Saturday, March 30, 2013

Erotica too Dark? What is too Dark?

I made a comment yesterday regarding Kitty Thomas' books - that some of her writing is "too dark" for me. I'd like to clarify what I meant. I read most of Kitty Thomas' work and the prevalent theme is dubious consent, powerful males, and women in precarious situations without any viable options for an out. Now, most of it is romance erotica, so ultimately there's a HEA and the heroine learns to love her situation and the hero and blah blah blah. It's fantasy. I'm cool with that. I loved Comfort Food, enjoyed most of Tender Mercies (the death of the original slave was a little disturbing and not well explained.. I have questions about that whole situation [this is not a spoiler cause this is in the blurb], but the rest was GREAT if you like slavery fantasies), The Auction was really good. I'll do more in-depth reviews on those at some point, but just know that if you're into dubious consent then the above titles are good choices.

What was too dark for me was in Guilty Pleasures. I just thought that the big mind-fuck that happens there was fucked up and the emotional sadism is just not my thing... intended or not. If you're planning to read this book then don't continue to read this blog post, cause this will be one big SPOILER. You've been warned.

It wasn't any specific activity. I'm obviously cool with non-consent fantasies and hardcore BDSM and hardcore sadists... as long as there's a connection between the Hero and heroine I can deal with a whole lot of cruel-seeming treatment. The connection and ultimately, love and trust are very important. For me. Then I can enjoy it. Just take Annabel Joseph's Mercy for example - the hero - Matthew is a hardcore Dominant and Sadist and some of the things he did to Lucy can be viewed as cruel and unfair. But, for me, it was all good, cause he redeemed himself and he loved her and she loved him and it was almost a tangible thing that you could just about touch as you turned the pages.

Guilty Pleasures isn't meant to be a romance, maybe that's why I found it to be too dark for me. Here's the blurb:

Vivian Delaney leads a life of privilege, but behind closed doors she feels isolated and trapped in a gilded cage. Unable to achieve sexual pleasure with her husband, she finds herself in the capable hands of Anton, a massage therapist intent on awakening her to her full sexual potential. By any means necessary.

As their secret meetings progress, she falls farther down a rabbit hole where the line between rape and illicit affair grows increasingly blurred. Anton will accept nothing short of her complete surrender as he molds and shapes her to be sold to the highest bidder.

In the process of trying to fix her marriage by going to a sex therapist, Vivian gets entrapped in a sexual relationship with the massage therapist (Anton) through coercion and blackmail. He then escalates from just sex to more extreme BDSM activities and then adding partners or trainers and Master/slave scenarios. That, in and of itself, is fine with me. The sex and BDSM scenes were hot and well written. What threw me off was the emotional torment Vivian went through. In addition to trying to come to terms with her submissive cravings, she was dealing with guilt over cheating on her husband and realizing that she has to leave him because he cannot provide what she needs sexually. The cheating bugged me. If she would have come to terms with her needs and left her husband and then was trained as a slave and sold to a Master then fine. But it doesn't end there. Here's the spoiler - she's sold to her husband, Michael. So, ultimately, this whole debacle, the struggles, the self doubt, the guilt.... the cheating... and in the end she ends up back with him. 

I'll be honest, I skipped over a huge chunk of the middle of the book and read the last few pages. I just couldn't get myself to read it. It was too much with the subterfuge.   

If all you're looking for is some hot sex and don't care about the connection between the main protagonists then this might be a great book choice for you. But the lack of relationship building and the icky choices and lack of honesty just ruined it for me. Any trust that needs to exist in a solid relationship of any kind [for me] was totally missing from this. Vivian cheated on Michael. Was pretty much ready to end the relationship for something better. In fact, she thought she was leaving him... and it ended up being one big mind-fuck. Michael, for his part, set this whole mind-fuck situation up in the first place. He knew she what was happening and let her just struggle with it on her own.

In the last few pages, we are told why Michael went about Vivian's training in this backwards way, which might make it okay for some people. For me, though, it didn't redeem him. There were so many other ways that he could have gone about saving his marriage and getting her to submit to this sexual exploration and the training and all that... He could have done the bullying, the coercing and pressuring, even if he didn't want to be the one to train her, he could have been the one who made her accept the training... That would have made it better for me. But that's not what happened and the way he went about it just felt like a big cop-out.

A good book is supposed to make us feel, suffer along with the characters, worry for them, cry with them, yell at them when we think they're doing something wrong. I certainly worried for Vivian and yelled at Michael for fucking with her head. I doubt I'll ever read the whole book through, even though the sexy parts were very sexy and the SM was super hot. 

Conclusion - if you're just looking for hot BDSM and are cool with shady ethics then this book might get your rocks off. But if you're like me and want to see more of the actual relationship, connection, affection, and trust then it might be too dark for you too. Maybe I shouldn't talk about the shady ethics... I clearly liked Comfort Food and that was way shady. So it's really just the connection and the honesty of going through the experience at the hand of the actual end-goal Master. 

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