A couple of years ago, when I first bought my Kobo and had purchased only one book for it, I ended up stuck in an airport for about six hours. I’d finished the book I’d bought, so I started to peruse the 100 free books (copyright expired classics, for the most part) that had come bundled on the device. I came across Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and realized I hadn’t read it in years, and decided to give it a go.
It certainly didn’t fill all six of the hours (Jane Austen had the honor of using up most of them) but my jaunt through Alice’s Adventures reminded me of how – as a child – I’d read it a chapter at a time over the course of a week or two as a bedtime tale. In my head, it was in many ways a collection of short stories – each chapter was very much separate from the last, and the language was over-the-top and sort of forced and fun in a way that I enjoyed.
I had to stop and remind myself of all of that when I began reading Adventures in Fetishland. Within the first page or two, I was a little worried. The language seemed a bit overwrought:
As she made her stately progress across the tiled floor she mused on the aptness of the symbolism that reflected the extremities of the world she inhabited and held sway over: darkness and light, cruelty and kindness, pain and pleasure, humiliation and reward.
Thus we meet the Red Queen of the tale in the prologue. The prose here was a bit overwhelming and somehow discordant. I won’t lie – it had me noticing specific word choices and wondering how deliberate they were. It knocked me a bit out of the narrative. By the end of the prologue, we’ve met the Red Queen and have been let into the crux of the tale: somewhere out there (in our real world, we’re left to assume) there’s a young woman who will be the ideal slave submissive (and yet also a bit dominant, in the sense that the Red Queen could command her to dominate her other slaves) and the Red Queen is ready to go get her back.
Yes, back. This woman (I was waiting for her to be referred to as “Alice”) has already been in the Queen’s Nemesisland once before.
So let’s meet Alice. Or, rather, Kim. Kim is working at a “massage parlor” (nudge, nudge) and is dealing with a pretty nonverbal (though muscular and smooth) client.
Kim turned her naked client onto his back and knelt over him. She had to admit his erection was impressive, he certainly had no problems in that department. She leant over him so that her cleavage, squeezing out of her tight leopard-skin print bra, was hanging over his face and his gaze was drawn to her heaving breasts.
Again, that language that seems just a bit “off” was distracting me. By the end of the first chapter, there’s been an attempted anal rape, and the arrival of Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and the rescue/abduction of Kim.
I’m going to break here to put in that I have a personal frustration with attempted rape (or rape committed) in erotica. Here’s the thing: I personally just can’t find anything titillating about rape. Period. So whenever I stumble across this sort of scene, it hits that particular trigger for me, and I get frustrated. I understand the literary idea of the “rescue” and the feelings that can develop between the rescued (almost) victim and the rescuer, but I just find it a real turn-off, and not too likely. Almost being raped strikes me as not the turn-on it’s often presented to be in a narrative.
That side note aside, Slave Nano doesn’t follow through in that regard: Kim is not so grateful to her rescuers that she falls into bed with them, so that trope was avoided.
What the chapter did do, however, was remind me of what I was reading – this is an erotic piece following the style (and some structure) of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The lightbulb went on for me when Kim, after almost being raped, turns to see that her rescuers (who’ve clubbed her attempted rapist over the head with a pan) are standing behind her.
She’s naked. She’s just almost been raped, and this is her reaction:
This reminded Kim of something. She racked her brains (sic), trying to recall stories from her childhood. Then she remembered – Tweeledum and Tweedledee; they were characters from Alice Through the Looking Glass. How odd. What could they possibly be doing in a massage parlour in Manchester?
It was the “How odd?” that did it for me. This is a tale about to be told in the same – more or less – style of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alice didn’t pause much when she nearly fell to her death or awful creatures attacked her or yelled at her. She sort of took it in stride, though she often had a bit of a sharp tongue and berated them for not making sense. Kim was Alice, and in this version of events, nothing like a potential rape was going to derail her from realizing that these two rescuers were, well, kind of out of place.
I started to ease a bit more into the tale after that. The language, the odd reactions of those involved, it all suited a bit more when I filtered it through the lens of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I started looking at the narrative on its own strengths, and found it easier to get past the language to do so. The adverbs and adjectives didn’t startle as much as before, and the overall effect was a kind of gauzy, dreamy approach to a fetish-laden erotic story of Kim and the Red Queen.
Basically, the story follows in an Alice fashion – chapters are new scenes, for the most part, and the reader is treated to a variety of fetishes, as the title would lead you to expect. There’s definitely some furry content (the hare, the cat, quite a few of the animals are sort of manimals, though their descriptions are often not quite flushed out enough to hand you the full image, allowing you to create your own borderline between fur and flesh), there’s a lot of bondage, some mummification, and – here’s something we don’t see often enough – the women are often in the dominant role. We have some teacher-student, some nurse play, basically scene after scene through the fetish scope, with a heavy emphasis on role-play through uniform and costume choice, and bondage.
Between those chapters, however, is the part of the tale that I thought had the most cleverness. We start to unfold the mystery of who exactly the Red Queen is, along with her enemies, and there’s a historical content here that I really did find interesting. As the tale unfolds, there’s a kind of paganism and feminism that is quite engaging, and learning Kim’s role in all of this is ultimately a nice ribbon-on-top of the whole package, and was maybe I place I would have liked to have spent more time.
Adventures in Fetishland is a bit of a mixed bag. The scenes are there, and once you get your head past some of the prose style – understand, I think this is a very purposeful echoing of the style of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – I think it can be a fun read for those into the style and the slightly “wacky” feel that presents. The “B” plot of the history of the Red Queen and Kim is engaging. The scenes are erotic – though the language can sometimes disconnect the reader a bit as it seems somehow oddly put. I liked the denouement well enough, but the inclusion of the potential rapist in the tale at not just one place but two left me a bit sour – but that’s my hang-up, and not necessarily an issue for other readers.
I’d honestly suggest you take a quick perusal of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland if you’re not familiar with it, or if it has been a while since you read it. Somehow, having recently (enough) experienced the book made my easing into the language style of Fetishland less awkward. It’s a transition that works for the tale but I think could work against readers. I leave that determination up to you.
With the phenomenal success of 50 Shades of Grey, it's inevitable that new fans of erotica will start looking around for more BDSM to whet their appetites. (Not that BDSM and kink are the same thing, but let's not get too pedantic) Anything for You is the kind of book I hope they'll pick up. Interesting characters, kink of all kinds, and yes, even a touch of romance because the focus here is on couples who play well together, in a very naughty sense.
When I open a book and see this sort of line up of contributors, I know I'm in for treats.
Like Riding a Bicycle • Lisabet Sarai
Borrower Beware • Heidi Champa
Anything She Wanted • Neil Gavriel
Tails • Deborah Castellano
Teppanyaki • Janine Ashbless
Greasing the Wheels • Madlyn March
Interview • Talon Rihai and Salome Wilde
I Tend to Her • Justine Elyot
Apple Blossoms • Emerald
Big Night • D. L. King
The Guest Star • Sinclair Sexsmith
Exposure • Elizabeth Coldwell
New Games on a Saturday Night • Teresa Noelle Roberts
Notes from Her Master • Kathleen Tudor
Lap It Up • Kay Jaybee
What If • Angela R. Sargenti
Petting Zoo • Rachel Kramer Bussel
Normal • Charlotte Stein
Everything She’d Always Wanted • Ariel Graham
Look at these writers! Lisabet Sarai, Teresa Noelle Roberts, Rachel Kramer Bussell, Chalotte Stein, D.L. King, Emerald, Janine Ashbless, Heidi Champa, Kay Jaybee, Sinclair Sexsmith... It's like picking an all-star team roster from the erotica hall of fame. Or is that infamy?
But that presents a quandary as I usually talk about a couple stories in an anthology that stood out, when every single one of their stories is worthy of mention. So do I talk about the names I recognize, or do I feature names I don't know as well or are new to me and talk about their equally wonderful work? Sorry all-stars. You know I love and admire your work, and your stories in this anthology were all examples of why I seek out your names. But let's be honest, many of you are my friends or at last friendly acquaintances and none of us like the feeling of a closed club, especially when it comes to shout-outs in reviews. So here are the writers I'll be looking for in the future:
“Interview”by Talon Rihai and Salome Wilde isn't written as a regular prose story. A slave and his mistress trade off sections where they talk about their relationship. You get the story of how they met and how their relationship evolved. What I enjoyed the most though was how healthy this relationship comes across. Anyone who thinks BDSM is abusive would have second thoughts after seeing the affection between these two. Toward the end of the story there's a revelation that shocks the slave, but from everything that came before, you know it isn't going to change the core of this solid and loving relationship.
“Anything She Wanted”by Neil Gavriel started with one of the best opening lines in this anthology and just got better from there. I love a story with a sparkling sense of wit. From later in the story:
It’s one thing to fantasize about it, to dream of what your girlfriend would do with your ass if she could only read your dirty mind, but it’s another when you’re faced with seven inches of pink reality strapped to her pelvis.
Hah! Now you have to read more, don't you? The power dynamic between this couple is sexy and fun as they discover and experiment together.
Some of you are going to have a lovely time reading Elizabeth Coldwell's “Exposure.” Older woman, younger man. She's clothed, he's naked. And her friends are over for drinks. It isn't my fantasy, but it's sure a fun one. Who wouldn't want a buff young stud to rub your feet when you get home from work? Hmm. I may have to rethink that "not my fantasy" bit.
“Tails” by Deborah Castellano features a couple with sexual fluidity that's refreshing and just genderqueer enough to pique my interest. “Greasing the Wheels” by Madlyn March is a revenge tale, sort of, with a few twists. “I Tend to Her” by Justine Elyot has light medical play, a very nice and welcome bit of kink just when I thought every story in the anthology was going to be BDSM. “Notes from her Master” by Kathleen Tudor is sort of Hansel and Gretel following breadcrumbs through the woods – if the woods is an airplane, the crumbs are notes from her master in the sub's book and carry on, and the witch's house is... Okay, it's not Hansel and Gretel at all but it is a high-flying fantasy. If you're into the art of the slow tease, and some near-food fetish, then “What If”by Angela R. Sargenti is going to be a story you relish. (I really didn't write that terrible pun on purpose.) And for those of you who can't get enough of collared slaves being pushed to their limits by a master, read “Everything She’d Always Wanted”by Ariel Graham.
You know those car commercials where they say things like "Professional driver. Do NOT try this at home?" Yeah. About that. Many of these stories have something you could try at home with your lover. So if you find yourself squirming over a passage in a good way, maybe you should. And who better to play with than your other half, your significant other, your willing and obedient slave?
The relationship between sex and games has been a longstanding one that is fast becoming inseparable. What was once referred to as ‘grown-up time’ is now more commonly spoken of in euphemisms that use the language of childhood. Adults often refer to consensual intimacy as time when they ‘play’ together. Women and men are encouraged to purchase ‘toys’ for the bedroom. We have ‘partners’ and ‘playmates’ and we indulge in adult ‘games.’
It’s no longer mere sex – it’s all about the game.
I mention all of this as a way of introducing Justine Elyot’s superb erotic fiction novel, Game.
Justine Elyot is the author of such well-received titles as The Business of Pleasure and On Demand. Her short fiction has appeared in more anthologies than bookmarks. She is a renowned and respected writer with a talent for bringing characters to life in saucy and compelling situations.
Take this scene from the early pages of Game.
“Nuh uh.” His fingers slide halfway out and I clamp my thighs, trying to catch them. He smacks the accessible part of my bum and tuts at me. “None of that, missy. We’re finishing this is in character. Come on. Do as you’re told.”
“Please, peasant, make me come. Please, please, now, please.”
He presses down; the fingers reinsert themselves.
I come, thrashing and snarling, twisting into his hand.
“How about that?” he sounds so smug I’d slap him if I weren’t both bound and sapped by the force of my orgasm. “Princesses come just the same as wenches. You’re just a wench underneath it all, aren’t you?”
“Insolent,” I pant but I can’t finish the thought. I don’t have it in me.
This is eloquent and stylish writing, introducing us to Sophie and Martin, a couple involved (in this first scene) in a role-playing game of damsel’s in distress and the seemingly insurmountable love between a peasant and princess. It’s an early introduction to the theme of play and this core topic recurs again and again as the story progresses.
Sophie and Martin play other games.
At one point in the story Martin sends Sophie on a treasure hunt around London, demanding mobile-phone evidence that she has fulfilled various obligations, and constantly encouraging her to liaise with friends and strangers as she rises to every challenge he makes.
It’s a page-turning rush of excitement, arousal and satisfaction.
And always, Elyot writes about this couple with an obvious affection for the pair of them – a writer who understands the positive and negative traits of the characters she’s narrating.
Day four involves a butt plug. On day five I’m tied to the bed and tickled with feather dusters until I scream.
But what really worries me is day six.
On day six he does nothing at all.
I wake up in his bed on day seven insouciant and breezy.
“Almost there,” I crow, ignoring my morning fog of lust and jumping out of bed.
“Almost,” says Lloyd, watching me from the bed. “Not quite.”
“What have you got planned? I can’t believe you didn’t try anything on yesterday. You must have some kind of massive finale prepared.”
“You know me too well.” He’s quiet for a moment, watching me scoop my shower things out of my overnight bag. He’s told me thousands of times I should keep some on his shelf, but I’ve never got round to it. “I’ve invited some friends round for dinner.”
I stand straight, watching his face for a moment. “Oh?”
“Rachael and O from the club.”
“Yeah. It’s our day off. Thought they could come round in the afternoon and hang out.”
“And by hang out, you mean…?”
There is wit in this story as well as fun and wisdom and more intense and explicit sex than a good novel deserves. Well worth checking out.
Warning: this anthology is about women athletes who score with women as well as scoring on the field, the track or the rink. Why the warning? Because if you’re a writer like this reviewer, you probably had a love-hate relationship with jocks when you were growing up with your nose in a book. If I’m not mistaken, most of the contributors to this book grew up the same way.
Female athletes seem sexy by definition: strong, graceful, self-confident. In their youth, they seem to be the winners in the undeclared war between the Jocks and the Nerds. Yet girls who are good at sports rarely grow up to be professional athletes. And the few who do have a limited time in which to prove themselves. There is something bittersweet about any female athlete at the top of her game.
This anthology of sixteen diverse stories about sporty dykes captures their mystique. The sports described include relatively non-competitive activities such as long-distance running and scuba diving as well as team sports and hand-to-hand combat. However, competition is a major theme in almost every story. As it turns out, sports fans and nerds compete just as much as do sporty dykes, only less openly.
Each of these stories works in its own way, but if I had to choose a favorite, it would probably be “No, Tell Me How You Really Feel” by the editor, Ily Goyanes. The narrator is a college student, an artsy type in black eyeliner, who tries to hide her crush on Julianne, a volleyball star, by insulting her intelligence whenever possible. After an encounter in the library, the narrator tells the reader that she went home, cried her eyes out, then I fucked myself silly with my purple vibrator, reliving the close-up shot of her eyes on my face and the feel of her large, strong hand wrapped around my tiny wrist. When the narrator follows the team to an out-of-town game, Julianne finally discovers her secret. The undeclared war that so many of us remember from adolescence has rarely been described so hilariously.
The second-funniest story in the book is “Out and a Bout” by Allison Wonderland, a pun-filled, slapstick description of a reluctant roller-skater’s introduction to the rink by a more seasoned skater in a roller derby. This story is among several that explore the erotic implications of a relationship between a coach or mentor and a fledgling athlete.
In “Chairs” by Sommer Marsden, a basketball star helps the narrator, a losing player, develop her thigh muscles by doing “chairs,” an exercise which sounds harmless but is actually an excruciatingly extended squat. The narrator’s crush on Chevy, her mentor, enables her to bear the torture for a whole minute:
I watch the anorexic second hand sweep the standard-issue clock and when the final fifteen seconds starts to rush toward me, Chevy leans on my trembling thighs with her forearms and presses down.
I make a noise like some dying thing and she grins at me, white teeth flashing in the fluorescent lighting.
Luckily, improved strength is not the narrator’s only reward for following orders.
In “Boot Camp” by J.T. Langdon, a woman in her forties who wants to firm up some of those places that had been squishy for so long signs up for a workplace exercise class taught by a very fit and sexy woman instructor. The class is so strenuous that the student almost drops out, but the instructor’s special, after-class encouragement persuades her to keep going.
In “Goddess in a Red-and-Blue Speedo” by D.L. King, the narrator takes a certification course for scuba-diving from Lorna, the “goddess” of the title, who makes it all worth her while.
In some of the mentor-student stories, the relationship is explicitly Dominant/submissive. “Cymone’s Dominatrix” by Paisley Smith is set in ancient Greece and describes the yearning of the gladiatrix prima for darker pleasures of the flesh after she has won a fight.
The most poignant stories in the collection are told by middle-aged women revisiting their youth as sporty girls who missed a chance. In “Facing the Music” by Kiki DeLovely, the narrator warily attends her long-term lover’s 25th high school reunion at a “very conservative, very Catholic” school where Nic, the lover, finally acts out a locker-room scene which was only a fantasy when she was a star athlete at the school. “Hail Mary” by Shanna Germain shows a former tennis player unexpectedly finding her old lover in the sports store where she brings her daughter to buy a good tennis racquet. The “Hail Mary,” an almost unbeatable serve, is a metaphor for the ending of a relationship which once seemed likely to last a lifetime.
In “Run, Jo, Run” by Cheyenne Blue (reminiscent of a 1959 story and film by British writer Alan Sillitoe, “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner”), a woman runs to escape her past, her emotional baggage, and the hell of other people. But then she meets her counterpart, another woman runner, in an open stretch of unspoiled English countryside.
Coming out as a lesbian is shown to be scary enough for teenage girls, even the ones who excel at sports. For professional athletes, the risks are much greater. As the narrator in Sacchi Green’s figure-skating story, “The Outside Edge,” explains:
Being gay wasn’t, in itself, a career-buster these days. Sure, the rumourmongers were eternally speculating about the men in their sequinned outfits, but the skating community was united in a compact never to tell, and the media agreed tacitly never to ask.
Until the last paragraph of the story (and the last moment of the performance), the reader/viewer can’t be sure whether the narrator and her lover will reveal their true feelings in public.
Space doesn’t allow me to describe every story in detail, although each one is worth reading. The theme of insults or taunts as thinly-disguised flirting in a sports setting runs through several stories. In the over-the-top “Blood Lust” by Gina Marie, two female boxers face off:
Marinda moved in close and grabbed Rae’s ass, not once removing her dark, vicious gaze from Rae’s reflection in the mirror.
“I know what you want from me, Sugar Rae.”
“Yeah, I’ve been around.”
“Don’t fuck with me, Marinda.”
“It’s Lucinda to you, Miss Cherry Pie a la fucking mode.”
“Fine. Don’t fuck with me, Lucinda.”
“Oh, I will fuck with you. I will fuck with you till you can’t take it anymore. But you won’t get it that easy.”
In a surprise ending, both these characters—who address each other as “whore” and “bitch”--are shown to have a romantic streak. As they begin to get better acquainted after the match, they both show all the endearing awkwardness of two dykes on their first date.
This anthology about the sexuality of sporty dykes and the ones who want them is likely to become a classic. It probably won’t be the last work of erotic fiction on this theme.
Bondage, discipline, dominance and submission have always been popular themes in erotica. For years, discriminating readers of kinky fiction have relied on editors like Rachel Kramer Bussel, Alison Tyler and Violet Blue to supply explicit, arousing, beautifully crafted stories of power and surrender. The explosive success of The Book Which Shall Not Be Named, however, has dramatically increased the market for BDSM books. People who previously were unaware of or uninterested in D/s are looking for stories to feed their fantasies. Quite naturally, authors and publishers have responded by producing a flood of BDSM titles. Submission: A Treasury of Women Who Like to Give In is an example, an ebook-only short-story collection published by the new Mischief imprint of Harper-Collins.
I have to say at the outset that I was unimpressed by this book as a whole. With no introduction, no editor credited, no author biographies, it felt thrown together. Of course, Cleis collections like Please Sir: Erotic Tales of Female Submission and Love at First Sting: Sexy Tales of Erotic Restraint set the bar high, but I still try to judge each book on its own merits. As a long-time devotee of D/s erotica, I found Submission a bit disappointing.
For one thing, the contents do not uniformly reflect the title. A “treasury” suggests an abundance, an extensive collection, but this book contains only nine tales, none, I would guess, over 4000 words. Furthermore, several of the tales have little to do with female submission. As it happens, these stories are among the best in the book from a literary perspective – possibly because they are not burdened by the stereotypes of the BDSM subgenre. Primula Bond's The Ugly Duckling is a deliciously sensual story in which an awkward art student is seduced by her female teacher and mentor while touring the masterpieces of Italy. By my definition at least, there's no kink in this tale. I loved the honest and affecting You Already Know by Charlotte Stein, a tale of strange love between a shy store clerk and a dangerous-seeming hooligan. Once again, though, it doesn't seem to have anything to do with submission.
Meanwhile, some of the stories that adhere most closely to the theme suffer from over-familiarity. Of course, this is a risk one faces in writing in a popular genre replete with standard scenarios. For example, “Best in Show” by Rose de Fer features puppy-play. The heroine allows her master to exhibit her to other owners of submissive “puppies,” and reaps the sensual rewards of being an obedient dog. I found myself confusing this fairly predictable story with another puppy-play tale in a different anthology I'm reading for review.
“The Usual Dress Code” by Elizabeth Coldwell employs another common premise – a younger woman in emotional thrall to an older, more experienced man, who dictates what she should wear (usually something suggestive or slutty). Despite the fact that I've met this basic outline many times, Ms. Coldwell's tale did arouse and entertain me because she so brilliantly evoked Matilda's inner life:
She can't believe that he's extended such an offer, but the word that would call a halt to all this remains unspoken. There's no point pretending she doesn't want this. She's always wondered quite how far she'd be prepared to go in following her master's instructions, and it seems to be quite a lot further than she'd ever believed. Why else would her fingers fly back to the hem of the skirt, ready to push it up further if Daniel accepts the invitation?
“There's no point pretending she doesn't want this.” This sentence succinctly expresses the essence of submission, for me at least. Ms. Coldwell's tale stands out for its insight as well as its finely-crafted language.
“Corporate Punishment” by Kat Black brings us into yet another favorite BDSM setting, the corporate boardroom, where business adversaries play out their rivalries in games of sexual power. Cate has won contract concessions from her opponent James Grey, knowing full well that she'll pay for them later, bent over her desk or on her knees swallowing his cock.
“Yours (A Letter to Willow Sears),” written by Willow Sears, is one of the more extreme and filthy stories I've read in a while. (I offer my congratulations to Ms. Sears.) It focuses on a lesbian submissive who is punished for daring to look lustfully at another mistress. The epistolary form gives Yours a distinctive and original tone, but its content may disturb some readers.
Chrissie Bentley's “A Different Kind of Tension” actually bothered me a lot more than “Yours”. The heroine is basically tricked into a bondage scenario by a couple who have relationship problems. The ménage scene that ensues left me cold, partially because of its superficial focus on the physical but more importantly because of the selfishness and dishonesty exhibited by everyone involved.
“The Game” by Kyoko Church is another older master/younger submissive tale, but with an unexpected homoerotic twist that made me smile.
Finally, Terri Pray's “Making Up is Hard to Do” deals with a woman who has left her long-time lover because she believes he has been unfaithful. When she returns to discuss the matter, he reveals himself to be a rampant Dom who wants to teach her several lessons – not only that she should trust him, but also that she adores being topped. I found it rather implausible that a couple would have lived together for such a long time yet never discovered their reciprocal kinks. The narrative frame seemed to be mostly an excuse to write a spanking scene.
Submission is not a bad book. The quality of the writing ranges from acceptable to exceptional. The stories feature plenty of sexual shenanigans, with a satisfying mix of gender orientations. A reader who is satisfied with familiar fantasies will probably not share my disappointment. I know I'm pretty hard to please.