December 24, 2012

Review: O Come all ye Kinky edited by Sarah Frantz

Looking for kinky Christmas season themed Femdom reading? Well, this isn't exactly it, but it's close enough to be satisfying. This is a fun collection of heart warming stories, just long enough to keep you entertained, but short enough to read in quiet moment (if such things exist at Christmas).

Of the 8 stories, 6 are M/m, 1 is F/f and then there is a M/F/m. The F/f and M/F/m are rather anomalous - I don't really understand how they fit in. If you want to read about men and women in the same book, then why not a F/m or a M/f story as well? I don't really get it. A purely M/m book probably would have made more sense to me. If you can get yourself into the headspace of the appropriate man and enjoy the stories, these are good fun and pretty hot. If F/m is the only way you can enjoy kinky Christmas fun, then these will not be for you.

Anyhow, the stories.

Twas the Night by Ava March (M/m)
A period tale of a gay couple, I really enjoyed this. Sweet, obviously, with a nice telling of the tentative push and pull of a developing relationship - that moment when both parties realize that yes - you're for me. Love that.

Tree Topper by Jane Davitt (M/m)
An argument about whether a fairy or a star is the right tree topper is the prelude to a bigger row about whether Stan will really accept Martin as his Dom. This was great too, for a similar reason. The insecure Dom and big misunderstanding isn't a trope that I particularly like, but here it works well.

Fireworks by Katie Porter (F/f)
Set on New Years eve, this is another well known trope of the repressed 'nobody loves me because I'm unworthy and scarred' dominant. I'm not so keen on either this trope (especially in females) or F/f, so this wasn't particularly for me.

Candy Cane by L.A. Witt (M/m)
In Candy Cane there is tension as the couple try to escape family to be on their own for Christmas. And there's a sexy male sub being caned with peppermint candy. Awesome.

Submissive Angel by Joey Hill (M/m)
I was looking forward to this, as I love Joey Hill's F/m full length novels. But I'm not so sure about Hill's short stories. I found this story a bit too heavy handed, cliched and smaltzy. Calling the submissive 'Ange' and have him dance in the snow - just in case you didn't get it HE'S AN ANGEL - he's the perfect submissive who will unlock Robert's frozen heart. I felt rather like I was being beaten around the head by sentiment. A total lack of subtlety. I also squicked every time Robert called Ange 'Kid'. I couldn't get into Robert's dominant headspace, despite most of the story being in his third person pov. He just seemed like a bit of an emo whiner. Also - both men were big cliches of gay men (braces? Kind to children, fancied by giggling women?). Sorry. It wasn't for me. Your milage may vary.

Open Return by Elyan Smith (M/F/m)
The story involves Zack going back for Christmas after 10 years, to his small-town teen loves, Laura and Scott, a dominant pair. His recollections are a bit disconcerting and read like typos until you realize that this is a trans story (the he/she issues, as well as Zack having a pussy). The relationship between Scott and Zack is emphasized, at the expense of Laura and Zack. Laura always seems like a bit of an afterthought, a tag on. There's very little dealing with the issues of 1) running away for 10 years, and all the emotions (including anger) that might bring up 2) small town prejudice (there's an incident, but it isn't resolved) 3) potential jealousies that might arise in a 3 way relationship 4) how Zack might be explained to Laura and Scott's kids 5) what happens next? The ending is sex scene, which presumably is a HFN, or is perhaps intended as a HEA. I'm not convinced. 

His Very Last Chance by Kim Dare (M/m)
If New Year is about anything, (aside from fireworks and getting drunk) it is about redemption, correcting mistakes, forgiving and forgetting and starting again with misconceptions corrected. Drew messed up. He boasted that his Dom wasn't into love and romance (making him even more Dom-ly, of course). Kingsley is upset that all the little ways that he's indicated to Drew that he values him beyond anything or anyone else have gone unnoticed. He's hurt and angry (mainly at himself). After licking his wounds alone over Christmas, he decides that New Year is make or break, and orders Drew to meet him. I really enjoyed this story, and found Kingsley's Dom headspace a very pleasant place to be (via the third person). He is nervous about finally revealing himself, but more sarcastic and sadistic than whiny. And the descriptions of the het up sub are nice. I wouldn't mind one of those over New Year.

If I had my time over, I'd have read to the end of Candy Cane, then skipped to His Very Last Chance, and ended with a nice sexy Christmassy feeling of things coming right, despite all too fallible human nature. B-

December 16, 2012

Fifty Shades of Women taking Control: Hidden Femdom in Romance

I think that women in control is more common than we think and becoming more common. In bed as well as outside of it, women have more agency than at any other time in history. Obviously, there is a some way yet to go (the rant about how women are seen as less competent than men was last month). But there are lots of things to celebrate, many ways that women take control in novels in subtle, hidden ways. One might almost say, fifty shady ways that women are more dominant than we realize. ;)   (Actually, it's going to be three today. Otherwise this will be yet another TL;DR).

Women in control does sell, can sell, in romance. That was my conclusion last month and I'm going to try and justify it. Exhibit A is a romance book that is in practically every top 10 romance novels of all time. Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels isn't even kinky, it isn't subtle femdom, but it is an example of a heroine in control. Jess is the together, competent and clever one in the relationship. She seduces Dain, outwits him, takes everything in her stride while he is left reeling and ultimately he gives in and just does what she says. In a kinky re-write of LOS Jess would be the dominant, even if sometimes she let Dain be the top. Loretta Chase books are full of strong women who tell their men what to do. Chase's latest book, Scandal wears Satin, features a smart, competent woman and a man whose main strength is braun rather than brains. Yes, of course these books are vanilla through and through, but hidden in some of the most popular books is women taking the lead in life. Taking the lead in bed is a logical corollary.

A Lady Awakened by Cecilia Grant, unlike LOS was published this year, features on plenty of top romances of 2012 lists and is wonderful subtle femdom. Any book that features a man who gets turned on by servicing a woman in a Queen/stablehand dynamic and refers to clubs in London where men would pay to be scowled at, surely counts as subtle femdom. The hero is confessedly a feckless idiot and the heroine is severe and bends things to her will. This isn't a book that is as universally liked as LOS, but it has had considerable acclaim this year, along with an acknowledgement that even last year, it might not have been published. A Lady Awakened is a step forward for romance as a genre.

Finally, why have I included a cheap reference to Fifty Shades of Grey? To me, (not having read FSOG), it seems like the antithesis of femdom. A weak, silly girl and a stalking, obsessive alphahole man. And yet I noticed that the image on the official FSOG sex toys is of a woman dominating a man (top right). This is pretty interesting, as it is seems to be the direct opposite of what FSOG is about. What this image suggests to me is that, one: it's women who are instigating BDSM type activities in the bedroom (by buying the toys) and two: women are turning the toys they buy on their men. FSOG is rather interesting from this perspective - the book may be all about a weak woman, but the consequences, the talk about it, and perhaps even the merchandise IS ALL ABOUT WOMEN. Ana is the embodiment of naivety, but for the women who read FSOG, it is all about knowledge. And everyone knows, knowledge is power.

November 19, 2012

Femdom-ish Book Review Round-up November 2012

This month there's a book/novella (40k words) published by Carina Press, Forbidden Desires by Jodie Griffin. DearAuthor reviews Forbidden Desires by Jodie Griffin and finds it a bit, meh. Predictably, the heroine is actually submissive and the plot device that makes the desires 'forbidden' doesn't make much sense (-well I say that, it sounds like the forbidden bit is mainly just her going 'oh, I'm so naughty for wanting to be dominant, but that's fine, because I'm submissive anyhow').

Her Majesty's Plaything reviewed The Softness of His Fur, which sounds like a much better bet. A fantasy/alternative world pet/owner relationship between a domme and her pup, this seems like it would appeal to anyone interested in F/m pet play. Also, it has a truly awesome cover. I like the cover a great deal. The second instalment is available too, with the slightly less catchy, Beyond the Softness of his Fur #2.

I also noticed The Viscountess Investigates by Cameron Quintain. It sells itself as kinky universe Victorian mistress/slave team detective story. This sounds like a lot to take on in a 200 page book, but hey, it's an interesting concept. If you've read it, let me know what you thought of it.

What have you been reading this month? Have you found some wonderful new femdom fiction?

November 7, 2012

Why femdom doesn't sell. Or, the false dichotomy of 'normal' vs. femdom.

Romance is one of the best selling genres world over. There are countless genres - paranormal, historical, cowboy, contemporary american, religious, BDSM, medical - you get the idea. The BDSM is universally male dom, and there's one genre conspicuously missing. Femdom. It's not popular in the romance reading female population . But women who read romances (romance readers are predominantly women) are well educated (usually to degree level), relatively affluent and in happy relationships. That demographic sounds like women who run their own lives and the lives of others. So why on earth don't they want to read about women like them - women who control their lives, sex, and frequently, the men in their lives?

Research shows that people of both genders and all ages consistently rate women as being less competent than men, when they have identical qualifications. This is a professional context, but I think that there are social corollaries. In almost every scope of life, in almost every artistic genre, the sad fact is that almost by definition, strength, competence and dominance are male, and weakness, helplessness and submission are female.

I think that if I described a dom, and then said whether that person was a male or a female, that on average, people would judge the female dom as being less competent. Obviously, a woman who is dominant is equally strong, competent and sexy to her sticky-out-genitaled equivalent. And a relationship led by a woman is just as likely to be successful and happy as a relationship led by a man. But men are culturally seen as more competent and I think that this extends to guiding relationships too. I think that romances are full of alpha males who control the relationship and everything else because unconsciously people think that men are more competent than women at being in control.

Cultural norms are so strong, I imagine that most people don't even realize that they think that a relationship led by a dominant, strong man is more likely to work. And you know what - chances are you've thought it yourself. For instance, you hear that a woman colleague of yours is getting married. Wonderful news. Then you hear that she proposed to her boyfriend. Now, is there a little worm in your ear, saying that it won't last? She likes him more than he likes her, doesn't she? Because if he wanted to get married, he'd have asked, right?

Culturally, it's difficult for us to believe in a HEA that isn't male led and male instigated. Male dom in happy ever after is just what people think that they know: it's as 'natural' as being white, being straight and working in an office. For most people, male dom HEA just is. It's not that they can't articulate it, it's that they wouldn't even realize that they think it. Most books are written from the unconscious standpoint that everyone is better off with a man in charge. Most women are happy with that status quo, because they don't realize that the comforting normality of the alphahole male is a social construct not a reality.

There is a surfeit of data that shows that women are at least as good or better than men in all aspects of life except brute strength tests. I've talked about cultural norms, but even if unconsciously people like men to be in charge, many women like to believe in equality. So why is male dom almost universal in romances and erotica? Why are 'normal' romance books full of weak, submissive women and alphahole men when, if you asked them directly, most people say that they believe that men and women are equally competent? Surely there must be a market for books which competent, or even dominant women? I think that there are several answers to this question, but I'm going to propose this one: The alternatives are too extreme.

Anyone who looks for something different, perhaps a clever woman who isn't belittled by her partner, quickly discovers that this is difficult to find. Someone looking for a genuinely equal pairing of male and female might well fail to find it at all. Someone looking for something just the other side of equal, might start looking at femdom. At which point the first thing they will find is dommes who torture their male submissives, horrible women who will laugh as dogs rip men apart and cruel ladies who chop off men's dicks. That would send most people scurrying in haste back to the subtle male of dom of normality.

Male dominant normality vs. hard core femdom is a false dicotomy. But this is the choice that readers of erotica or romance are given if they want anything to the middle or female dom side of male dom. Faced with this, is it any wonder that vanilla women stick to their alpha males? Femdom books don't have to be all whips and chains. They can be subtle, featuring men who are brilliant followers to their caring, strong women.

So, in my opinion, there are two obstacles to femdom stories. One is the ingrained idea that men are better leaders than women and that we need a man in charge to have a successful HEA. The other is that currently, there is very little which caters for an audience of readers who would like a vanilla female led relationship.

How do we define what is a femdom book? This is practical as well as a philosophical question for me - you've seen the labels 'not really femdom', and 'subtle femdom' on this site. These are the kind of books that I like best and I think that other romance readers like them too (more on that in a subsequent post). This post is my attempt to suggest that there is a gap in the market for female led relationship books. Stories labelled as 'femdom' are tainted by the extreme kink which is never going to appeal to the mainstream. We need to get beyond femdom and normal as a dichotomy and look at combatting the biggest problem here: the incorrect idea that women are less competent than men. How do we do that? Like any ingrained cultural problem, half the battle is recognizing that there is a problem.

TL,DR: Many people unconsciously think that HEA is more reliable if a man is in charge. But romance readers take control of their real lives. It's the false dichotomy of normal vs. extremely kinky femdom with unsympathetic cruel dommes that puts readers off. If there were appealing vanilla options of novels featuring female led relationships, I think that romance readers would read them.

November 2, 2012

Review: Double Take by Rynna Cress

This is the perfect jerk off material for submissive men who fantasise about their lovely neighbour. I don't quite fulfil the criteria to really love this story, but in general, I did enjoy it.

Gabe is in love with Ashley, his neighbor. So when she phones and asks him to pick up her sister from the airport for her, after he stops his heart palpitations, he readily obeys. What she doesn't tell him is that he is picking up her evil twin. Gabe is supposed to be innocent of BDSM, but he takes to Jenna (Ashley's twin) ordering him around rather easily. Gabe's awkward flirting quickly turns into Jenna telling him what to do. The first thing that Jenna does is grab Gabe the balls, and squeeze. As it turns out, Gabe likes this. Though of course, as this is mainly from Gabe's point of view (the story is in third person, but we mainly hang out in Gabe's head), he has to posture about how much it hurts. Jenna proceeds to take all sorts of liberties with Gabe's body.

Gabe is mortified that he is betraying Ashley, as although nothing has happened yet with her, it's Ashley that Gabe really likes - loves maybe. So he is terrified that Ashley will walk into her apartment and find him with Jenna. So it's rather a co-incidence that when Jenna goes to "get changed", Ashley walks in to find Gabe naked, plugged and shooting off all over her floor.

Ashley though gets straight into the spirit of the situation that has been left by her sister

Since this is a novella, only about 30 pages, with plenty of sex and kink, there is obviously not much chance for little things like realism, safewords, or character development. And that's okay. The thing that rather didn't work for me is, as ever, a spoiler.

*** Spoilers ***

In the epilogue, Ashley walks into her kitchen, to find that Jenna has put the dildo into the dishwasher. They joke that they can have him in shifts. The twist is of course, that they really are twins. They joke about sharing and stringing him along, that they are the same. I guess it's a fun sort of ending, imagining poor Gabe being ordered around by these twins. But I'm not keen for several reasons. I'm not a big one for sharing - I like my boy all for myself. Then, I'm not keen on any sort of familial relationship mixed up with sex - it squicks me out. Deception rather ruins the HFN, as although Gabe probably wouldn't give more than a token resistance to the idea, it doesn't feel quite right. Also, I'm not sure that two doms and one sub is a fantastic combination. Too much potential for jealousy and, really - is one sub enough for two women?! It doesn't seem to me to be woman's fantasy, to share a sub with her sister (it certainly isn't mine). It's a man's fantasy, and that's just fine if you're a man.

*** End Spoilers ***

This story has Cress' trademark humor and high sexuality. It's brief and fun, and features moments like this that I like:
“Ass up in the air, darling, and spread those knees…”
Gabe obeyed, his eyes growing wide as his cheek landed against the carpet once more. He felt her hand on the small of his back, pushing it downwards and stretching his backside into a position of maximum vulnerability.
My ass, he realized… she’s going to fuck my ass.
Who can resist such a delightfully obtuse submissive? I can't.

I should add another squick warning. This story includes a sort of golden shower moment, when Jenna forces Gabe to drink her urine straight from the source. This didn't work for me. I couldn't really understand why it was there - Jenna was already pushing his boundaries pretty comprehensively, so I didn't feel it was needed. Was it a punishment? Or a reward? I wasn't really sure what purpose it had. And personally, I think that unsolicited pissing in your sister's living room is a hard limit when it comes to politeness, never mind kink.

Apart from that, it's all rather tongue in cheek and sexy at the same time. So yes, I enjoyed this on balance. It's not the emotional connection between a mistress and her submissive that I really crave, but it was entertaining. For being fun, but not really for me, it's a C+.

October 20, 2012

Femdom-ish Book Review Round-up October 2012

I started this blog because I found it difficult, or impossible, to get reliable reviews of books that were Femdom, F/m or even just women on top -ish. I still find this a challenge, so I've been thinking that I should highlight what look like reliable reviews or recommendations for books in related areas when I see them. There are also some new releases which come to my attention, which I don't have time to read and review, so perhaps they might appear here too. Whether this will become a regular feature, who knows. Anyhow, all of the following comes with the proviso that I take no responsibility, your mileage may vary, etc. etc.

Her Majesty's Plaything recently posted a review/summary of The Vanilla Dominatrix. HMP did a series of three posts, looking first at the book, then two more considering Her Majesty's thoughts on the book and how The Vanilla Dominatrix relates to the relationship that he is in.

I thought that all of HMP's posts were an interesting reflection on developing real life F/m relationships from vanilla relationships. I'm not sold on the "Vanilla Dominatrix" concept, as it seems rather inflexible - if you only play part time, you're a Vanilla Dominatrix. That seems tantamount to saying "she's not a real domme" and that whole argument is very tedious. I haven't read it, but on balance it seems to me that despite this issue, this book is probably doing a social good. Men pointing out to other men that women are unlikely to be willing to conform to their porn-informed fantasies of a leather clad bitch, but that women to whom they are attracted (strong women who like to take charge) would most likely be willing to give kink a try, seems like a very good thing to me.

In other news, Ariane Arborene published Classic FemDom Stories Volume 3 last month. I haven't read any of her work, but new femdom is always a cause for celebration. :)

Not so recently (alright, a long time ago on the internet), Sarah Frantz from DearAuthor reviewed a couple of Femdom books. Amongst them, The Christmas she Rules. This seems like it's okay, but very short (this is a common gripe that I have about femdom stories. So often they are much too short.) Velvet Submission sounds more like it, and is on my TBR list, with slight reservations. The way that Sarah reviews suggests to me that she probably picks up similar issues to the ones that bother me in stories, and generally DearAuthor reviewers are pretty reliable (for non femdom genres) in my experience.

Have you noticed any recently published femdom books? Or read anything good recently?

October 13, 2012

Review: Control by Charlotte Stein

I put off buying Control because I was unsure who, if either of the men we meet in the sample, was going to be the HEA hero. The book more or less opens with the heroine being fucked by a potential employee, Andy, over the kitchen table. Gabriel walks in on them and is subsequently employed in Madison's erotic book store. I was concerned that Madison was going to get her HEA as the submissive. There wasn't anything particularly to suggest this - it's just depressingly common in stories that female switches, or even dominants, have to be submissive. My worry was unjustified. I don't think it gives too much away to reveal that quite quickly Madison realizes that tentative submissive virgin Gabriel is the man for her. Andy is a foil to their kinks, to their relationship and to Madison's fear of commitment. He drives the emotional plot and the sex forward and therefore it doesn't feel unnatural for him to be in the story and I don't feel that he poses a risk to the HEA. A nice compromise all in all.

So anyhow, the plot. Madison owns and runs a book store selling erotica, and needs an assistant. The kind of assistance offered by Andy, her first interviewee, is not exactly what she had in mind, but she's enjoying it all the same. Her second applicant walks in on them. Despite herself, Madison thinks about him:
...his too thick glasses and his tweediness and those hunched shoulders...
Well! We've not met a hero like that before and I LIKE IT! It's never quite clear how Madison then employs Gabe, but she does and all sorts of teasing ensues. Andy reappears to fuck Madison, but she gets off much more on teasing Gabe, the thought of him knowing or watching her fuck Andy and the image of him, awkward and turned on by her deliberately provocative actions. At one point, Andy is fucking her and she is thinking:
Gabe bent over me, fucking me the way Andy is while I tell him - I don't beg him - to do it harder. Do it harder, babe, yes. Give it to me I want you. I want you. Just you. 
Though Madison is a switch and somewhat of an exhibitionist and is submissive to Andy, she actually uses him to work out her feelings for Gabe. At one point, Madison and Andy are fucking in the kitchen (again) and Andy says to her:
'Make up your mind, hon. I'm going to come pretty soon and then you'll kick my arse out of here.'
So although when they're having sex she's Andy's submissive, in many other ways, Madison is in control. Which makes it somewhat surprising that Madison doesn't spit it out when it appears that she wants to be dominant with Andy and Gabe together. Madison doesn't say anything. So you have moments like this:
'Maddie doesn't know what she wants. Isn't that right babe?'
I'm sure I do. I do, right?
It's moments like that that I think that this book could just as easily have been called Confused as Control. And:
I hate Andy. I don't know why I 'm not telling him to get out.
Madison, it's because you like the idea of having two men. Also, he's hot. And you seem to get off on being used. I don't however get off on being used, and I find it difficult to get out of your first person head-space and into Andy's, directing you and Gabe, in order to enjoy the scene.
And again:
Andy just grins - his expression saying dance, puppets, dance, very clearly. I've no idea how he took the reins so quickly, but I understand this much for sure: my own efforts seem weak and third rate, by comparison.
This is, I think, the crux of the issue. It's the old trope of the insecure, nervous heroine: the placeholder heroine. In this case, I think that Madison's unsureness about what she wants and her insecurity about being a dominant is supposed to reflect the reader's potential nervousness about switching from submissive to dominant. It is supposed to make us empathize with Madison, that she can't speak up, or stand up to Andy. Placeholder heroines who are wet blankets generally make me want to slap them. And Madison, when she continually doesn't say anything to Andy when he takes control, really needs to snap out of it.


And the miraculous thing is, that in this story, she pretty much does snap out of it. Not exactly the way I would have liked, but good enough to stop me, mid grump. There's a misunderstanding in their threesome while they're having sex. Gabe thinks that Andy is hurting her. Technically, he is, but Madison is enjoying it, but somehow cannot articulate this to Gabe. (A lot of the problems that need to be overcome in this book are to do with Madison being unable to spit out what she really means at the crucial moment.) After they establish that Madison was quite happy, Gabe asks Madison to domme Andy, and she does. The scene that follows is awesome. Though I have reservations about how she got to this point, I find something delicious in the role reversal of Madison protecting Gabe from Andy, and humiliating Andy. Gabe gets off on humiliation, but even so, it's surely the dominant's right /duty/pleasure to protect their submissive. Everyone's happy.

 In another amusing gender trope reversal, it is Gabe who runs away because he thinks that Madison doesn't love him (the classic Harlequin Presents scenario is that the heroine runs away because she believes that the hero doesn't love her). Gabe thinks that Madison loves Andy, who can switch and dom her, whereas he can only be submissive. Madison, thank god, comes to her senses, chases after him and they have their HEA. I'm not quite sure what causes Madison to suddenly decide that she doesn't need to be submissive anymore, when she was being submissive to Andy only the night before. But hey, let's not allow technicalities to get in the way. This is a pretty convincing switch to F/m HEA and that is sooooo good <happy sigh>.

***End Spoilers***

A comparison between this book and Power Play is unavoidable. The characters are very similar: an up-tight heroine who is discovering that she loves being in control; a hero who is discovering just how far his kinkiness goes; a third person that both brings the pair together and keeps them apart. The emotional plots are similar; the setting (work) is similar. Even the covers are the same - with an identical photo of the same couple and a pink color scheme. Both Power Play and Control are written in a visceral first-person narrative and have a great build up of the sex and the relationship and the decent into spine-tingling kinkiness. And they are both HOT HOT HOT.

For me, the plot is more cohesive in Control, and the threesome is much better integrated into the story and the relationship. Power Play blindsided me with unexpected submissive scenes that jarred with the relationship and left me with concerns about the future happiness of the protagonists. Not so in Control.

In terms of characters, the heroes are actually quite different. Gabe is a geeky virgin, whereas Ben (in Power Play) is cooler and more knowledgeable. I felt that Gabe cares much more about Madison than Ben did about Elenor. Comparing the two, I wonder if Ben is more interested in his kink than he is in Elenor, whereas the opposite is definitely true of Gabe.

Often, the review length is inversely proportional to how much I liked the book. Not so here. I've talked about some of the tensions in the story, but I haven't said how amazing the scenes are between Madison and Gabe. Where he licks her out, repeatedly, follows her orders, is teased, denied, directed, spanked and humiliated, it's wonderful. It's incandescently good. The multiple, almost continuous sex scenes are spectacularly erotic. Definitely NSFW and totally distracting.

TL;DR: I have some reservations about this story, but overall, it's a gem. If we're really lucky, perhaps one day Charlotte Stein will write a full femdom story, where the heroine is dominant all the time. Until then, Control is pretty damn good.


October 4, 2012

Review: Cruel to be Kind by Stephanie Vaughan

Cruel to be Kind is a small town America romance novel, in every sense of the concept. If you like books by Susan Elizabeth Philips and other classic 'going back to hometown from the big city' type stories, then this might be for you. If you like your men to drink beer and your women to realize the error of their ways in wanting to live in a city. If you like your men to men and women to be women, and want a hint of F/m, but not anything scary. If that's you, then this review might offend you.

Small town America. Where men are REAL MEN and women are real women. Where gender stereotypes are still alive and well. Being a REAL MAN, for those not initiated into small town America stories, means that you drink beer, drive a truck, act like a dick and though you would happily fuck a woman in the ass, no-one could possibly put anything near your sacred hole, because that would mean that you're not a REAL MAN. Being a real woman means that you are an over-emotional martyr to the idiotic behavior of your man, you make pie and have children, own your own cupcake company (or something equally saccharine) and will happily humiliate and prostrate yourself to the hero in the name of twue love. If you get the impression that this is not my favorite concept, you're absolutely right. This misguided trope is one of the reasons (IMHO) that wonderful submissive men feel inadequate and undervalued and dominant women feel that they aren't going to have their own HEA. I am profoundly offended by it and I wasn't expecting it from this story. I was blindsided by bigoted opinions in Cruel to be Kind, and I'm not happy about it.

Anyhow, the plot. Megan is running her sister's business while the sister is busy have babies, so Megan dropped her whole life and came running. Megan is eying up a good bit of beefcake in a bar while she does the accounts for the business, when Steve (said beefcake) notices and comes over to hassle her ask her out to dinner. There's a pretty hot scene where she orders him to stroke himself through his pockets in the bar. But then, she walks out, ordering him to meet her tomorrow, and it begins to become an oddly paced / spaced series of 'dates' between them, that don't hang together well for me.

One of the issues is that this novella is full of cliches.  Take this exchange: they're in Steve's house. The last thing that was said was Megan saying about liking all sorts of food, then asking Steve if he had help decorating (he did, though nothing is every made of this).
"You mocking my he-man club house?"
"I wouldn't dream of it."
"Good. You'd better not be playing with me. A man doesn't appreciate having his big-screen mocked."
Megan's eyelashes made a slow sweep downward before eyes like bittersweet chocolate flicked him with a sidelong glance. "Oh, I'll play with you, alright..."
Is that seriously what passes for witty banter these days? I'll play with you, alright. It sounds dull and inane to me. I should mention too, that I've added paragraphs when different people are talking to the quote above. No such courtesy was done for me. There are random paragraph splits, often mid sentence. Each time a new person speaks, it is convention to start a new line. This is one cliche not adhered to in this story. Whole conversations are run together in a confusing mess.

Not only is this story packed full of cliches, it's also full of the same phrases. God is mentioned 21 times (usually as an expletive), Jesus 5 times. Fuck - also usually as an expletive, is used 46 times. "So good." or some variant (like "So fucking good!") appears 9 times. It's like the characters can't think of anything to say. 

The story is also full of plot holes. When Steve first meets Megan, she's eating shepherds pie. But then, when he orders food for them, he orders fettuccine, in case she's a vegetarian. Right, Steve. Megan made such an impression on you, that you didn't notice that she was eating shepherds pie - that well known meat-free dish. Or anchovies in the pizza that you ordered the night before. This is either lack of continuity, or Steve is stupidly unobservant.

As another instance of a plot hole, the first night they get frisky together, Megan gives Steve photocopies of her driving license, medical summary and work information. She says that he won't get any of the goods until she sees the same from him. This doesn't make much sense to me, as the most D/s thing she does that night is make Steve hold his hands behind the back of a chair. But okay, she's super conservative about playing by the book and being a responsible dominant. Which is fine, but then this little regulation is promptly forgotten and two weeks later she's letting him have sex with her without a condom (WTF!!). And of course, Steve has a disappointed look in his eye that she's on the pill - he wants to have a baby with a woman he only just met. Of course.

Because this is a small town story, it is full of extraneous detail. The sister makes an unessary cameo. As does an older woman who mentored and dommed Megan (apparently you have to train as a submissive before you can be a dominant - it sounds a bit like graduation).  We are told about Megan cutting up vegetables five times in this novella. Five times - doesn't she have something more interesting to do?! We might as well have been told about her taking out the bins...


Anyhow, back to the plot. So everything is going pretty well for Steve and Megan. There is a minor hickup when Megan wants to try some anal play, and Steve vetos it strongly, verbally and physically. Megan backs off, berating herself for taking it too quickly. This is despite him having confessed to fantasizing about poking her back entrance. (Clearly, anal is okay for women, but REAL MEN don't take it up the ass.) Then at work, one of Steve's friends is telling the story of how he intruded on his girlfriend's privacy and looked at her porn films. They included titles such as "Bend Over, Boyfriend" and "Babes Ballin' Boys". The male audience laugh at their friend and the story teller lashes out.
"If anyone's getting fucked up the ass, it ain't gonna be me."
Winking at Rick behind Robert's back, Steve couldn't resist getting in on the ragging. "Well, I don't know there, Robert. Maybe you'd like it. I hear that after you get used to it, it feels pretty good. You know. 'It's only weird the first time'."
"Yeah, I guess if anyone would know it would be you, Steve-o."
"What the fuck's that supposed to mean, Robert?" He wasn't pissed. But his arms unfolded from their formerly relaxed position across his chest. He was just flexing his fingers, that was all. He wasn't going to hit the little cocksucker.
"Nothin' man. Just, if it's got hair like a chick, and tit jewelry like a chick..." The little shit was enjoying himself way too much. The smirk on his face made Steve itch to put his hands around ol' Bobby's greasy little neck and squeeze. "No shame in being a catcher in a world full of pitchers, man."
Rick's face was suddenly in Steve's and his brother was holding him back. ...... [Steve's brother drags him away and Rick says to him: ]
....."Hey, I'm sorry if your bother doesn't like looking in the mirror. I'm just surprised it took him and Manly Megan this long to hook up."
I'm not sure I have the energy to go into the multitude of ways that this whole scene offends me. I will let you puzzle over it yourself. (Feel free to comment.)

The next time he is due to see her, Steve stands Megan up, then blanks and brushes her off when she sees him at the bar. Presumably, Steve is scared that if he hangs out with Manly Megan he won't be a REAL MAN.  But we don't know, because although we are 'in' Steve's head a lot, all he does is lust after and be possessive and jealous over Megan. We don't see why he decides to blank her. We don't see why he changes his mind a week later. He is just a ginger boy with muscles and lust. He has zero personality. Certainly no feelings. (I think having emotions violates a REAL MAN rule anyhow.) 

As Steve tries to rid himself of these unwanted thoughts of Megan, he recalls previous women he'd been intimate with. (How sweet, how coy...). Including the foreign exchange student and older woman who'd helped him lose his virginity in his fourteenth year.. This really horrified me. That's statutory rape. Consensual or not, people (of both sexes) are put in prison for having sex with minors. That's the law. It's not a variable question of morality, it's against the law. The careless way that the author mentions this makes me very angry. I also feel because of the context, that this is supposed to explain why he is submissive. Countless studies have shown that there is no connection between sexual abuse (which is arguably what happened to Steve) and D/s. This insidious connection between statutory rape and D/s is wrong. It devalues the consensual nature of the D/s that the majority practice. I think that it is additionally supposed to imply that Steve is a total REAL MAN because he lost his virginity young. Again, I think this is a damaging and irresponsible thing to suggest. Mentioning casually an illegal activity in the middle of an erotic story is like dropping a nuclear bomb right in the plot and wreaks the same damage.

Steve eventually comes to his senses and is immediately forgiven by Megan. They go off into the sunset, but not before Steve has dommed her. It's tame, but there is an unmistakable shift of power. There's no emotional reason for it that I could see. But then, there's very little reason to any of this story. To be honest, by this point I didn't give a toss about either of the characters, or the story.

***End Spoilers***

I don't even know why this story is called Cruel to be Kind. Megan isn't cruel to Steve. She is distinctly tepid and overtly respectful of his arbitrary boundaries (actually, all she does is give him lots of orgasms). He is emotionally cruel to her, but I don't think that is cruel to be kind either.

TL,DR: Cliched in story, characterization and phrasing, this tepid story of small town America had me rolling my eyes and wishing, like bad sex, that it would be over quickly.

I'm sorry. I didn't like this much. There might have been some hot scenes in this book somewhere, but I was so busy thinking WTF, I couldn't enjoy them. I don't like the gender roles that this story upholds and I think that the only personality characteristic that the hero has is that he is an bigoted asshole. Megan is the least dominant/feisty, dominant woman I have ever read about. The plot is full of inconsistencies, the phrasing is repetitive and the lack of formatting drove me crazy.

I'm going to be genuinely cruel (to the book) to be kind (to potential readers) and give this a D. Maybe even an E. I don't care really. Whichever you like.

September 11, 2012

Review: The Dude Ranch by P.F. Dee

So crazy, it's good. The Dude Ranch is pure fantasy, slightly mad-cap, totally unrealistic, stuffed with kink and really quite good. You certainly have to suspend your disbelief though...

Dexter is in his second week at the dude ranch, where men pay to go to be teased and demeaned. The cowgirls 'milk' the men in the cowshed, make them work out, eat steak and milkshakes and if they are really lucky, ride them. Otherwise they're kept in chastity devices or they have hoof gloves to stop them getting themselves off.

The Dude Ranch is billed as CFNM (Clothed Female, Naked Male for those of you who, like me, need to google that) where one of the cowboys falls in love with a cowgirl. If you try to look for any sort of romance in this story, I think you'll be disappointed. The premise of relationship developing between Dexter and Josephine is really just there to take Dexter, and therefore the reader, behind the scenes of The Dude Ranch.

****Spoilers *****

It can make you a bit dizzy with the amount of things happening: we find out that the cowgirls pay to be there too; Josephine quickly becomes a house dog for disobeying the rules; Dexter's boss turns up and joins in; Dexter washes underwear; and opponents/enemies all end up in the hot tub together at the end. It's a kind of HEA in a way, to go with the hint of a nascent relationship, but not quite like you've ever seen before!

I think that one of my favorite scenes in this novella is when Dexter is looking for Josephine in the house. He has a peeping tom moment, where he looks through the cowgirls bedroom windows. Behind the first door, the cowgirl has tied herself up and is pretending she's submitting to a male dom. At this point I thinking here we go, all women are innately submissive. Blah. Yawn. But Dee delights in confounding my fears and behind the next door, the cowgirl is revising for exams in her underwear. Dexter waits for her to get distracted and touch herself, but she doesn't. His comment: "Weird". The next girl is practicing dive bombing a dildo with fellatio. The whole thing is just hilarious.

****End Spoilers*****

I think one of the things that really worked for me with this story is that there is liberal humor spread around, including a couple of laugh out loud moments. Dee has clearly intended for ridiculousness to be part of the story and for the reader to laugh and enjoy it all the same. The plot, setup, any of it really, doesn't stand up to close scrutiny. What it is, is fun.

The cover says that there are three tales. The other two - a story about a nunnery which has a forest of cocks which the nuns tease; and a sort of girls school in an alternative universe with an underclass of people who are slaves; are quite short. Neither of these stories really did it for me. Neither do I think that they really fit in with the main (much longer, ~1729 of the 2277 kindle locations) story of The Dude Ranch. These two 'bonus' reads have the same slightly tongue in cheek humor to go with the liberal teasing.

Overall, if you don't take it too seriously, The Dude Ranch is a fun, irreverent romp of a read. It almost deserves an F+, a sort of 'so bad, it's good' grade. But given that it doesn't take itself too seriously, I'll give it a B-.

August 3, 2012

Review: Lessons on the Edge by William Gaius

I don't think that I'm the target audience for this book. It's a first person 'memoire style' in the past tense, from the point of view of a submissive man/boy. It's set in the early 1980s and features an 18 year old boy discovering his sexuality with his 37 year old family friend, his 'Aunt'. So if you're a submissive/switch man, in either your early 20s or 50s, who kinks on older women family figures, then maybe you'd like this.

I seem to have ended up with the wrong idea about this book before I read it. I thought that it was going to be about a loving relationship, but although there is insta-love, there's no HFN and it isn't romantic. I thought it was going to be realistic, but the characterisation is inconsistent and some of the things that went on were had me scratching my head. I understood that it was straight femdom, but actually it's a switch story. These expectations have inevitably colored my opinion of the story.

The protagonist, Barry, is college age and is in love/lust/crush with his Mom's friend, his 'Aunt'. When he goes to college, he moves in with RoseAnn and they begin a sexual relationship, with increasingly heavy bdsm and domestic service. Meanwhile, at college, he meets Gloria, a wealthy young woman who is interested in him and is dominant.

The main theme of the book is Barry's sexual awakening, at the hands of an older woman. Essentially, this is one sexy time followed by another in quick succession. RoseAnn demands cunnilingus, denies Barry and manipulates him into doing the domestic chores (naked, of course).

There are several sources of conflict in the book: the age gap between RoseAnn and Barry; Barry's potential relationship with Gloria; RoseAnn's previous relationship with her ex-husband, (who sexually and physically (and perhaps emotionally) abused her); and RoseAnn's position regarding screwing her friend's son. Plenty of emotional conflict then. Some of this is conflict was explored, some not, but none of it rang true to me. 

The emotional story here is confused at best. Barry is immediately in love with RoseAnn and declares as much. She eventually also declares her love, simultaneously tells him that it's impossible because of their age difference, pushes him towards Gloria and tells him that he's just her f-ck toy. It's impossible to get a handle on what any characters' emotions are. Barry is essentially already in love with RoseAnn at the beginning of the book and repeatedly giving her oral sex confirms this. I'm not sure why RoseAnn falls in love with Barry. What Gloria sees in Barry, I have no idea. Apparently he's attractive, but otherwise he seems like a bit of a dork. The relationship with Gloria is set up, but never taken anywhere and consequently, I feel that she's a bit of a non-character.

There's a lack of realism in many of the scenes of this book - primarily due to inconsistencies in characterization. The portrayal of the women veers wildly between quite recognizable and completely alien to me. For instance, Barry is exploring his room in his new flat share with RoseAnn:
My lust got the better of me. I felt like a burglar as I opened a dresser drawer and found some underwear, somewhat the worse for wear. Clearly, this was her old stuff, stored in this spare room.
I don't keep my old underwear, especially not the 'worse for wear' stuff. I don't keep old underwear in the spare room. And I definitely don't keep old underwear in my spare room that's being sub-let by my potential boy-toy. That said, just after reading this passage and wondering WTF, I read this post by DumbDomme, where she's putting old underwear into her spare dresser. Clearly storing old underwear in the spare room is something women do. But seriously, worse for wear? I can't find anything sexy in that.

Another moment left me not just confused, but actually concerned. RoseAnn takes Barry to a sex shop, blushes when she asks for a whip and the shop assistant blushes as well! (Really!???!) But more to the point, Miss Mary at the shop gives RoseAnn a free ball gag with her whip, with this comment to Barry:
“That? It’s a ball gag. It muffles your screams so the neighbors won’t call the police. We recommend that beginners use it until they find the level of pain that’s right for them.” She smiled wickedly at me. “Some free advice for you—a good slave tries his best not to scream. If he truly loves his mistress, he’ll want to challenge her to whip harder and test his limits.”
Me, I think that sounds tantamount to emotional blackmail and dangerous advice for a sex shop to be dishing out. I have a problem with technical errors or misleading statements in fiction, because although I appreciate that it's fiction, I know for myself that I take inspiration from what I read, so I really dislike anything that I feel might have led me to believe that something was safe, which wasn't.

On the other hand, some of the behaviour of RoseAnn as a grown up woman and domme and the confusion of Barry, a young man as ignorant as most young men are, is just inspired. When RoseAnn makes Barry promise not to masturbate and begins the process of tease, denial and domestic servitude, the portrayal of the discussion which leads to Barry becoming RoseAnn's domestic boy was pretty amusing. It really captures something of the assumptions and knowledge differences inherent in an older woman, young man, relationship.
"...I suppose you expect me to do your laundry, too?"
"You’re not?" I made it a joke, although I hadn’t even thought about how my laundry would get done. My folks worked long hours, and we had a housekeeper for the everyday chores.
"No, in fact, I expect you to do mine."
It's fun to see RoseAnn's demands of service and experience against Barry's naive hopes and expectations. RoseAnn's introduction of denial and domestic chores, including washing RoseAnn's "brassiers" and other underwear is unequivocally because she kinks on it. And he finds that he kinks on it too, describing his day for his reader in detail.
“I see that you behaved yourself today.”
“I finished my work and I didn’t masturbate, if that’s what you mean.”
“I know. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be on your knees without being told, doing what you’re doing now. You spent the whole day thinking about me, didn’t you? Thinking about what we might do when I got home?” She touched my cock with her foot, and giggled at my sudden gasp.
*** Spoilers ***
But in many other ways the characterisation of RoseAnn is totally confusing. She repeatedly mentions her ex husband who hit her and forced her to give him blow jobs. Consequently, she hates the taste of semen and tells Barry that she won't let him come in her mouth. She's strongly dominant in the first part of the book, so the WTF when she asks Barry to dominate and rape her is very high. He dominates her again when she comes home in a bad mood and demands sex. He whips her, forces her to suck him off and swallow and she loves it - says that it was just what she needed. I don't understand why Barry does this, because he says that his fantasies are submissive. And when she comes home dominant, how does he know that she needs to be submissive? I don't really get that spontaneous telepathy. Neither is RoseAnn's state of mind any clearer, as the story is first person from Barry's point of view, the reader has no way in to RoseAnn's emotions or thoughts when this switch occurs. It's apropos of nothing.

RoseAnn is an odd combination of extremely confident and clever, and rather, well, weird. The style of RoseAnn's flattery of Barry (saying that he could have any woman he wanted, asking if he'd performed oral sex before because he was so good at it) and the slightly self belittling style of these comments (saying that a woman of her age doesn't get to see a young man naked very often, chastising Barry for not taking the initiative and kissing her when she hints that she wants sexual relations) doesn't sit very well with me. She's disgusted when Barry eats her out when she's on her period:
"Whatever comes from your body is sacred to me."
"Well, that’s generous, but it just about makes me sick to think about it."
The inconsistency of RoseAnn's behaviour continues when she agrees at the end of the book to get together with her boss Steve, who appears mid-story to be an asshole creep who Barry has to help her get rid of. She doesn't like Steve, and says earlier in the book that she's in demand and doesn't need this job. So... I'm confused about the her motivation here. RoseAnn loves Barry remember - but she encourages him to get involved with Gloria, mainly because she's rich I think. The reason RoseAnn gives for this is the age gap - 19 years - between them makes a relationship unfeasible. But she didn't seem to have any qualms about that age gap when she set out to seduce him in chapter one. She also had no worries about the idea of keeping him as her boy-toy for a couple of years earlier in the story. Never mind too that she is friends with Barry's mother - surely that's an unforgivable betrayal of trust? To seduce your friend's son?

Other characters are no more realistic. Barry lets slip to his parents that he's going away for the weekend with their friend and his landlady, RoseAnn. His mother's immediate assumption is that they're sleeping together and immediately checks that they're using protection (they're not). I find both the immediate assumption of a non platonic relationship and her only comment being about protection, totally crazy. Most people that I know would assume that they're just going away together. As friends - you know - like people do in real life rather than erotica. And EVERY mother I know who found out that their friend was sleeping with their son, would go mental. Probably homicidal.

*** End Spoilers ***

I found some of the phrasing a little crude and occasionally rather hackneyed. For example, Barry is in a bar and a man he doesn't know says to him in reference to Gloria:
"You smell of cunt, and I happen to know that she likes nothing better than having her twat licked."
Other class phrases include: "Oh Barry, this is the best ever." , liquid brown eyes, the most beautiful God ever made and the dense black bush between her legs.

Ultimately, the biggest problem for me was that I discovered that I squick terribly on any sort of familial style relationship being mixed up with sex. I'm totally squicked by even faux incest. I thought that since it wasn't a close or blood relation or man, I would be okay with it. Not so much. RoseAnn is 37, but by some of the things that are said in this book, you'd think that she was 50. I know that the taboo is part of the attraction, but when RoseAnn is mistaken for being his mother, it freaked me out a lot. 

TL,DR. This wasn't what I expected and the whole 'Aunt' thing was the antithesis of sexy for me. There are some moments of hotness and there are some nicely observed younger man/older women moments. But ultimately, this book just didn't work for me at all.

Perhaps I could have forgiven the faults if my expectations had been different and it hadn't triggered all my 'yuk' buttons. Or maybe I just needed to be the target audience. For me though, it was a C-.

July 20, 2012

Review: F-ck my Pussy or Else by Kathy Love

I know, right? The title should have given it away. Blogger won't even let me put in the real title in the post title. Amazon (from which I downloaded, in a moment of madness, this story from) doesn't even sell it anymore, presumably because of the ridiculous title. Or possibly because the story inside is no better.

At 48 kindle locations or about 1k words long, I'm not even sure if this qualifies as a short story. It's going to take me substantially more time to write this review than it took me to read it. I picked it up because, hey, it was free and it looked like it was femdom. And because I quite like the demanding female boss dynamic, and this sounded like it was going to be that. Actually, it's not. It's crap and derogatory, as well as derogatory crap. 

The male protagonist (I don't think he has a name, sorry) is in financial difficulties despite having a very successful accounting job. He is in debt from fucking expensive women and thus doesn't have the money to pay for his mother's breast cancer medical bills. Presumably this otherwise irrelevant information is so that we can see that actually, he has a heart of gold and is good boy, even though he acts like a wanker all the way through the story. Kim, his recently divorced boss, offers to help him out if he becomes her lover. He refuses and instead siphons off money from her bank account. He uses the money to pay off the bills he racked up from the exotic holidays and to pay for his mother's treatment. Kim finds out and screams, threatens to call the police and then reiterates her offer. This time, he accepts. Then comes the most unsexy prelude to a sex scene I think I've ever read:
After dinner, which was prepared by her chef, we went to her bedroom and got undressed. I was going to give it to her hard. I was going to make her cry. Kim took out my cock (the cock that she had wanted for several months and started sucking it. [sic]*
Does she really want the cock of her accountant? The man who has already said no, and who has robbed her blind? TSTL. Who cares if she has a chef? And who cares that they got undressed in the bedroom? If it's going to be sexy, surely the reader wants to know how they got undressed, what they did, how he felt. Not only that, if they'd just gotten undressed, what did she take his cock out of? Does he have a little pouch for it or something?

And seriously, what a twat. She's going to pay all his bills and all he can think is that he's going to make her cry? He should be desperately, humbly, submissively grateful and begging her to make him do anything she wants. He should feel the draw of a strong woman who knows what she wants and is happy to manipulate and pay for a man to be in her thrall. Sucking his cock - sure - that's a position of power in itself - all that tender manly flesh at her mercy to give pleasure or pain as she wishes.... Mmmm...

I digress. Anyhow, there's a similarly perfunctory sex scene where tab A is put into slot B and then that's the end. I could give you more quotes of how stark and un-erotic and unromantic and dull this almost-story is, but I'd be wasting your time and mine.

I am beginning to notice a trend though. If any of the main characters in a story doesn't have a name, it's gunna be really bad.  And seriously, I'm never reading anything with a swear word in the title again.


*For the punctuation pedants amongst you people who have a basic respect for punctuation, no, the brackets are never closed.

July 7, 2012

Review: The Cruel Dr. Frost by SM Calor

Sam Gomez is a student in trouble. After being truculent and disrespectful all term in Dr. Julia Frost's English classes, Sam fails (under slightly suspicious circumstances) to hand in his term paper and he goes to her office to seek her compassion. He wants a drop-pass rather than a drop-fail for the class. Dr. Frost isn't amenable to this, so Sam begs. He'll do anything.

Dr. Frost has that sexy repressed teacher look thing going on, that Sam secretly finds very arousing. He also secretly likes her domineering and uncompromising attitude too. So when she demands that he proves that he will do anything and has him come around the desk to kneel. So begins Sam's semi-willing slavery.

The Cruel Dr. Frost is told in first person from the point of view of Sam and successfully walks the fine like between describing the WTF that would be natural to a naive student and the burgeoning excitement of submission. Most of the story focuses on domestic servitude. Sam cleans Dr. Frost's car, clears her garden and does her washing. But he also is engaged to lick his Mistress' pussy and ass and we hear Sam's internal monologue about how hot he finds her demands. There's also cock and ball torture, foot worship, humiliation and ownership. Quite a lot of kink in a short story.

Dr. Frost is unrepentantly dominant, mean, cruel and rather sadistic. Slightly shocked though Sam is by this, he responds to it. Or his cock responds to it rather. He finds that he wants to serve Dr. Frost. There's a more sensitive side to Dr. Frost too - she rather likes her slave. That's not to say that she's kind to him, soft, or submits at all to him. That's one of the really nice thing about this story. Dr. Frost isn't soft in the conventional feminine sense, but she is sexy and she is pleased with her slave when he does well.

So, overall, I rather enjoyed this. My reservation is mainly that the point of view didn't really work for me as a female. I think that male readers will enjoy this much more than I did. I also don't kink hugely on domestic servitude, so it wasn't really my thing. If domestic servitude, enforced sexual servitude, naughty pupil - kinky teacher dynamic and male discovery of submission work for you, then this might be for you. From me, it's a B-. It was good - rather forgettable, but neither did have any major problems.

June 30, 2012

Review: Pleasure Bound by Kat Black

Adam has it all planned - he's going to whisk his girlfriend Sam off for a fabulous, romantic weekend and indulge his possessive side by asking her to marry him and giving her a huge rock as a sign of his ownership love. But an impulsive text saying that he will give her anything she wants, that is within his power to give her, is his downfall. Because Sam wants to scratch an itch that has been bothering her. Sam wants to be in control in bed.

Her image of the weekend:
Adam's big body spread-eagle beneath her, trembling and helpless under her touch while his blue eyes bored into hers, desperate, hot and pleading. 
His image of the weekend:
...the perfect chance to fulfill his deepest desire and at last get Sam just where he wanted her - bound to him, physically, emotionally and legally, for as long as they both shall live. 
Adam has always taken the dominant role in the relationship, so this sets up an exciting conflict: he wants to control her by tying her down in marriage; she has a more physical tying down in mind for him. This is hugely promising: a battle of wills between two strong characters. It's a frequent complaint that submissive men in books aren't alpha and manly, and here we have Adam:
Successful, powerful and wealthy, he didn't get where he was today without also being touch and ruthless and, frankly, bossy as hell. 
Dangerously close to being an alpha-hole, I would say. Sam loves him, but wants to even things up a bit by having him submit to her for a change. So far, so good.

The problem with this novella is not what is in it, so much as what isn't in it.  The gaps in the emotional plot are, for me, large and annoying. There's a really brilliant, complex negotiation of two people's needs and desires set up and then we don't see how it is resolved, we're just told that it is.

I vacillated all the way through reading this novella. One moment I'm disappointed, the next I'm on edge, with a big grin. Let me give you an example:

When they meet up, the first thing that happens is that Adam comes over all dominant and makes a protesting Sam come in the back of his car on the way to the airport. So Sam submits to Adam and Adam is all rich and manly. <Sigh> Then, on the plane, Sam comes straight out and says that she wants to dominate him and tie him up. <Yay!> Adam just blank says no, and they begin to argue <Okay, this is interesting.> Then instead of a continuation of the argument, we get this:
He continued to argue, of course, accusing her of seeking to objectify him, of cheapening their relationship for the sake of titillation, but Sam persevered, making sure he understood that this was about deeper thing like trust and equality, and letting her have her own way for once, damn it!
Seeking to objectify him, of cheapening their relationship for the sake of titillation. This is the man, who, the previous chapter, was wondering if he could interest her in a bit of mile-high fellatio on the plane, who internally refers to his marriage proposal as the most exciting acquisition he'd ever contemplated, gropes Sam in the back of the car while his driver could watch, and who, when she thanks him for arranging a weekend away, says:
 "You're welcome. But be warned. Once I've got you all alone and at my mercy, I'm going to tie you down and make you thank me again. Properly."
To recap - she wants to tie him down and she's objectifying him and cheapening their relationship. He wants to tie her down and that's normal. So he's being a hypocritical idiot. That would possibly be okay if it was part of a conversation where we saw that Adam was grasping as straws because he's scared to let go of control (as we discover later). But, instead Sam doesn't call him on his hypocrisy and we have a throw-away half a paragraph on a potentially interesting and key conflict. That theme of terse half paragraphs which summarize conversations where really you want to see the whole conversation recurs in this novella, and it's very unsatisfying.


Adam sulks for the rest of the journey. When they arrive at the most amazing, luxurious place ever, they discuss Sam being dominant again and Adam goes off into another sulk when Sam says that it's important to her. They arrive at their room and Sam leaves Adam with the cuffs, rope and blindfold she has brought while she goes to the bathroom. When Sam emerges, she finds Adam in the cuffs, with an erection. Welcome as this scene is in so many ways, I couldn't help feeling that I really couldn't understand his sudden change of heart, as we see all of this from Sam's point of view.

The scene that follows, where Sam ties up and then teases Adam while Adam struggles to allow her and tries to regain control, is beautifully written, arousing and sensuous. It's great. I'm even okay with it when after Sam unties him, Adam snaps and pounds into her roughly, claiming back his dominance. It seems totally in character, and not in an hypocritical alpha-male way, but in a scared of his own feelings way which I can sympathize with.

But the next morning, Adam makes unnecessary conflict. He's soooo guilty about how brutal and mean and out of control he was. He must have hurt her unforgivably. Sam protests that she's fine and he totally ignores her, won't touch her and sulks with her for the rest of the day. A rational response to this sort of silliness would be to want to beat Adam around the head with a tree trunk, but again, Sam is so patient. He's being really unreasonable and uncommunicative, so she gives him a blow job to smooth things over. But even after that, and some cunnilingus, Adam continues to be grumpy through their romantic dinner under the stars. Afterwards, they finally get around to talking about it and we get this breakthrough:
"The submitting, the bondage, the helplessness-" He paused to give an uncomfortable shrug. "It excited me, Sam. Against everything I'd thought and said, I found myself liking it. And that realization made me so angry, so fucking furious with myself I couldn't see straight. How could I? How could someone like me enjoy the act of surrender, of leaving myself weak and powerless?"
<Yay!> He asks if she can still love him, she reassures him, he proposes and there's still enough of the book left to have another scene where she takes advantage of her new found knowledge. Great, yeh?

So next we get a scene where Adam pours champagne over Sam's clit and generally teases her. It's disappointing. In the post orgasm pillow talk, there's a bit to hold up the cliches about male submissives:
"Adam, even if you turn out to be the most pitiful wimp of a submissive ever, I'll still love you."
As happy as he was to hear that, Adam snorted. "Like that's ever going to happen." In a flash he had her on her back.
And then the next day, he ties her up. Of course.  <Yawn>

In the epilogue, after their wedding, there's a nice bit about how Adam has discovered that surrender can make you stronger. It's mentioned in passing that they've experimented. I wanted so much to see that emotional and erotic journey, rather than be told about it in the epilogue.

The end is a short, sweet moment of surrender for Adam. It was a good and appropriate ending and I was happy that it ended on a high.

***End Spoilers***

All in all, it's a very mixed story. In some places, elegantly and wonderfully executed. In other places, reminiscent of a Harlequin Presents, with its silly, uncommunicative hero and unrealistically understanding heroine. I didn't realize when I saw that this was a Ellora's Cave Moderne title that it was going to be like a Mills and Boon Modern. It should have had a title like Tying down the Billionaire Tycoon, and I would have realized what I was getting myself in to. The Adam that is worried that Sam won't love him because he likes being dominated and who loves and lusts after Sam to distraction, I can like. The cardboard cutout of a Alpha-Male Greek Billionaire Tycoon that he hides behind has no attraction to me at all. Actually, it repulses me.

TL,DR: Quite good in the middle when the blurb's premise is realized, otherwise prone to gender cliches and skipping over the interesting conflict in favor of alpha male 3-year-old posturing. 

For all my snark and annoyance about a lot of this novella, the middle bit where Sam gets her domme on was great. The tension was palpable, the conflict was brilliant and the whole scenario was really very hot, even Adam's trying to wrest back control. The concept is inspired. Sam and Adam are good characters when they're being human. The rest of it. Meh.


June 27, 2012

Femdom Fifty Shades of Grey?

I've noticed a steady stream recently of searches for "fifty shades of grey femdom" or some variant, landing on this site. In case you have been hiding under a rock and not heard about this phenomenon, the Fifty Shades of Grey series is a trilogy which follows the developing relationship between an overbearing man who self identifies as a dominant, and a younger woman who is too inexperienced to self identify as anything (so by default she is vanilla (?) ). He pursues her and introduces her to sex and bdsm (with a full time slave contract - no shades of grey there then...).

I'm sure that searchers for "50 shades of grey femdom" have so far left this site unsatisfied, as the post I mention the series in is a moan about not being able to find femdom books. I ignored these searches for as long as I could, but it's gotten to me eventually and I think I can do better.

The question is though, what are people searching for femdom and fifty shades of grey really looking for? I don't know for sure, but here are some of my ideas:

Is there a book like Fifty shades of Grey, but the other way around - with a female dominant rather than a male dominant?

This is the most obvious interpretation, but also the most difficult. What did you like about it? If you simply want an erotic book with explicit bdsm femdom, then Natural Law by Joey Hill is for you. Both characters indentify as Mistress and submissive from the beginning and it's wonderfully erotic, well written, with enough kink to satisfy as well as a strong romantic relationship.

If you liked the concept of an older, authoritative dom introducing a younger vanilla protégée to bdsm, maybe you would like Rebecca's Way by Rynna Cress, where an experienced Mistress introduces a wayward man to being submissive.

Did you like the student and authority figure dynamic? Maybe The Cruel Dr Fox by SM Calor would be your thing. That features a college professor who takes her student in hand in a servant submissive relationship.

My wife/girlfriend read Fifty Shades and liked it. I want to introduce femdom to her. Maybe I could find an equivalent fifty shades book with femdom and she would like that too?

There are lots of good options here, depending on what her normal reading matter is. If she likes historical books, then A Lady Awakened is the one. A subtle femdom book, the heroine is very controlling and controlled and likes sex only on her terms.

If she normally likes other modern/contemporary novels, then try This is What I Want, or Taking Care of Business, both by Megan Hart. Taking Care of Business is a dual story line book, with a femdom relationship which sizzles and a maledom relationship which isn't so good. This is What I Want is less explicitly femdom and more about a woman sharing her fantasies, both ones where she is in and not in control (though mainly the former).

For a book where a woman discovers her dominant side after being submissive, then Power Play by Charlotte Stein is the hottest example of this. Switch, again by Megan Hart, is a tamer example with only subtle bdsm undertones.

For a woman discovering her dominant side from being vanilla, Taking Her Boss by Alegra Verde is worth a look. Giving by Charlotte Stein features a woman introduced to femdom bdsm by her boyfriend's confessed fantasies.

If she likes the purple prose and hyperbole of Fifty Shades, then she might like Evangeline Anderson erotic sci-fi books. There's a lot of male service elements in these books, which are otherwise mainly maledom.

Does Fifty Shades of Grey feature any femdom?

I haven't read the books, but nothing that I've read about them gives me any hope, no.  

Is there a 'mainstream' femdom book, similar to Fifty Shades of Grey, that I can buy at the store? With a tasteful grey cover perhaps?

Not really, no. Natural Law is the only straight femdom book I know of at the moment that really justifies general consumption. But then, it's not really about a book being good, is it? It's a right place, right time thing and we're not there yet for femdom. And no femdom book can have a tasteful cover. Ever. 

So that's it. If you reached this page through a search, let me know in the comments if I answered your question. If I didn't, do ask.

June 16, 2012

Review: A Gentleman Undone by Cecilia Grant

A Gentleman Undone is the follow up to A Lady Awakened, which I raved about. A Lady Awakened has some delicious femdom undertones which made me give it a place on the blog. A Gentleman Undone doesn't have the same sort of femdom feel, but is a great read as a straight romance and the portrayal of sex has an emotional intensity and purpose which is reminiscent of BDSM. The sex is vanilla, but the feelings are rather sadomasochism. If you liked A Lady Awakened, or other romances with very strong heroines or subtle femdom that I've reviewed, then it's pretty likely that you will like A Gentleman Undone. There aren't any major plot spoilers in this review, but there are plenty of 'emotional spoilers', if such a thing exists. You've been warned.

Will Blackshear is back from war with £800 and a tonne of guilt. He meets Lydia Slaughter in a gaming den when trying to win money to assuage his guilt by providing for a widow. So far, so historical romance conventional. Lydia fleeces him. She doesn't exactly cheat at cards, but she's a mathematical genius and she knows when the odds are in her favor. She's also the mistress (in the kept woman sense, not the femdom sense) of another man, 'work' which she actively enjoys. Will is immediately attracted to her and Lydia gets to that a little later.

Lydia and Will come to an uneasy alliance: they both need money and they are willing to work as a team to get it. Lydia has the mental alacrity to count cards, but lacks the gender and the capital needed to gamble successfully. Will isn't so smart, but can manage to follow directions. So they begin a chaste (though hardly virtuous) relationship, gambling together and fighting together quite a bit too.

It takes until over half way through the book for them even to kiss. And when they do finally fuck, it is just that. It isn't a beautiful, inspiring act, totally different from anything either of them have either known. Oh no. They are both too messed up for that. Lydia is a masochist and uses sex violently to calm her demons. She's a very active and demanding masochist though - a dominant masochist? Or perhaps just manipulative and goading. Take for instance this exchange, where Lydia wants Will to fuck her harder:
"Harder. Hurt me." Her voice was a feral snarl and her face half contorted with loathing.
"I can't. I don't want to." There was a way to ask for such things, and it wasn't the way she'd just done. He'd tell her so afterward, if she was still inclined to speak to him then. At the moment he couldn't spare the breath.
She writhed underneath him and took a new grip on his arms. "You said you'd do what I wanted. My way first, your way after. We agreed."
 So Lydia's not really the tepid or pathetic sort of masochist.  I'm not convinced either that she's submissive; she offers to beg at one point but she really likes to give orders. I feel too, that her masochism could switch to sadism very easily. If anything, she uses men to work out her kink. And she uses kink to work out her guilt. Lydia took up prostitution with the idea of using it as a fun form of suicide and is surprised to find that not only does it not kill her, it reveals a strong core of her which very much wants to live.

I like Lydia best when she's strong and triumphant: When she calmly collects her winnings from the table with a little smile. Or when she is angrily frustrated with Will because he can't understand that three-eights is greater than five-fourteenths (I know, what an idiot eh. ;)  ). And her success in sex too: 
I did this. I gave him what he thought I couldn't. His seed and his cock and his climax are mine. 
I'm not keen on her masochist side, though in a way the quote above shows that it's a powerful tool in this particular relationship - a foil to the tenderness and togetherness that Will wants. And in a funny sort of way, they both get what they need, rather than what they think they want. Will, whose guilt makes him crave a tender forgiveness, gets this from Lydia when he tells her the story:
"You're not a good man, Blackshear," she whispered.
"I know." It felt like a pound of flesh given up. He closed his eyes.
"You break your promises and you fuck other men's women and you haven't even a soul to your name."
A shaft of hot, grief-tainted pleasure stabbed through him. "I know." He jerked his chin in a nod.
That's love from Lydia, which perhaps says everything about her contradictions as a character. She recognizes when being punished would heal, because that's what she has done to herself. She also perhaps finds her own salvation in punishing Will - a rather sadistic sort of completion really. When Lydia confesses her misdeed, she gets a more tender sort of love, but it's the action of condemning Will in his guilt that seems to free Lydia to love him.

I'm not sure if any of that makes sense really, or even if I've correctly interpreted the emotional story in the book. It's complicated, as real people are, and I enjoyed that. It's just one way that this is an unusual book for its genre - I won't list for you all the amusing and brilliant ways that Grant has subverted cliches of historical romance. If you don't know them already, you won't appreciate them any more for me saying what they are and if you do, I won't spoil for you all the fun of finding out.

I love Lydia's bold and uncompromising personality. Will on the other hand never quite worked for me and I'm having a lot of trouble articulating why. I think it's that we never quite see him trust Lydia and allow her to make the decisions and I think that he should. He keeps things on an even-ish footing between them and I wish that he would accept her as his female authority and have done.

TL,DR: Compulsively readable story of two complicated characters, with a strong emotional BDSM sort of feeling. A determined and ruthless heroine who teeters on the edge of being dominant, but never quite makes it.

I won't re-read A Gentleman Undone with the frequency or enjoyment that I do A Lady Awakened, but I'm really pleased that I read it. It's excellent, with the intensity and elegant phrasing which is being revealed as Grant's style. I don't really engage with either Lydia or Will's pain, but that's to do with me, not the book I think. The plot (I know, I've barely mentioned that) is well paced and gripping and the watching these two work around each other and finally together, in every sense, is compulsive. Overall, it's a B+ I think.

June 9, 2012

Review: Rebecca's Way by Rynna Cress

Rebecca is an assistant to a movie agent, dealing with the bratty authors managed by her boss. Her day is spoiled by Mackenzie Bell, a man-child who, when she turns up at his apartment to demand his manuscript, is with a woman who he can't remember the name of. Mackenzie has wanted Rebecca and her cold poise forever, and when she gives him a tiny opening, he follows her home, drunk and drink driving. He tells he would do anything to have her. Taking him at his word, Rebecca wakes Mackenzie tied up on the sofa with restraints and a ball gag.

So follows a day of debauchery where Rebecca pegs, whips, humiliates and keeps Mackenzie in chastity. She even sends Mackenzie food shopping with a remote controlled electric ball in his butt (I was slightly concerned about that - if it's just a ball, how do they get it out?) Mackenzie submits to all this willingly and finds that he likes Rebecca's way of life. He certainly takes to BDSM remarkably quickly.

All this is achieved in just 13k words. With all that hotness, necessarily there isn't as much characterization as I would like. I think Mackenzie's drink driving and following Rebecca home is supposed to juxtaposition against his confession that he doesn't really like the person that he has become and his subsequent complete submission. Still, I find that drink driving is a hard limit for me. I strongly dislike facetious portrayals of drink driving; Mackenzie says that it's okay, because he drank first and then drove. I guess that's to show what an arrogant, heartlessness, inconsiderate bastard he is in his 'before' persona, and it works, because that's exactly what I think. I'm not keen on his following her home either. Rather pushy/stalker ish. Then overnight (literally) Mackenzie becomes a willing and obedient toy, which is rather a quick turn around. That being said, I did have a fair sense of Rebecca as a strong willed, controlling character and I was pretty disappointed when the story came to an abrupt halt. The set up takes about a third of the story, followed by wall to wall action of the good sexy type, then the story just ends.


At the end of their day together Rebecca sends him home with his chastity device in place to cool off for a week. I eagerly turned the page to see how they get on, and found an epilogue. They are in a cafe, a year later, and Mackenzie gives Rebecca a short story about, yes, you guessed it: their story, that you just read. I irrationally loathe this device. It's difficult to explain why I dislike it so much (thoughts on this welcomed below). I think for me it's a combination of the fact that I feel like it's a cop out of an ending, like 'and then she woke up'. Also, being reminded of the author in a story jerks me right out of the story - I like to get wrapped up in the characters and the story and I don't want to be reminded that a real person wrote it. (Sorry. I said that my dislike was irrational.)

I was also a bit irritated by the another aspect of the ending. Rebecca suddenly has had a promotion and is now a successful agent and has been "fast tracked for glamorous promotion" and has a "substantial pay rise". Not only that:
She had taken to the position almost immediately, quickly amassing an impressive list of clients and showing a keen eye for emerging young talent. Her deceptively assertive business demeanor caught many off guard, and gave her a distinct edge during high-stakes negotiations. With a natural affinity for the business and with much hard work, she had, in just under a year on the job, established herself as a true asset to the firm.
I feel like I'm being hit around the head with it. She's [hit] really [thwack] successful [bam] and [pow] happy [bosh] and [punch] talented. Okayokayokay. I get it.

Rebecca and Mackenzie also have a HFN, but it all feels very quick and too neat. Mackenzie has gone straight from being a feckless drunk, to being a perfect slave. Yes, alright we get a line about how there were tears and tantrums in the epilogue, but it's tell, not show and thus lacking the emotion that would make it feel real. From that point of view, this story, though not really a very romantic romance, falls into the classic romance trap of tying everything up in a perfect bow at the end.

***End Spoilers***

Rebecca's Way is written in the third person, but switches between being in the hero and heroine's head, giving a disconcerting feeling that you're never quite sure whose eyes you are looking through. The whole story is a bit heavy handed at times - the writing is a little prone to cliche and hyperbole, the characters are a bit 'too much' to be believable. Mackenzie's character arc (a sort of bad boy come good) is a nice idea, but it isn't fleshed out enough to really work. But then, it's a short story so there isn't a lot of time for subtlety. Ultimately, the concept is really good and the hot bits are hot, so I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more femdom from Cress. It probably helps that I was sooooo happy to see chastity and pegging and this is a fun and sexy portrayal of both.

TL,DR: a hot, short read featuring pegging and chastity, which I'd've liked to be a bit longer, with a rather abrupt ending and lots of fun in the middle. Flawed, but completely readable.

If Rebecca's Way was longer and therefore more developed, I think it could be B or B+ territory. As it is, it's a B- from me.

June 2, 2012

The Underworld Series by Kelley Armstrong

I completely loved these books and I found some femdom in them. Not an erotic kind of femdom but just a strong female character kicking ass in a patriarchal world, with her pet boy by her side (kind of literally in this case). This is another of those reviews that frankly, I'm not sure if you'll be interested since it isn't full on erotic femdom. But I kind of think it deserves a place here, in the subtle femdom category.

This review is completely riddled with spoilers which are necessary to explain why this series is that subtle femdom which can be soooo good. I will flag up the spoilers that will significantly affect your enjoyment of the series. I should add, I'm only really talking here about the werewolf books of this series, specifically: Bitten, Stolen, Broken, Frostbitten, Hidden, Beginnings from Tales of the Underworld and the free online graphic short story Becoming.

Elena is a reluctant werewolf, has been a werewolf for 10 years and is living in Toronto. A crisis calls her back to Stonehaven, the pack's home with the pack leader Jeremy and Elena's ex lover/best friend/adversary/worst nightmare, Clayton. They're part of a small pack of werewolves, keeping a low profile and protecting humanity from the rogue idiot werewolves who think it's fun to kill people. The major part of the story for all the books is how the pack neutralize these threats. That is to say - the major part of the books is paranormal suspense thriller. The thread through all the books is the relationship between Elena and Clayton. Elena and Clayton have a difficult fucked up relationship with a complicated history.

All the books are first person narratives from the pov of Elena and don't shy away from letting her solve her own and other peoples, problems. That I think is one of the things I like about these books. Elena has support, is part of a team, but she also strikes out independently (sometimes unwisely, but never TSTL) and does things. She has agency and power and courage and she uses them.

These books don't pull punches on people dying or being hurt on both sides of the them/us divide. There are numerous fight and hunting scenes, with somewhat dispassionate descriptions of the 'gore'. Elena is not a shocked girl who faints at the sight of blood. Actually, she revels in it. Again, I rather like that. It's refreshingly honest somehow that a (were)wolf, a predator, is unabashedly a predator and not just a big dog who runs around.

One of the most interesting things about this series is that in some ways it's all about Elena's journey to accept her anger, her violence, her strength and power and the agency that this gives her. She is concerned in Bitten about being 'normal' and comes to accept what she is and accept Clay's adoration too. Elena struggles against Clay because he relishes her excitement at that part of their life. For Elena, he comes to represent 'not normal'. She feels unlovable and unfeminine because of her liking of violence. I think that there will be dommes out there who have been through, or are currently going through, the same sort of emotional conflicts that Elena has (though probably they don't have the added challenge of changing regularly into a wolf).

Most of the main issues are resolved at the end of Bitten, but there are lingering problems, which are then resolved through the next books. All the books are really about Elena's coming of age (yeah, even 30 somethings can come of age).

One of the issues that although Elena for the most part solves her own problems, she's essentially still an underling in a male patriarchal system. Much of the 'action' is actually Elena on her own - not with Clay, or the rest of the pack. The obvious solution? Elena becomes the pack Alpha. It's the last step in the journey really - from denying who and what she is, to being the leader of the pack in the last book.

Elena's relationship with Clay mirrors the journey that Elena has. At the end of Bitten, their relationship is still tentative - Elena has admitted that she loves Clay, but he is still the one pushing towards a relationship and she's holding back. Clay is always pulling Elena with him in terms of commitment - he proposes apropos of nothing, (this is a big spoiler, you might want to skip over it) then he bites her committing her without her knowledge to life as a werewolf, then tries everything to get her to stay with him, wears a wedding ring even though they aren't actually married, wants to have children, etc. etc. Elena is wary at every stage and it is Clay who is pushing the emotional intimacy as well as the physical intimacy. In Frostbitten, they have this exchange:
"...we're making little steps. Saying you love me. Saying you want to be with me. Saying you trust me. And now saying you miss me. The next big hurdle is saying you like your life the way it is."
"I love my life."

That really sums up Elena's journey with Clay. It's a journey to acceptance and happiness (even though that sounds really naff, it's not written like that at all.) Part of that acceptance is accepting that she likes being a werewolf and the strength and violence that comes with that. Clay is the foil to Elena's convoluted and complicated nature. Clay has long accepted who he is and is in some ways Elena's mentor, helping her to be the leader that he needs.

Clay is such an unusual and brilliant character. Not only is he a werewolf who is NOT an 'Alpha', doesn't want to be and is happy following Jeremy and then Elena. He's always in the supporting role rather than 'White Knight'. In several of the books, Elena saves Clay. In Stolen Clay spends most of the book sedated by Jeremy because he's going so mental that Elena is missing. He's Elena's henchman, backup - in short, her husband. In Hidden, Elena describes Clay as:
..the ideal beta-second-in-command, Pack enforcer, Alpha's bodyguard.
And this dynamic works perfectly for Elena and Clay as she likes to be in charge. As she says in Broken
Put Clay with a werewolf of roughly the same hierarchical position, whose judgement he trusted, and he preferred to follow orders...  which was fine because I preferred to give them. 
Clay does take the lead in their sex to some extent, but they fight for control and that is incredibly hot. They destroy hotel bedrooms and the naked rolling around 'play' fighting in forest is oh-so-hot. There is also development in this aspect of the story too. In the first book Bitten (and several others) Clay ties Elena up (for reasons that are major spoilers, so I won't go into) but by the last book Hidden, Elena ties Clay down to the bed - and Clay is happy about it. So Elena takes the lead in their lives and Clay is content in his beta/protector role.

So what else is unusual about Clay as a hero? He's a virgin when he and Elena get together and basically never been interested in or with any woman but Elena.  Clay might be antisocial, but his loyalty is never in question. He is fanatically loyal.

***End Spoilers***

TL,DR:  Werewolf thriller books, written from the first person perspective of the female protagonist who is awesome. A sexy sidekick hero. Lots of violence and sex in forests.

If I haven't convinced you by now, I don't think I will be able to. If you're not sure try Bitten, which is in some ways the most interesting of the series, and see if you get hooked.