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.
Sex – even juicy, well-written, moderately transgressive sex – is not enough. Not enough for me, in any case. Justine Elyot's On Demand, one of the last books to be published by the now disbanded Black Lace, returns to the roots of that imprint. It offers chapter after chapter of enthusiastic and explicit sexual high jinks: anonymous couplings in parking lots, workouts in the gym, dildoes and strap-ons, peep shows and corporal punishment, anal initiations and orgies. Unfortunately, there is little in the way of character development or plot to tie all these lovely sex scenes together.
I believe that On Demand is intended as a novel. By the traditional definition (and On Demand does not strike me as a literary experiment) this implies a core set of protagonists with possibly some supporting characters that move the action forward, and a plot arc with a problem or conflict that will be explored and resolved by the end of the book. Perhaps there will be a subplot involving the minor characters that illuminates or contrasts with the primary narrative exposition.
On Demand offers none of this, really. Instead, the book is a collection of sexual anecdotes linked only by their setting, an upscale British hotel and conference center. Characters appear without any justification and disappear (in some cases) completely after the services of their naughty bits are no longer required. There is in some sense a “main” character (the receptionist Sophie) and a primary problem (her lust for the stern hotel manager Chase and the fact that he persists in ignoring her charms), but Ms. Elyot abandons this narrative thread for chapters at a time while she describes the sexual adventures of other visitors to the hotel and even Sophie herself (who certainly is not sufficiently debilitated by her unrequited passion to mope, moan and stay celibate).
The mechanisms used to introduce these unrelated romps tend to the clumsy. Most often the experiences are recounted to Sophie by the characters involved (implausibly, without leaving out any salacious detail or losing the slightest bit of immediacy). In at least one case Ms. Elyot adopts an omniscient point of view, just for the duration of the chapter, in order to tell the reader about the characters' history as well as their current sins.
The book begins well. Sophie, a bored office drone with a lascivious imagination, misses her train and heads over to the fancy hotel across from the station for an espresso and a more pleasant wait. She falls into fantasy, stimulated by the cushy surroundings and the delicious sense of anonymity engendered by hotels. Ultimately she picks up a stranger and screws him in his car. I was licking my lips, eager for more. The author managed to pull me into Sophie's head. She also allowed Sophie to be just a bit horrified by her own daring.
Alas, that lovely spark of shame is soon lost. Before long Sophie is regularly visiting the hotel bar, picking up one or two guys, even men she finds unattractive, just because she can. I started to get bored. (I would assume that Sophie must have been also, since she didn't give all that many details.) Then the dishy hotel manager Chase offers Sophie the job of receptionist, presumably because he has noticed her seductive behavior and her pick-ups. Sophie is struck with a thunderbolt of lust and the reader thinks, “Ah! That's better. A conquest that means something!”
However, Sophie's pursuit of Chase is desultory in the extreme. Not only do other characters get their rocks off again and again without moving her any closer to her goal—it appears that FOUR YEARS pass, while Sophie consoles herself with the personal trainer, the lifeguard, and the endless supply of businessmen passing through.
?Then, all of a sudden, the book lurches in an entirely different direction as Ms. Elyot introduces a new character (on page 186 of a 240 page book) who is, it turns out, THE ONE-- the man who will not only fulfill Sophie's every fantasy but also give her the emotional connection she didn't even know she needed. Chase conveniently fades away without any explanation as to why he ignored his luscious receptionist for so long.
Other than the fact that Chase's evaporation strained my credulity, the last chapter or two were more complex and involving than most of the earlier chapters. Ms. Elyot clearly can write arousing sex and characters who are more than just cardboard. I only wish that she had done more of this in On Demand. The book feels like a short story or novella that was padded with truly meaningless sex in order to get it to novel length. If the author had eschewed most of the minor characters and focused only on Sophie, she would have written a far better book.
Justine Elyot is a gifted writer. She knows how to craft words. She knows how to build and develop a story. And, most importantly, she understands how to please a reader. If you don’t already own a copy, rush out now and buy Seven Scarlet Tales. You will not be disappointed.
I gasped when Sands put his hand on the curve of my arse and moulded his palm to its shape.
“Who could resist this?” he whispered, and his voice was directly in my ear. “No straight man alive.”
The way he held his hand there was so possessive and so natural that I knew I had gone beyond turning back. A ripple had gone all the way through me, upwards, outwards, downwards, inwards. And, most particularly, cuntwards.
I had been excited from the start, but now my wetness was undeniable. My nipples were protruding out from the midnight blue silk and my breath was short and laboured. My body was telling him to do it. Do whatever he wanted. My mind could not summon up the effort to argue with it.
Seven Scarlet Tales is a collection of Elyot’s short fiction, each story complete and whole, but neatly linked to other stories in the book. The worlds she’s created are vividly drawn, cleverly described, and always fun exciting.
The characters in this collection are credible. Enchantingly, a character can appear in one story as the narrator and then turn up in another story in a supporting role. This interaction between stories is a device that enriches the depth of the worlds she’s created and makes the fiction so much more credible as levels of narrative discourse are developed and expanded. I won’t reiterate which characters or locations are presented or revisited: part of the fun with this title is making the connections and enjoying the way the story develops as the story-world expands. I will say, it’s a device that Elyot uses well.
The next stroke was harder and made a gorgeous splat sound against my skin. I felt the stripe sizzle into a welt. I hoped it would leave a mark.
I hoped my whole bum would be one swollen mass of red stripes when he came to throw down his belt and grab my hips and enter me from behind. But I was getting ahead of myself.
First I needed to live through this whipping. Breathe through it, clench through it, survive it.
The strokes came harder and faster. At first I was almost wild with the relentless pain, but before I could jump away or beg for mercy, something happened and the heat became sweet instead of fierce.
The scenarios Elyot describes are arousing. The stories are aimed at an intelligent and articulate readership with a penchant for spanking and she focuses the sexual content on this popular kink. But that’s not to say that all the sexual content is solely devoted to spanking. Even when hands and crops are no longer kissing bare buttocks, the sex is still incredibly hot and titillating.
Lying pressed against Bruno, breathing him in, feeling his strength and hardness, made her want to wrap herself tight around him and open up her legs. He smelled of older-man authority and responsibility and it intoxicated her. Screw the bad boys, what could be sexier than a good man who wanted to do right by you?
“Hey,” he whispered, rolling over so that he held her down a little underneath him. “You are playing this a bit too well, you know?”
His mouth was an inch from hers, his hair falling over his brow and tickling her. Their pelvises were in alignment. Only a double layer of cotton kept their genitals apart.
“Kiss me,” she begged almost silently.
“You want me to?” he sounded amazed, and it turned her on even more.
Seven Scarlet Tales is fun, frisky and formidable. This is stylish writing, entertaining in its aim to deliver a story and satisfying in its ability to convey a powerful sense of the erotic within the narrative.Black Lace have a track record of publishing quality writers who can deliver a superb erotic experience. Justine Elyot is proof that Black Lace are still publishing the best.
As a huge fan of short fiction, the first thing I want to say about Justine Elyot’s The Business of Pleasure is that it reads half as short fiction, and half as a novella – and that this “short fiction” half is a good thing.
The half that reads as a novella is about Charlotte – a submissive woman with a boring job who has decided to contact “the Number.” The Number is a business catering to the sexual desires of its clientele, and we see Charlotte live out her fantasy of being submissive to two men in the first chapter – and then return to Charlotte every other chapter thereafter.
Charlotte’s course takes her further and further into the machinations of this company, and she gets more and more involved with the two strange men who run the Number. That these two men are dominant sexually – and both arouse her in different ways – is the major crux of Charlotte’s story, and the central tale to the narrative in general. Unfortunately, I had a hard time connecting to Charlotte’s story.
The alternate chapters, however, were where The Business of Pleasure caught and kept my attention. As I mentioned, each reads almost as a short story – though some characters will carry over into another chapter or step into the Charlotte narrative – and involves a single client of the Number setting up their first appointment with the company and finding release from their daily lives.
These chapters were more varied – though for the most part all the women in the book, with one exception, are submissive – and brought a more varied sense of sensuality to the book than the Charlotte chapters. I did find myself wishing that one or two of the women would have been a bit more sexually dominant, but the various scenes purchased by the women – the dirty mechanic shop, an exhibitionist window, a porn stage, a pleasure harem – weren’t cookie-cutter clones of each other. The characters themselves were also varied, and didn’t read as clones of each other. Though their fantasties were ones where they were treated as sexual objects, the women’s personalities weren’t all passive and meek. Even the men involved –mostly actors picked up by the Number – had some depth to them in a few of the non-Charlotte chapters. These stories were where it was at for me, and I’d say that if you’re a lover of short erotic fiction, they’ll suit you.
The Charlotte story itself left me frustrated at times, though not in an erotic sense. Throughout the whole story, The Business of Pleasure has scorching, well-written erotica. There’s the occasional turn of phrase that might make you blink (orgasms that take off like a jet pack?) but the overall scenes and erotic interactions are hot. It was Charlotte’s incredibly submissive character that I had trouble connecting with. Her dilemma (which man of the two men) annoyed me at times, since in my reading experience it seemed that she only emotionally connected with one of the two men. It left me feeling like it should have been an easier decision, but this isn’t to say it didn’t make sense for Charlotte to waffle. She is a character not very able to be forceful in any way, and making a choice was a part of this. Unfortunately, that left me more annoyed with her than empathetic to her.
If there had perhaps been a few stronger women in the storylines tucked between the Charlotte pages, this might not have stuck out so much. Charlotte is one of the most submissive personalities I think I’ve read in erotica so far – and between all the other women who desired to be treated as whores or tarts or sluts, it just hit a point of overload in my mind. I needed a woman – or two – to take charge to take the reader in a different direction for a moment.If you like erotica with submissive women, however, this story will suit you more than fine. I didn’t realize I had this bias until about three quarters of the way through. As I said, the alternating non-Charlotte chapters read like high-heat erotic short stories – and I did enjoy those. I’m curious to see if Elyot has any short fiction collections, as I’d be interested in reading those.