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
By: Lux Zakari
Lyrical Press
June 2010

Reviewed By: 'Nathan Burgoine

Bad boys are a staple of fiction. The slightly broken guy who is on the shadier side of society evokes something in the reader that is titillating. He’s dangerous. He’s wild. He’s got smouldering good looks and isn’t afraid to do things that aren’t done in polite society. He’s the one the heroine starts to think about while she touches herself, wondering if a man who isn’t necessarily good for her would be good to be with.

When I’m reading, the most successful “bad boys” are the ones who are on the wrong side of the tracks (or the law, or society in general) because they’ve had no choice. Their reputation isn’t wrong – it’s just the result of taking a bad option from a list of poor choices. The scoundrel isn’t all bad, there’s a redemptive element to him, and when push comes to shove, the realization of this knight in slightly-tarnished-armor comes with a bit of relief. You want to like him, and now you have a reason.

In Coercion, I couldn’t quite find that sense for Michael. He’s spoiled, petulant, dates a girl who is equally spoiled and petulant, and has a kind of hot-and-cold desire for the heroine of the tale, Valerie, whom he basically treats as a throw-away sexual release valve whenever he and his girlfriend are on the outs. 

Valerie herself is a woman who was once chubby but has slimmed and toned herself with diet and exercise, and is suddenly attractive and desirable to men – but her proper ways and virginal inexperience seem to put off the guys around her – or she just doesn’t really notice they’re looking. Except for Michael, who definitely notices her and fingers her in a parking lot when he’s struggling with his girlfriend – and then doesn’t speak to Valerie for weeks.

Valerie is an apparently smart and gentle sort. Her desire for Michael is something even she admits to herself is foolish, and yet she falls into the traps of the low self-esteem. She wonders if he’d like her if she were as thin as his girlfriend, for example, and although I understand the allure of the handsome rake, by that point I was starting to get annoyed with her. Yes, I’ve been attracted to people I shouldn’t be. Who hasn’t? And especially in college – the setting for Coercion – the raging hormones are flying in all directions, but I wanted to slap Valerie. This guy has spoken to you twice all year – both times fingering you and then leaving immediately thereafter, by the way – and he drops you like a rock whenever his girlfriend pays attention to him. And you’re pining after him? Grow a spine.

Instead, Valerie allows herself to be used by Michael more and more. I wanted to enjoy the erotic prose – which is well written, well crafted, and builds at a surprisingly slow pace throughout the novel, nudging Valerie into deeper territory – but I just couldn’t get past disliking Michael thoroughly and getting annoyed at Valerie’s inability to realize what a cad Michael was. When she does realize he’s a jerk, she’s helpless to her desire, her body reacting regardless and her mind unable to turn away from Michael’s touch. Which, okay, it’s an erotic story  but it just goes to underline Valerie’s hopelessness and lack of conviction or strength.

By the time Valerie gathers some self-worth, it was on the edge of being too late for me. If I hadn’t been reviewing the book, I’m not sure I would have made it past Michael’s request that she go ask her friend to join in – which she does, though mercifully her friend reacts like a sane woman given how Michael has treated Valerie from step one.

I should mention that at no point is Coercion written poorly. The writing is good, the descriptions do well to evoke the time period of the piece, and the characters – for all that I found them unlikeable – are consistent. This is not a badly written story, which is part of the confusion for me. The zero empathy factor I had for the characters shot me down.

I’m not sure where Coercion was intending to lead me. I think it was aiming to be a “coming of age” for Valerie, but it felt like it took her too long to get a clue. It very likely could be that this just wasn’t the right kind of story for me by virtue of the characters. Valerie’s weakness left me so frustrated, and Michael just seemed without redemption. Michael’s girlfriend seemed like a female version of Michael, and I just found myself caring for almost no one in the tale, with the exception of the one nice guy who seems to like Valerie, but he barely blips on the radar throughout the story. The story is saved by its ending somewhat, which I won’t ruin, but overall Coercion left me more angry than titillated.