I hate to say negative things about a book, but setting aside Making Him Wait wasn’t an option any more than twisting the truth was so, with reluctance, I’ll state my observations.
I won’t blame formatting errors on the author (quotation marks and apostrophes were mostly absent, and commas appeared in odd places) but even with proper punctuation, many scenes would have been difficult to follow. The need for an editor became more apparent as I read further into the text.
The phrase “the artist” rather than using her name, or a pronoun, seemed like an odd choice at first then quickly grew irritating. So did characterization that should have been shown rather than told, and didn’t need to be repeated several times through the story. A brief review of the difference between disinterested and uninterested would have been a good idea. I was amazed at all the swelling breasts. When I see that type of mistake I assume, rightly or wrongly, that the writer learned everything he knows about heaving bosoms from pulp porn novels.
Inexplicably, the main character would pick up her phone in the middle of a seduction and swap texts with another character. One example:
As she let Sara explore and abandoned herself to the exquisite touch, Maddie tapped out another message, her fingers misspelling things as her concentration began to fracture.
Maddie: There’s a par [sic] of bashful figers [sic] playing with my slit.
Theo: Fingers? – Tell me more
Maddie: She is exploring me
Theo: Feel good?
Despite the fact that the light on her mobile was again flashing to tell her Theo had sent another instant reply, Maddie put down the phone. Sara had brought her face so close to Maddie’s nub that the artist could feel the other woman’s gulps of air on her slit.
The flow of the scene and any sexual tension the writer created up to that point evaporated when the character grabbed her phone. The idea was good. Texting someone a blow-by-blow account of sex could add an interesting layer of voyeurism to the scene, but not the way it was handled here.
Adding to that problem was the head-hopping. The POV character frequently and abruptly switches mid-scene. In one rather mind-bending passage, a scene came to a screeching halt when the artist initiated a text conversation then head-hopped to the electrician’s (now I’ve started doing it!) POV for a few paragraphs so we could watch him drink tea and get a hard-on, only to jump back to the artist to finish the scene, all interspersed with text messages. Given the missing punctuation marks in the text, it’s possible that there was a scene break symbol, but why then return to the first character’s POV to finish the original scene?
Characters in this novel were more caricature than substance. The plot was an excuse to string together many sex scenes, none of which seemed particularly important to the meager story. Again, I’m sorry to be so negative, but the frustrating thing is that I’ve read several of Kay Jaybee’s short stories and they’re usually much better than this.
This slim volume of twenty sexual scenarios is not quite a collection of full-bodied stories, but it has its own charm. The author explains that she is the “collector” of the title, and that she collects other people’s stories about sexual adventures:
Hungrily, I listen to the erotic acrobatics of total strangers and commit them to paper, usually whilst in a café or coffee house.
The author (whose pen name looks like three initials) suggests that she blends in with the middle-class “shopping population” of an English town, and that her interest in other people’s sex lives is matched by their willingness to tell her about them.
The author claims that she also does hands-on research by picking up strangers for experimental encounters. She explains her method:
This usually entails a trip away from my residence in Oxford to London, where I take a short lease on a flat, adopt a more suitable persona (I should have been on the stage), and explore areas of potential inspiration.
The combination of pseudonymous coyness and scavenger-hunt references to specific routes and locations (“the bus from Five Mile Drive to St. Giles in Oxford,” “a small conservatory attached to a coffee shop near Carfax,” “the oriental coffee shop at Waterloo Station”) will look familiar to anyone who reads the “true confessions” stories in certain sex magazines. Who is Kay Jaybee (or K.J.B.) really? If one looks for a glamorous yet chameleon-like woman holding a notebook and a pen in any of the places mentioned, could one be written into her next book?
Aside from a few rough-trade characters such as Kit the bleached-blonde American whore, the stars of these anecdotes seem likely to be as inconspicuous in public as the author. Their stories reveal a range of appetites. In her epilogue, the author claims:
The gambit [gamut?] of sexual experience within the bounds of this small country, indeed, within the bounds of the English Home Counties alone, is wide indeed.
Unfortunately, these sketches don’t capture a range of different voices, and the vocabulary drips with cliché. Here a young woman, “Jay,” is described being led into a lesbian scene in a nightclub:
Pressed against the mirrored wall, arms placed high behind her spiky red hair, a fantastically curvaceous girl had her eyes tightly closed. Kneeling before her, an eager petite woman was licking between her spread legs, soft fingers teasing the skin above sheer silk hold-ups. Jay took in the round exposed globes squeezed out seductively above the willing captive’s startlingly bright green basque. She didn’t need telling what to do. Jay’s tongue was quickly lapping at the right nipple like a hungry cat, while her escort greedily attacked the left.
It would be interesting to learn more about “Jay” and the woman who lured her into this scene. It would also be interesting to read about sex in a relationship which has existed for longer than a few hours, but the purpose of these vignettes is to turn the reader on, and the author does not deviate from her purpose. She explains that in some cases, her interview subjects only consented to reveal the details of their sex lives after she promised them strict anonymity. To keep her promise, the author supposedly had to eliminate all information which could identify them.
The stories in this collection cover a spectrum of situations, genders and activities. The relatively vanilla scenes are not separated from those based on popular fetishes (especially voyeurism and exhibitionism, which seem inherent in this collection) or percussion scenes involving various implements (a belt, a cane, a riding crop, a whip). Males and females mix and mate and impersonate each other in adjoining stories. This kind of promiscuity looks particularly English to me, and it suggests an upper-class tradition of specialized tastes under a façade of heterosexual respectability.
Objects used in the scenes include “sweets” (a lollypop used as a dildo, licorice boot laces for bondage, tingling powder licked onto skin). Then there is the lady who advertises her services in the back of a car magazine, and who is described stretched over the bonnet of an upscale vehicle, getting beaten and fucked while pressed into its smooth metal surface. In one notable experiment (called “Treasures”), the author introduces a male friend to her collection of sex toys, and he shows his submissive side.
Most of the Dominant/submissive stories are male-dominant. In a scene in an actual castle, a young man responds to his female friend’s request by playing the role of a torturer:
Paul, keeping the flame as close as possible to her cunt, began to blow softly against her vulnerable flesh. Heather leapt within her bonds as, for a fraction of a second, his soft breath brushed the flame onto her skin.
In another story, a young man in a nightclub picks up a bit of “rough trade,” a laborer whose van is parked outside:
He undid the back doors of the box van and almost threw me in. He really was as massively strong as I had fantasized. Not fat, but big and hard and toned. My mouth almost watered at what was about to happen.
The van-driver takes over:
He roughly pulled me closer and dragged my t-shirt over my head, leaving my bare chest to shiver against the van’s dank atmosphere. Then, forcing me to my knees, he offered his shaft to my mouth. I took it without hesitation. It almost filled my throat, forcing me to choke a little as I accommodated its width and length.
Without words, the van-driver does various other things to his willing victim until he is sore. Then the Alpha Male gently offers to “sort out” his playmate, and gives him relief.
This book can be read in short segments of time, and the sexual descriptions are playful and clear. The cover art is discreet. The author concludes:
The reader is left with the sense that the story collection is unfinished and interactive, a good spur to the activities it is clearly intended to inspire. This reviewer would like to read something more filling, so to speak, but this book is what it is, and it does what it does. Enjoy.
I shall leave you now, and head off to continue my search. The fantasies of the British public are just waiting for me to find them. I’ll head to Scotland first I think, then maybe Devon and Cornwall, possibly Wales. . . I’ll see you there. . .
Of all the sub genres of erotic literature, none depends so much on convention as BDSM. Eternally popular scenarios occur again and again: the stern schoolmistress and the disobedient pupil; the Victorian master and his innocent maidservant; the secluded mansion that serves as a playground for perverse, decadent sadists and their abused slaves. Connoisseurs of D/s fiction (among whom I count myself) experience a warm surge of pleasure when we recognize one of these classic tropes. Despite the fact that we've encountered them again and again, these scenes have what it takes to push our buttons.
Authors of BDSM tales (again, a group to which I belong) have a difficult task. Somehow we need to use the emotional impact of these familiar scenarios without becoming trapped by stereotypes. In some cases, the key to keeping BDSM erotica fresh lies in creating distinctive, involving characters that draw the readers' empathy. In other stories, a skilled author may twist or invert the conventions. The student may end up caning the professor or the maid may turn out to be a good deal naughtier and more experienced than her employer realizes. Whatever approach we take, we face a tremendous challenge.
The Perfect Submissive by Kay Jaybee does not completely succeed in meeting this challenge. This novel recycles traditional scenarios without adding much that is new. The one-dimensional characters for the most part fail to engage the reader's sympathy or interest. The BDSM activity offered by the book is relentless, occasionally creative, and frequently extreme, but neither the dominants nor the submissives seem to be motivated by much beyond a desire for physical release.
The novel is set at The Fables country hotel. Owner/manager Laura Peters maintains a special set of rooms on the fifth floor for guests looking for more than bed and breakfast. Room 50 is a dungeon, 51 a Victorian study, 52 a school room, and so on. Laura employs a number of staff to assist her in catering to her guests' desires, including the sexy, stern dominatrix Miss Sarah and the jack-of-all-perversions bartender Master Lee. When twenty five year old Jess Saunders takes a job as The Fables' new receptionist, Laura is convinced that the demure, curvy red head is a natural submissive and sets out to initiate the poor young woman into the delights and dangers of BDSM.
Jess is the most appealing and believable character in the book. Her demanding, unpredictable employer both intimidates and arouses her. Consistent with Mrs. Peters' intuitions, Jess discovers that the scenes played out on the fifth floor turn her on more than anything she's previously experienced. She's appalled by the personal perversity her training reveals but helpless to resist her own lust. Her uncertainty and confusion ring true.
Mrs. Peters, in contrast, seems superficial, arrogant, self-centered and cruel. She uses Jess for her own pleasure without the slightest sense of responsibility. I suppose that some readers enjoy bossy, ultra-bitchy dominants who hurt their submissives just to prove that they can. That sort of emotional dynamic doesn't interest me, however. I prefer mistresses and masters who recognize the value of the sub's surrender and show some concern for his or her well-being.
The other characters exist mainly to serve as props in the kinky fifth floor scenarios, including the climactic test of Jess' discipline and endurance in the ominous room 54. They are all, of course, physically attractive and sexually insatiable.
In addition to its general lack of originality, The Perfect Submissive suffers from some rather poor writing. Ms. Jaybee's prose exhibits confusing POV shifts, ungrammatical sentences, and incorrect punctuation, as well as what I would consider an overabundance of adjectives and adverbs. Many of these problems could and should have been caught by a competent editor. Consider the following passage, which I found by opening to a more or less random page.
Hastened into position by his mistress, Paul's shirt was torn from his back, his smooth torso bent over the desk's leather inlay, and his outstretched muscular arms grasped each side of the desktop. Jess gasped at the sight of his arse. It was truly gorgeous. She was so close to him, only two metres away. She could smell his desire and almost taste the frisson of fear that ran down his spine; prone and vulnerable, as he anticipated the first strike.
Balling her hands into fists, Jess's fingernails dug into the flesh of her palms as she waited in unexpected harmony with the man before her...
Verbal modifiers ("Hastened..." and "Balling...") followed by an inappropriate subject in the main clause are one of my pet peeves. I'd also like to know how one could taste a frisson of fear.The awkward, amateurish prose begins on the very first page. If I had not made a commitment to review the book, I would have given up on the book immediately. Now I'm glad that I didn't stop, though, because reading this book taught me a lesson. Despite the problems I've cited, I did find some parts of The Perfect Submissive arousing. Ultimately, it didn't matter that the writing was flawed or that the characters were shallow. I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that the stereotypes still turned me on. The journey of a kinky soul discovering her true nature is a theme dear to my heart. I enjoy a tale of erotic self-discovery even when it's told badly.
A multitude of sins can be often be forgiven if the sinfully sexy scenes outweigh the “what the fuck!” moments. With Voyeur, outrageously lax editing threw me out of the story so often, just when I’d begun to feel, well, involved, that “wtf” was tipping the balance through much of the book.
As a writer and editor of erotica myself, I admit that I have certain biases. Many readers would glide right over egregious spell-check fails such as “her body froze to a statute-like state,” or an “opaque glass participation that divided the front and back of the vehicle,” or even the repeated use of “pre-empted” when “realized” or “predicted” were what was meant. But other readers might well have been distracted by these and many similar instances. What was the publisher thinking? Or the editors? Did the author get to review the final version?
I realize that Voyeur is intended to appeal to readers who like to be immersed in a world of non-stop BDSM sex as they imagine that world to be. On those terms, it certainly delivers. People with real experience in BDSM circles would be spluttering with criticism, but they’d be looking elsewhere for their reading pleasure in any case. I’ve seen my share of dungeons and play parties, charismatic tops and bottoms deep in sub space, and the real BDSM scene is far from anything depicted here. But most erotica has a certain gilding of fantasy, and there’s nothing wrong with writing for those who like it laid on with a heavy brush.
Still, some might prefer prose with a bit more finesse. Many of the sentences here are so long and convoluted that they have the effect of slowing the action. And, while avoiding repetition of words is a worthy aim, describing breasts, for instance, as “tits,” “teats,” and “globes” all in the same paragraph is overdoing things (especially since tits and teats are essentially the same term.) Speaking of terminology, for a character to refer to her own breasts in conversation as “globes” does nothing to enhance her believability. Readers more concerned with being swept up in what’s being done to certain body parts than with what they’re called won’t quibble about points like this, though, and the author does a creditable job in the sweeping-up department.
Now that I’ve got some of the editorial pickiness out of my system, I’ll move on to the more important matter of content. The characters and general structure of the story are familiar to readers of kinky erotica, with a few moderate variations. Here we have two submissive women with one dominant man who demands obedience, but prefers to record the women having sex with each other or with other men and women. He orchestrates scenes rather than participating personally, and gets his own kicks later while watching these filmed encounters in private.
Voyeurism can be an intensely erotic theme, especially combined, as here, with an undercurrent of the struggle for self-control by one who controls others. The parallel of a dominant who is as bound by his obsession as the submissives are by their mechanical bonds is intriguing, although I’m not sure it’s intended. Still, I found Mark, the voyeur, unappealing. Others’ mileage may, of course, vary. The two women were easier to like, even though it took quite a while for their individual personalities to be at all clear, and none of the characters were developed in much depth.
The kinky sex is virtually non-stop, often repetitive, and generally predictable, which may well be pluses for devotees of this sub-genre. The characters themselves acknowledge these points; one remarks, recounting an intense multi-player scene apparently meant to be an ordeal for her, “It was all a bit obvious, really; candles, food and stuff.” The concept of a series of challenges, each building stamina for the next, gives a structure to the story, and near the end some actual plot elements are revealed and the voyeur Mark is shown to have a degree of humanity. While none of the details were particularly startling, I have to admit that as events unfolded toward the end I was curious enough about what would happen next that I was caught up in the flow, without paying as much attention to editing faults or clichéd prose. I even had a sense that the author was caught up in it, too, and writing a bit more smoothly than in the beginning. There were some holes in the plot, such as it was, but here again readers in the game for the sex will probably not care, even if they notice.
All in all, the pluses didn’t outweigh the WTF moments for me, but they occasionally came close, and for someone not burdened with an editorial instinct they might come even closer.