A lonely submissive waits in line outside Dungeons & Dreams, an exclusive BDSM club that holds “no membership required” nights only once a month. Erin’s nipples are clamped under her blouse. Her pussy is bare under her brief skirt. New in town, she has moved to Texas from California to escape her harrowing past. Since arriving, she has tried to suppress her need to be dominated, without success. Tonight she hopes she’ll be granted admission to the club, to scratch that itch she can’t ignore.
An olive-complexioned, dark-haired, breathtakingly handsome man passes her on his way into the club. Their eyes meet, before Erin remembers that her role requires her to keep her glance lowered. He speaks to the doorman, and moments later, she’s escorted into the club, into the realm of Master Jayden.
Jayden has been frustrated in his attempts to find a sub who’ll willingly endure the pain he longs to inflict. He’s so difficult to satisfy that his Dom friends tease him about his unrealistic expectations. When he encounters Erin, or Catherine as she calls herself when she’s in scene, he can’t believe his good fortune. She seems to have everything he’s been seeking: beauty, intelligence, excellent training, a natural love of kink and a true desire to serve. She even cooks. (I am not kidding.) In record time, they’ve concluded a contract and Erin is wearing his collar. Their formal agreement covers all the details: soft and hard limits; safe words; requirements for Erin to eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and get monthly checkups. Furthermore it stipulates that their relationship is fundamentally sexual. Any sort of bondage is allowed, but no emotional strings.
Of course, Erin quickly falls in love with her powerful, skilled, considerate and highly appreciative master. Being a guy, Jayden pretends for much longer that his feelings for Erin aren’t anything more than just those of a responsible Dom. Eventually, he’s forced to admit he loves her, that he wants more than just a power exchange relationship.
Thus ends book one of The Divine Trilogy, at 422 pages. Two more books wait in the wings.
If this story sounds familiar to you – well, you’re not alone. I suspect there are hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of erotic romance novels with this same basic plot. And yes, this book definitely falls into the category of romance. It’s not erotica. The author’s main concern is the developing relationship between Erin and Jayden. The sex is explicit but muted. The kink is mild, with little real pain despite Jayden’s self-described sadistic needs, but rather, with a focus on the submissive’s pleasure.
Here’s a fairly typical snippet:
“Stand,” Sir ordered.
Catherine complied and her dress slipped from her body to gather around her feet in a shimmering scarlet puddle. She could feel his gaze devouring her almost translucent body and she shuddered. His touch was gentle when he leaned forward and took her ankle in his hand, lifting first one foot, and then the other before moving the dress out of the way. Sir’s fingers trailed up her legs until he was near her sex. Teasing her at that point they traveled outward – rather than upward – around her hips to cup her ass. With a tight squeeze, he pulled her forward until Catherine could feel his hot breath on her freshly-shaved pussy.
Oh, please. Please lick me, Catherine thought.
His tongue flickered out and parted her labia, taking a languid lick. He growled out, “Fuck, you taste good, slut.”
Catherine felt her nipples tighten and her pussy become wetter.
“You will not come without permission, Catherine,” he instructed.
The familiar reminder was unnecessary, but helpful to transport her deeper into that space in her head she longed to go. The command threw open the door to her submissive self.
In general, we eschew reviewing erotic romance at Erotica Revealed, because there are many other review sites for that genre, while there are few if any for erotica. Sometimes, though, a book slips by. In the case of To Serve is Divine, we probably should have read the “praise” from R.E. Hargrave’s fellow author J.C. Clarke at the start of the book before agreeing to review it: “It was so refreshing to see that an author has taken the time to research this genre carefully before putting pen to paper and not just thrown porn into the written form... If you are new to the lifestyle or have read a lot of `smut' out there, I urge you to give this a go.”
A book that so carefully distinguishes itself from “porn” and “smut” probably doesn’t belong at Erotica Revealed.
So, did I hate To Serve is Divine? Actually, no. Despite its predictability, its rather shallow characters and the moderately frequent editing gaffes, I rather enjoyed it. A sub myself, I found it pretty easy to identify with Erin, especially with her pride when her master praises her for her self-discipline and obedience. There is a deep pleasure in serving, which this novel successfully conveys. I liked the emphasis on safety and consensuality in the kink community – and the sense of community in general. The book provides a much more accurate picture of mainstream BDSM practices than FSOG. The novel also draws a clear line between kink and abuse such as Erin experienced at the hands of her previous “master,” Spencer. It shows how the trust required by a BDSM relationship can have a healing effect.
While I didn’t find most of the sex scenes very arousing, they weren’t ridiculous or offensive. There’s one scene near the end of the novel, when Jayden offers the use of Erin to a Dominatrix friend, that pushed my buttons to some extent.
As the excerpt above illustrates, Hargrave’s prose doesn’t really merit the description “literary”, but at least it’s comprehensible most of the time. (I do wonder how Erin’s body became “almost translucent,” though.) It doesn’t get in the way of the story (such as it is).
In short, if you’re looking for a typical BDSM erotic romance, you don’t care much about originality, and you aren’t going to wince when an author names her Dom (without intentional irony) “Jayden Masterson”, you might enjoy this book.
I suspect that many visitors to Erotica Revealed, however, might find it too hackneyed and too tame for their tastes.