency. Madison is a sharp observer, marking every subtle shift in Gabriel's behavior and mood. The sex in Control is fabulously complex and nuanced as a result. Madison is unbearably turned on, most of the time, and you will be too.
He doesn't try to fuck me, however. No - I guess he can't wait for that. He just ruts against me - first over my back and the firm swell of my arse, and then... oh then. He fumbles and finds the cleft between, and suddenly increases the frantic, jerking pace.
I just lie there, and let him. Mainly because I can't believe that the slick feel of his prick between the cheeks of my arse, rubbing and rutting, filthily, actually manages to thrill arousal through me. After that huge orgasm. Still.
'Is this OK, is it OK?' he asks, but it's a minute after he's started and his voice is so up and down that I can't take it seriously. I'm right not to, too, because almost at the same time as those words, his body locks against mine. He grunts so gutturally, it sets my hair on end.
And then I feel the hot spurt of his come, all over my arse and my lower back. Which feels so delicious and dirty, I bite my lip and try not to wonder when he'll be up for another round. I'm guessing it's not going to be soon, because a second after he's done it all over me, he apologises. He apologises for making a mess. For fucking...whatever it was that he fucked.
At which I definitely want to do it all over again. Immediately. Continually. For ever.
Seriously - when can we do it again, for ever?
The book has a happy ending. Madison and Gabriel declare their mutual love and even consider living together. Don't let the romantic elements fool you. Control is twisted, filthy, and deliciously perverse - in the tradition of all great erotica. For Maddie and Gabe, sexual connection leads to love rather than the other way around.
With Control, Charlotte Stein has penned an intelligent, funny, perceptive and hugely enjoyable novel. If you like steamy, messy, creative sex involving characters that defy the stereotypes, get yourself a copy today!
When he tells me to lift my skirt and bend over his desk, there's a moment where I hesitate. There's always a moment. It's like the feeling just before the lock springs under the pressure of the correct key you've somehow chosen. My body goes completely still and the word no makes a fist in my throat, and then I just do it.
Thus begins Charlotte Stein's new novel, Power Play. From this brilliant, breathless opening paragraph, you might guess that Power Play is a classic male dominant, female submissive story, but if that was your conclusion you'd be wrong.
Before the end of the first chapter, the Dom in this first scene, the narrator Eleanor Harding's boss Mr. Woods, has been sent packing, and she has been promoted to his position as managing director of a small publishing company. Meanwhile, she has become curiously obsessed with Woods' personal assistant, a big, shambling, disheveled, but curiously appealing American lad named Benjamin. Ben's a bottom through and through, and he's not afraid to admit it. Still, in some sense he controls the action, as he provokes Ms. Harding into severe acts of discipline which simultaneously arouse and horrify her.
Although their scenes engender guilt and self-disgust, Eleanor can't seem to resist the urge to torment her peculiarly sexy subordinate. For one thing, he clearly enjoys the worst she can dish out. The more she abuses him, the more excited he becomes. Even more disturbing than the pleasure she achieves in dominating him is the tenderness he lavishes upon her. Ms. Harding has built her existence around strict self-control; she's terrified by the suggestion that Ben might breach the carefully constructed walls around her heart.
Neither lust nor love will be denied, however. Before long, Eleanor can't deny that her interactions with Benjamin are more than just kinky power games – that he has taken charge of her soul as completely as she possesses his body.
Reading Power Play is an arousing, intense experience. Ms. Stein's signature first-person-present narration brings an intimacy to every scene, focusing on sensory detail and highlighting the heroine's confusion and conflict. Eleanor doesn't plan the tortures she inflicts on poor Ben. They arise spontaneously from some part of herself she never guessed existed. At the same time, the author manages to suggest the psychological linkages between Eleanor's previous submission and her new role as a dominant.
Benjamin is a delightful contrast to the stereotyped alpha hero. He's clumsy, awkward and ill-dressed, with a puppy-dog eagerness to obey Eleanor's every command. Appearances are deceiving, though. He turns out to be far more insightful than one would expect, about both his own needs and about Eleanor's conflicts. The contrast between his impressive sexual expertise and his reportedly limited experience puts some strain on the character's credibility, but he's still more believable than a virile sexual superman who brings his partner to orgasm with every penetration.
Eleanor's personality seems, paradoxically, less well motivated. I say paradoxically because we spend the entire book inside her head and yet, she's still a cipher. Although the reader experiences the world through her senses and is apprised of every perverse fantasy that crosses her mind, every shift in her emotions, it's still not clear why she's so closed and conflicted. She has obviously had many sexual encounters and yet she claims to have never been in a relationship. She suggests that her life outside work is empty and sterile – but why? I would have liked the author to dig a bit deeper, to give us a more plausible and in-depth appreciation of what makes Ms. Harding tick. On the other hand, when Eleanor describes her submission to Woods, one can see that this was the first step in her real sexual awakening. The freedom she found in those encounters prepares her for her “natural” role in dominating Ben.
Power Play has little in the way of plot. The entire 280-page book chronicles the development of Eleanor's and Ben's relationship, through a series of intricately described sex scenes. This, however, is anything but boring. Ms. Stein spends page after page building delicious sexual tension, capturing every flickering mood, every scent, texture and taste. Indeed, the whole novel might be viewed as one long sexual encounter, since when Eleanor is not physically involved with Ben, she's fantasizing about him.
The novel's ending veers toward a romance Happily Ever After. Then again, a really satisfying sexual relationship does often lead to deeper connections. After reading Power Play, I'm definitely convinced that Ms. Harding will be spanking, sodomizing, humiliating and otherwise tormenting a very happy Benjamin Tate for a long time to come.
I’m not a fan of erotic romance.
I don’t see the allure of emotionally distant billionaires—emotionally distant anyone, for that matter. Just so you know I don’t have it out for billionaires.
It annoys the hell out of me when female characters are drawn as clumsy to make readers hate them less, or something like that. My family motto is practically “Never admit to weakness,” so I’m perplexed by the strategy when women gush, “Oh, but I am so clumsy. Gosh, I can’t function in life, I’m such a scatterbrain.” Come on, ladies. You can’t fool me. I’ve seen the way you handle real life, jobs, kids, marriage, committees that organize the entire world, deal with sick or elderly parents, and negotiate through hard economic times. You aren’t idiots, so why do you like reading about characters that are? I don’t get it.
So you see, I’m probably the last person who should be reviewing Charlotte Stein’s Run to You, because all the story elements are practically designed to irritate the crap out of me. And yet, Ms. Stein is such a delightful storyteller that even this black, hardened heart lightened up a bit. I know! Scandalous! Once she dispensed with the de rigueur introduction of the character Alissa as a loser, she let Alissa turn it about and act like a sensible person. Alissa knew her comfort zones. Like any real hero, she pushed herself to try things, but didn’t always like them. When that happened, she clearly said no and didn’t let herself be pushed. That’s admirable in anyone, male or female.
Janos starts off as emotionally distant and sort of dom-ish. What made him interesting wasn’t his billions, but how he was just as unprepared for a relationship as Alissa was. There’s so much ebb and flow of power between the two that it came across as an equal relationship. Despite some D/s aspects in the bedroom, out in the real world they’re not doing scenes. They can barely deal with just being themselves. And even in private, there’s a playfulness between them that made me think that, okay, if these were real people, they really would get along.
I was a little disappointed toward the end when the story took a turn to the formulaic, but what can you do? It’s erotic romance. [Editor’s note: And that is but one of the reasons Erotica Revealed strives not to review erotic romance. I am sorry Kathleen; I did not realize Run to You was erotic romance.] But even then, I enjoyed Ms Stein’s writing. Just please, don’t tell anyone I recommended this book. I have a reputation to maintain, after all. ;)
Envy. It's one of the hazards of reviewing work in one's own genre. Every so often you encounter a book so wonderful that you can't help wishing you'd written it yourself. If you're not careful, it can spoil your whole day.
The Things That Make Me Give In is one of those books. Charlotte Stein has penned a collection of imaginative, intense and extremely nasty erotic tales, which manage to stimulate the senses without neglecting the intellect. I'd love to claim it as my own. This book, though, belongs uniquely to Charlotte, because I believe it's a brazen exploration of her personal fantasies (and perhaps her experiences). Usually I refer more formally to authors in my reviews, but this volume demands a more intimate tone. In this book, Charlotte bares all.
She has a distinctive voice, brash, energetic, self-deprecating, introspective, full of sentence fragments and body parts. Her stories rush forward, born along on the current of an inner monologue. Not every tale is first person (though many of them are), but they might as well be. We're in the head of the main character (in every case but one, a woman) who is simultaneously analyzing everything and oozing for some action. To give you a taste, here's a segment from one of my favorite tales, “Dirty Disgusting You:”
His leg brushes mine, and it's terrible but I like it. I think about last week in the cinema, watching pinkly sweet bodies pretend to enjoy each other on the screen, the screen then fading to black just as it got to the really good bits. And him whispering through the darkness at me: Do you want to make our own good bits up?
I did. I do. But then he asked me to touch myself and I couldn't do it. I told him so, too, and he laughed. Though he hadn't laughed at all when I told him that I'd never touched myself. Not ever.
The look on his face! As though a grown woman who never masturbated was the equivalent of a straight man never looking at a big pair of tits. That shocked, slightly condescending expression made me say some spiteful things to him, but none of them landed. Or, at least, he never made me feel bad for saying them.
The voice is cheeky, fresh and a bit wild. The stories vary, but the voice is consistent. This is perhaps, the book's main weakness. In some ways it feels more like a novel than a collection of stories. The woman whose mind we inhabit differs superficially from one story to the next, but somehow I had the sense that she was really a single character, a single woman, whom I'm fairly convinced is Charlotte herself.
This woman likes big men, sometimes more than one at a time. She's turned on by power games, whether she's on the top or the bottom. She pretends to be innocent but is willing to do just about anything if someone teases her enough. She loves to be fucked hard and deluged in come. She's drawn to strangeness, otherness, feeling kinship with people who are “Different on the Inside,” to cite the title of one tale.
In “Because I Made You So,” she's a student lusting helplessly for her stern professor. In “Her Father Disapproves,” she's the girl next door, teasing the junior accountant her father has invited to a summer getaway. “Just Be Good” puts her in the role of the juvenile delinquent, challenging the town sheriff to put her in handcuffs. In “Yes/,”,she agrees to do whatever her partner orders; in the paired tale “/Yes,” she's the one giving the orders. In neither case does she get exactly what she expects.
The sex in The Things That Make Me Give In is visceral and messy, but it's never just sex. There's always a subtext, always the analysis. Talking is another kind of fucking (the whole point of her bittersweet tale “Phoned In”). Charlotte understands the feedback loop between mind and body; she can't turn off her mind even when someone is trying to fuck her brains out.
I part the lips of my pussy myself, and let that slippery tip slide against it. Pleasure surges and tries to force me over the edge into orgasm, but I hold off. I want him to rub against my clit and then push his cock into me. I want him to fuck me the way that he just fucked himself, in punishing strokes that make me pant harder and say more than I'm doing now.
And when I tell him all this, he sings my praises.
I sing his right back. I tell him all the things I've always wanted to, but left by the wayside because they sounded too cheesy or too clichéd or too much. When he pushes his cock through my slit and down to my wet and waiting hole, I tell him that he's so big, that he fills me like nothing else, that I love his cock in my pussy.
He tilts my hips to meet his thrusts, one-handed. Just one big hand on my hip. His fingers stir against my clit, and my orgasm begins something like fluttering. Wings beating against my skin. Saying something now only makes them beat harder.
Given all the fucking and sucking and coming in this collection, I find it interesting that my favorite tale involves no physical sex at all – only stories about sex. “For You,” one of the darker contributions in the book, is narrated by a nurse caring for a cardiac patient who is waiting for a transplant heart. Dwelling in the shadow of death, he concocts lascivious fables of irresistible desire for his caretaker. His words leave her damp and twitching as they bear him away to the surgery he might not survive.
This story could, of course, represent the entire book in a nutshell.