Melanie Abrams
Julius Addlesee
Shelley Aikens
A. Aimee
Jeanne Ainslie
Fredrica Alleyn
Rebecca Ambrose
Diane Anderson-Minshall
Laura Antoniou
Janine Ashbless
Lisette Ashton
Gavin Atlas
Danielle Austen
J. P. Beausejour
P.K. Belden
Tina Bell
Jove Belle
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Ronica Black
Candace Blevins
Primula Bond
Lionel Bramble
A. J. Bray
Samantha Brook
Matt Brooks
Zetta Brown
James Buchanan
Louisa Burton
Angela Campion
Angela Caperton
Annabeth Carew
Julia Chambers
Dale Chase
M. Christian
Greta Christina
Valentina Cilescu
Rae Clark
NJ Cole
Christina Crooks
Julius Culdrose
Portia da Costa
Alan Daniels
Angraecus Daniels
Dena De Paulo
Vincent Diamond
Susan DiPlacido
Noelle Douglas-Brown
Hypnotic Dreams
Amanda Earl
Hank Edwards
Jeremy Edwards
Stephen Elliott
Madelynne Ellis
Justine Elyot
Aurelia T. Evans
Lucy Felthouse
Jesse Fox
I. G. Frederick
Simone Freier
Louis Friend
Polly Frost
William Gaius
Bob Genz
Shanna Germain
J. J. Giles
Lesley Gowan
K D Grace
K. D. Grace
Sacchi Green
Ernest Greene
Tamzin Hall
R. E. Hargrave
P. S. Haven
Trebor Healey
Vicki Hendricks
Scott Alexander Hess
Richard Higgins
Julie Hilden
E. M. Hillwood
Amber Hipple
William Holden
Senta Holland
David Holly
Michelle Houston
Debra Hyde
M. E. Hydra
Vina Jackson
Anneke Jacob
Maxim Jakubowski
Kay Jaybee
Ronan Jefferson
Amanda Jilling
SM Johnson
Raven Kaldera
J. P. Kansas
Kevin Killian
D. L. King
Catt Kingsgrave
Kate Kinsey
Geoffrey Knight
Varian Krylov
Vivienne LaFay
Teresa Lamai
Lisa Lane
Randall Lang
James Lear
Amber Lee
Nikko Lee
Tanith Lee
Annabeth Leong
James W. Lewis
Marilyn Jaye Lewis
Ashley Lister
Fiona Locke
Clare London
Scottie Lowe
Simon Lowrie
Catherine Lundoff
Michael T. Luongo
Jay Lygon
Helen E. H. Madden
Nancy Madore
Jodi Malpas
Jeff Mann
Alma Marceau
Sommer Marsden
Gwen Masters
Sean Meriwether
Bridget Midway
I. J. Miller
Madeline Moore
Lucy V. Morgan
Julia Morizawa
David C. Morrow
Walter Mosley
Peggy Munson
Zoe Myonas
Alicia Night Orchid
Craig Odanovich
Cassandra Park
Michael Perkins
Christopher Pierce
Lance Porter
Jack L. Pyke
Devyn Quinn
Cameron Quitain
R. V. Raiment
Shakir Rashaan
Jean Roberta
Paige Roberts
Sam Rosenthal
D. V. Sadero
C Sanchez-Garcia
Lisabet Sarai
R Paul Sardanas
R. Paul Sardanas
Elizabeth Schechter
Erica Scott
Kemble Scott
Mele Shaw
Simon Sheppard
Tom Simple
Talia Skye
Susan St. Aubin
Charlotte Stein
C. Stetson
Chancery Stone
Donna George Storey
Darcy Sweet
Rebecca Symmons
Mitzi Szereto
Cecilia Tan
Lily Temperley
Vinnie Tesla
Claire Thompson
Alexis Trevelyan
Alison Tyler
Gloria Vanderbilt
Vanessa Vaughn
Elissa Wald
Saskia Walker
Kimberly Warner-Cohen
Brian Whitney
Carrie Williams
Peter Wolkoff
T. Martin Woody
Beth Wylde
Daddy X
Lux Zakari
Fiona Zedde
Safeword: ArabesqueSafeword: Arabesque
By: Candace Blevins
October 2014

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

Negotiation can be sexy. That’s one of the main messages I took away from Candace Blevin’s novel  Safeword: Arabesque. In some BDSM erotica, dominants and submissives engage in spontaneous scenes without any prior consultation, but Ms. Blevins’ characters invest considerable time and energy discussing their desires, fears, fantasies and limits. Given that the book revolves around a four-person polyamorous relationship, such discussions are clearly necessary. Luckily, they don’t slow down or preempt the action.

To admit one’s interests in kinky practices can be as deliciously scary as actually indulging in the transgressive acts themselves. Even the most matter-of-fact discussion of a planned scene can  trigger anticipatory arousal.  In Safeword: Arabesque, negotiations cover not only what the submissives are willing and able to accept, but also what the dominants crave. There’s erotic tension in the frequent distance between those two positions. The sub wants to satisfy his or her master. How far is he or she willing to go to accomplish that? The Dom itches to inflict real pain and evoke real tears, but he’s also concerned about the sub’s well-being. 

Safeword: Arabesqe  does an excellent job articulating these complexities. However, it’s not all talk. The book features numerous and varied sex scenes that range from mild to extreme.  Either the author is herself involved in BDSM or else she has really done her research. I encountered several techniques of which I’d previously been unaware.

As noted above, the novel tracks the developing ties among four individuals. Cassie is a psychiatric nurse with no exposure to or prior interest in BDSM. Still, she experiences a queasy sense of arousal when she sees Frisco (whom she knows from her martial arts classes) leading the sexy ballet dancer Cameron on a leash. At the request of their mutual friend Samantha, Frisco gives Cassie a light introduction to the pleasures of submission. Cassie wants more intensity and pain, but Frisco refuses, claiming he only dominates men. Frustrated and hurt, she turns to another dominant, Isaac, for what she needs, only to discover that he has been Frisco’s friend from childhood. Despite his strong attraction to and affection for Cassie, Isaac refuses to top her until Frisco has had the chance to reclaim her.

Meanwhile, Cam’s education as a slave is nearly complete. Frisco plans to find a suitable Master for the accomplished young man, as he has for the other slaves he has trained. Cam confesses his love for his sadistic Master, begging Frisco for the privilege of staying and serving him. Instead, Frisco throws him out, claiming that Cam has violated his training contract. The traumatized Cam moves in with Cassie, who has participated in some of his scenes with Frisco.

As the book progresses, these four characters resolve their internal and external conflicts and explore their true desires. By the end, they’ve become an unconventional family, each member dedicated to caring for, and satisfying the others. Given the differences in their personalities, needs and sexual roles, it’s quite a complicated dance, but the author makes their mutual accommodations believable.

I liked many aspects of this novel. I found the realistic approach to kink a huge relief after the fanciful and inaccurate portrayals one finds in a lot of erotic fiction. I love stories that feature polyamory, which matches my own interests (if not my practice). Some of the sex scenes definitely pushed my buttons, especially those between Frisco and Isaac.

Nevertheless, after more than four hundred and fifty pages, the book left me somewhat unsatisfied. Ms. Blevin’s characters are distinct individuals, not stereotypes, but still the characterization felt superficial. I didn’t feel I really knew any of the four principals. This may partially be a consequence of the frequent shifts in point of view. I’m not talking about “head-hopping”. Each scene is firmly anchored in the view of one character. However, Safeword: Arabeque does not have a focal character. Although we spend more time in Cassie’s and Cam’s head than Frisco’s or Isaac’s, the narrative shifts freely back and forth among the four protagonists. Perhaps the novel was intended to be Cassie’s story; however, it doesn’t really feel that way. Certainly, I did not strongly identify with her.

Furthermore, the novel lacks a well-defined plot progression. As the foursome gradually bonds, it faces various challenges, but there’s no overarching conflict to be resolved, no continuous rise of narrative tension. By half way through the book, the reader understands that Cassie, Cam, Frisco and Isaac will become an emotional and sexual unit. The remaining two hundred pages are episodic, charting the incremental progress toward that ultimate state. Dramatic events like Cassie’s rape do not seem to receive any more emotional emphasis than mundane activities like group dinners.  I suspect the short chapters – typically only a few pages long – exacerbate this impression.  Rarely if ever does the author create a sustained ramp of emotional intensity.

These criticisms might be literary quibbles. Safeword: Arabesque is competently written and edited, which is more than one can say about many erotic titles in the market today. Readers who choose their erotica based primarily on the sex rather than the language and style will have no complaints about this novel.