Posts Tagged With: bdsm

“Handmaiden’s Fury” by JM Guillen

I spent most of an afternoon drawn into JM Guillen’s free short fiction over at Irrational Worlds, and was quickly hooked by the rich and evocative worlds conveyed in just a few paragraphs.  Needing even more, I decided to try the novella Handmaiden’s Fury.

Handmaiden’s Fury is the story of a young priestess named Keiri.  She is a devotee of the goddess Rydia, whose grants power through sexuality.  Keiri’s power allows her to bond with people, control them, and even destroy.  Of course, it is not without personal cost, as the rituals to channel Rydia’s power involve a fair share of pain and submission.

When Keiri’s master discovers an evil sorcerer who smuggles slaves and ritually tortures innocent victims, he decides to use Keiri to put a stop the vile magic.  As he and Keiri work together to defeat their foe, Keiri realizes the depth of love and passion that she and her master share.

As with the short fiction at Irrational Worlds, I was immediately drawn into the story, which combines elements of horror, dark fantasy, and erotica.  Sexuality is an important part of the story, but is handled tastefully.  The bond between Keiri and her master is something to be treasured, and it keeps Keiri’s power from consuming anything in its path.  The magic system is unusual and well-developed, and the city in which the story is set seems like an organic part of a much larger world.  My only real complaint about Handmaiden’s Fury is that it didn’t come to a complete resolution, leaving me wanting more.  I hope that Guillen returns to Keiri’s story one day.

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Categories: Erotica, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror/Gothic | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Priest-Kings of Gor” by John Norman

When I get stressed out, I find myself drawn to so-bad-it’s-good pulpy sci-fi, which is why I picked up book three of John Norman’s Gor series.  For anyone who hasn’t read my reviews of the first two books, think A Princess of Mars, except all the women are sex slaves who seem to be relatively happy about it.  If you’re looking for high-quality literature, then run.  This is not the series for you.  I’d compare it to a meth addiction (Disclaimer: I’ve never actually tried meth, but I’ve watched my fair share of Intervention).  You know on an intellectual level that it’s bad, but somehow you can’t make yourself stop doing it.  That’s why I’m in the middle of book four as I’m writing this and am impatiently waiting to jump back into it.

In my review of Outlaw of Gor, I mentioned that the book felt like a side quest.  Priest-Kings of Gor picks up with the main story.  Tarl Cabot, in a quest to avenge the destruction of his city, travels into the mountains of Sardar, from which no man ever returns.  He intends to find the technologically advanced Priest-Kings of Gor.

The Priest-Kings were not what he expected.  They are giant insects who dwell in an underground nest.  Most of the Priest-Kings are genderless.  The Queen is the only true female in the Nest, and she is dying.  This means that the Nest is dying.  Tarl Cabot finds himself caught between two opposing factions, one that wishes to destroy the Nest, and one that wishes to save it.

I found myself impressed with the world-building as the author describes the social structure of the Priest-Kings and of Gor itself.  The Priest-Kings’ culture involves a strong sense of loyalty to the Nest, to the point that it can mean forgiving betrayal if it is committed by someone who is a part of the Nest.  Outside the Nest, the Priest-Kings are less forgiving.  After seeing the way that humans blow each other up on Earth, the Priest-Kings forbid humans from having technologically advanced weapons.  If a human tries to build a gun or explosive, he is incinerated by the dreaded “Flame Death.”  This is what keeps Gor so primitive, and part of what gives it its charm.

The Priest-Kings keep slaves, but those slaves are still considered to be “of the Nest,” which is considered to be a higher social status than being outside the Nest.  One of the turning points in Tarl Cabot’s struggle was when he taught two slaves who had been raised in the Nest that rebellion and free will is part of what makes us human.

There’s a bit of a double standard going on, because when it’s a guy slave, rebellion and free will are glorified, but for women, submission is considered to be the ultimate form of existence.  It’s almost like women are viewed as wild animals that are dangerous if they aren’t tamed.  This can be demonstrated through Tarl Cabot’s encounter with the treacherous slave girl Vika, who only when fully dominated decides to switch sides and help Tarl instead of working against him.

Verdict:  If you’re in the mood for some creative pulpy sword-and-planet featuring technologically advanced insect-people, then give it a try.  The rampant misogyny is going to be a deal breaker for a lot of readers, so be forewarned.  If you know what you’re getting into, it can be a fun read.

Categories: Fiction, Sci Fi | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Petals and Thorns” by Jeffe Kennedy

Petals and Thorns by Jeffe Kennedy is an erotic retelling of Beauty and the Beast.  I’m a sucker for reimagined fairy tales, so I had to give it a try.

Amarantha is convinced by her family to marry the Beast.  The Beast has agreed to divorce her and give her family a fortune if she doesn’t agree to consummate the marriage in a week’s time.  While he can’t take her virginity, nothing else is off-limits.  The Beast introduces Amarantha to BDSM, while at the same time emphasizing the fact that he’d never cause her real harm, and that he cares about her well-being.

At first, Amarantha is terrified, but she quickly realizes that she finds the Beast exciting.  She also realizes how empty her life with her family was, and that they care more about money than they do about people.  As she falls in love with the Beast, she realizes that her new life is far more fulfilling.  Meanwhile, the Beast is portrayed as a multifaceted creature.  He’s intelligent, caring, and has interests and personality outside of the bedroom.

I first became familiar with Kennedy’s work after winning a copy of Ruby during Armchair BEA.  Conveniently, it lined up with a project I was doing for a genre fiction class at the time.  Even though I don’t read much erotica, I realized that I had misjudged the genre as a whole.  As in Ruby, I was blown away by the character development present in Kennedy’s books.  They aren’t just about the sex, but rather use it as a way of showing how a character grows over time.

I’m quite impressed with Jeffe Kennedy’s stories.  Clocking in at a little under a hundred pages a piece, they’re good for a relaxing bedtime read when you want a book with a happy ending.  Petals and Thorns was no exception, and I would highly recommend it.

Categories: Erotica, Fantasy | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Armies of Heaven” by Jane Kindred

Book three of Jane Kindred’s House of Arkhangel’sk trilogy has finally been released. Yippee!  I’ve been a huge fan of this series ever since reading the first book, and was thrilled when the publisher asked me if I’d like an advanced copy of this one.  I was also delighted to have had the opportunity to host a guest post from the author earlier this week.

If you haven’t read the first two books in the trilogy, you may want to check out The Fallen Queen and The Midnight Court .  This post contains some spoilers from the first two books.

A brief recap of the story thus far:  The series is a parallel of the story of Anastasia Romanov mixed with fairy tale elements from The Snow Queen.  When her cousin Kae is possessed by the wicked Queen Aeval and her entire family is murdered, Grand Duchess Anazakia Helisovna manages to escape from Heaven and fall into modern Russia, aided by some S&M gay demons named Belphagor and Vasily.  Anazakia begins to gather her allies and fight to regain the throne of heaven.  Along the way, she and Vasily (who’s actually bi) have a daughter named Ola together, cause Anazakia was too sheltered to know about birth control.  Oops.

In Armies of Heaven, Ola has been kidnapped by Anazakia’s childhood nurse Helga, a power-starved member of the Social Liberation Party.  Meanwhile, Helga has another card to play.  Anazakia’s sister’s child is alive, and Helga means to use him to put herself in power, ruling as regent and using him as a puppet.  Anazakia is torn between her duties to her kingdom and to the children.  Should she go after Helga and save her child, or fight Aeval and reclaim her kingdom?

The beginning of the book seemed a bit slow to me, but the pacing picked up, and I read the last two thirds of the book in one sitting, frantic to see how the story would be resolved.  There are so many things about this series that make me happy, and this book did not disappoint.  I love the way that Jane Kindred intersperses her writing with Russian phrases, especially when describing Belphagor’s relationships with his various submissive friends.  Rather than play with tired love triangles, the author creates characters who are okay with having unconventional and somewhat deviant relationships, preferring to all be one happy family rather than fight over each other.  I adored the fairy tale elements, and I may or may not have cried when (spoiler in white) the shard of glass fell out of Kae’s eye.  Yeah, I’m sappy about stuff like that.

One of the things I liked about this was seeing the secondary characters grow, develop, and come into their own.  Kae’s character stood out the most to me in this book.  He’s a man who is haunted by his actions while under Aeval’s spell, and can’t forgive himself for the atrocities that he’s committed.  Armies of Heaven focused a lot on Kae and his relationships with the other characters as he begins to allow himself to have a place in Anazakia’s life again and begins to heal.  Then there’s Kirill, a monk who was devastated to find out that Heaven was a parallel world that left no room for his concept of a God.  Or Lively, Helga’s niece who is forced by a magical spell to spy on Anazakia, but who learns to stand up for herself and her own beliefs.

One word of warning if you haven’t read this series–there is graphic violence.  Sometimes, violence is committed against children.  Some readers might not feel comfortable with it.  You have been forewarned.

I can’t say enough how much I loved this series.  As someone who loves Russian culture, history, and fairy tales, Anazakia’s story is right up my alley.  Armies of Heaven is the perfect conclusion to one of the most unique fantasy stories that I’ve read.

Categories: Fantasy, Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How to Train Your Demon: Guest Post by Jane Kindred

Today I am delighted to host author Jane Kindred as a part of her blog tour for “The Armies of Heaven,” the third book in the House of Arkhangel’sk trilogy.  My review of the book will be posted later this week.

 

How to Train Your Demon

While Anazakia, the heroine of The House of Arkhangel’sk series, is an angelic grand duchess, the character I think of as the real protagonist is one of the Fallen. An airspirit named Belphagor, he’s used to being a bit of an outcast both in Heaven and below. In Heaven’s demon ghetto, Raqia, he’s known as the Prince of Tricks, a gambler who rarely loses, and whom no one can catch cheating, though most are convinced he is. In the world of Man, he’s a former rent boy and a tattooed thief who’s done time in the Russian zona. And he also happens to be a gay BDSM top.

His “boy,” Vasily, is a gruff, burly firespirit with flame-red dreadlocks, scruffy muttonchops, and spiked piercings down the sides of his neck, who can light a cigar with his tongue. But underneath Vasily’s rough exterior is a very sensitive soul.

Their “courtship” generally consists of snide remarks and angry growling on Vasily’s part, while Belphagor pretends to be insensitive and callous until Vasily blows his top. The inevitable fight between them ends in Vasily’s reluctant submission, which he rails against and pretends to hate—until he doesn’t.

When I first created these characters, I had no idea they’d be lovers, and I was equally surprised to discover their kinky inclinations. Belphagor has a particularly strong “voice” in my head, and when I let him stand back and describe Vasily in his own terms, it immediately became apparent what kind of relationship they had. It also became apparent that Vasily wasn’t gay; he was bisexual. Which is how he and Belphagor and Anazakia end up as a family, and how Vasily becomes the father of the last scion of Heaven.

But I can’t deny that the BDSM scenes between Belphagor and Vasily were my favorite to write. My only worry was that readers wouldn’t get their consensual nature. My editor, in fact, expressed concern at first that it might turn readers off, recommending that I soften those scenes up a bit. I pushed back on that particular edit, because I felt the intensity of those interactions was crucial to Belphagor and Vasily’s story. And then along came Fifty Shades of Gray, and suddenly BDSM was the “it” thing. By comparison, my story is relatively tame.

As deeply as Belphagor loves Vasily, and as intense as their connection is, in the final book of the trilogy, The Armies of Heaven, Belphagor takes a bit of a detour on his way to soliciting aid for the future queen of Heaven. In taking command of a platoon of Virtues, an order of angels known for their purity and modesty, Belphagor has the opportunity for the first time to train one of them as a willing submissive. It’s a challenge he can’t pass up and one that will have a profound affect on him—and on the fate of Heaven itself.

 

Giveaway:

To celebrate the release of The Armies of Heaven, I’m giving away prizes to three different winners on my blog tour: a $50 gift card to Barnes & Noble or Amazon, a complete set of print books of The House of Arkhangel’sk trilogy, and a collector’s edition of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen illustrated by Vladyslav Yerko. Just enter via the Rafflecopter link at the bottom of the post. This giveaway is international.

ENTER HERE

 

About the author:

Jane Kindred is the author of The House of Arkhangel’sk trilogy and The Devil’s Garden. Born in Billings, Montana, she spent her formative years ruining her eyes reading romance novels in the Tucson sun and watching Star Trek marathons in the dark. She now writes to the sound of San Francisco foghorns while two cats slowly but surely edge her off the side of the bed.

You can find Jane on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and on her website.

 

About The Armies of Heaven, Book Three of The House of Arkhangel’sk:

In Heaven, all hell has broken loose…

Full-scale war has broken out in Heaven, and Anazakia must embrace her destiny, leading an army of Virtues into battle against a Host of enemies to restore the House of Arkhangel’sk.

Furious with her for putting her trust in the angel who has done them all irreparable harm, Vasily tries to ignore his growing resentment, while Belphagor returns to the world of Man with a cadre of beautiful androgynous Virtues to restore the sundered alliance between the Fallen and the gypsy underground. Without their help in enlisting the terrestrial forces of Grigori and Nephilim, Anazakia’s Virtues are hopelessly outnumbered.

But there are more things in Heaven and Earth than any of them have dreamt of, and those they cannot see will mean the difference between victory and losing everything.

The Armies of Heaven is available now at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Powell’s Books.

Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Guest Posts | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

“Tarnsman of Gor” by John Norman

When I picked up this book, I wasn’t quite sure to expect.  The reviews that I had read before buying it were a mixture of outraged feminists, nostalgic reminiscences, and people pointing out the predictability of the plot.  It sounded like it would either be terrible or a lot of fun.

“Tarnsman of Gor,”  is basically “A Princess of Mars” with bondage and sex slaves thrown in for the aesthetic. The plot is almost exactly the same as  Burroughs’.  Tarl Cabot is a professor who goes hiking in the woods and is somehow teleported to Gor, the Counter Earth.  Gor follows Earth’s orbit, but is on the opposite side of the sun, so we can’t see it.  While on Gor, in part because of slightly altered gravity, Tarl becomes a heroic warrior who is capable of seemingly impossible feats of strength and valor.  He rides on a giant bird called a tarn.  Tarns are treated a lot like the sand worms in Dune; they’re integral to society, but they’re dangerous and can kill people.  While on a quest, Tarl falls in love with Talena, a warlord’s daughter, and when she falls into enemy hands he must rescue the damsel in distress.

Based on the outraged reviews, I had expected the S&M parts to be a lot worse and/or more sexist than they were.  Yes, the female characters tended to either be sex slaves or to wear veils and and be socially segregated from the men, and I can see how that might bother some people.  But, to be fair, the heroine didn’t end up chained up until she tried to kill Tarl several times, and he did seem to be very respectful of her under the circumstances.  Then again, I also probably wouldn’t fall in love with someone who tried to kill me, so there’s that.

One thing that I didn’t care for was the infodump when Tarl arrives on Gor.  I tend to prefer a more integrated way of worldbuilding, where the details about the setting and society are woven into the plot as they become relevant.

The plot is very predictable, but that’s to be expected in pulpy sci-fi, and it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book.  It’s a fun read if you know what you’re getting yourself into.  Sword & planet science fantasy adventures are my indulgence of choice if it’s been a particularly rough day (/rant/ such as when you’re house-sitting at your boyfriend’s apartment while he’s on vacation overseas and there’s a sewage backup that they have to dig up the street to fix and you’re trying to keep yourself awake at five in the morning while repair people and plumbers are going in and out and there’s shit everywhere… /endrant/), and if there are scenes that border on softcore porn, it’s just part of what gives that type of book its flavor.  The book was perfect for something mindless but with lots of adventure, and I ordered the second book in the series with the hopes that I’ll enjoy it too.

“Tarnsman of Gor” certainly isn’t for everyone, but if you’re in the mood for some cheesy pulpy sci-fi, then it’s perfect.

Categories: Fiction, Sci Fi | Tags: , , , , , , | 15 Comments

“Fifty Shames of Earl Grey” by Fanny Merkin (a.k.a. Andrew Shaffer)

During the very end of my last day at BEA (after a very nice publisher handed me a glass of champagne, which wasn’t quite enough to distract me from how much my feet hurt), I noticed a long line winding from one of the booths.

“What’s this line for?” I asked someone.

Fifty Shames of Earl Grey.”

So, rather than leaving, I decided to wait in that line, because I thought that the book had the potential for hilarity.  I was not disappointed.

Those of you who have read “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E. L. James may have noticed that the writing isn’t the best in the world, or that Ana acts like a petulant spoiled child who has spent her entire life under a rock.  Shaffer pokes fun at Mr. Grey and Ana Steel as he tells the story of Mr. Earl Grey and his Fifty Shames, which include shopping at Wal-Mart and actually liking the Star Wars prequels.  When Earl Grey begins to fall in love with Anna Steal, he worries that she will be scared off because of his love of BDSM (Bards, Dragons, Sorcery, and Magick).  Anna is a bit unsure about LARPing in the bedroom, but her Inner Guidette is there to provide encouragement.  Oh, and did I mention that Anna’s best friend Jin happens to be a Brony?  Shaffer’s parody highlights everything that is wrong with Fifty Shades of Grey, bringing a humorous twist to the worst novel that I’ve ever read.

This book is so much better than the real Fifty Shades.  I’d recommend it as a recovery tool to anyone who has suffered through the first one.  It’s filled with pop-culture references and is guaranteed to make you laugh.

Categories: Fiction, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , | 14 Comments

“Fifty Shades of Grey” by E. L. James

If you haven’t heard of E. L. James’ smash hit erotic novel “Fifty Shades of Grey,” then you’ve probably been living under a rock.  I’m a bit late to the game; everyone and their mother has read it by now.  By “everyone and their other,” I even mean my mother.

I hadn’t planned on reading the book, but I have a copy of Fanny Merkin’s parody “Fifty Shames of Earl Grey,” and I don’t feel like it’s fair to read a parody without first reading the work that it’s poking fun at.

It took every ounce of willpower that I had to finish “Fifty Shades of Grey.”  I was very tempted to DNF it (for those of you who aren’t book bloggers, DNF=Did Not Finish), but that would mean admitting defeat.  I WILL NOT BE DEFEATED BY A POORLY WRITTEN EROTICA NOVEL!  NEVER!

The basic story is that Bella interviews Edward Cullen for the school newspaper (Okay, it’s Ana Steel and Mr. Grey, but it’s pretty much the same thing).  The two of them are instantly attracted to each other, but Mr. Grey is into BDSM and Ana spends the entire book deciding whether or not she can live with the fact that she’s dating a guy who likes kinky sex.  Then there’s a bad metaphor about Mr. Grey being fifty shades of fucked-up, which comes completely out of the blue and makes no sense.  I mean, fifty shades?  Really?

Let’s look at Ana.  She’s supposed to be a senior in college.  However, James expects us to believe several things about her:

  1. Ana’s still a virgin.  While somewhat remarkable, this one’s still within the realm of possibility.  She’s also incredibly naive about anything sexual, which is even harder to believe.
  2. She’s never been drunk.  Um, did she go to college under a rock?  Still within the realm of possibility if she’s going to BYU, has a medical condition, or never leaves her dorm room, but it’s highly unlikely.
  3. Ana doesn’t have a computer.  Having a computer is pretty much required in college these days, and borrowing your roommate’s won’t cut it when you both have papers due the next day.  Pair this with the two points above and you’re in dangerous territory.  The suspension of disbelief is just not happening anymore.
  4. SHE DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A FRICKIN’ E-MAIL ADDRESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Okay, so I started yelling in shouty caps locks there.  This is 2012.  They give you a lovely .edu e-mail address when you enroll in any college.  In fact, you get one if you even take a single class.  *facepalm*

For someone who supposedly reads a lot, Ana’s remarkably stupid and ditzy.

One should also note that adding the phrase “Holy shit” or “Holy cow” to the end of a paragraph does not make your narrator sound like a young adult.  The colloquialisms that the author used were all wrong, and so Ana sounded like a middle-aged British woman pretending to be a teenager.

Throughout the entire book, Ana has an incessant habit of referring to her inner goddess.  Within the first few chapters, I wanted to find a revolver and shoot Ana’s inner goddess in the face.  I’m the peace-loving hippie pacifist type and don’t do the whole violence thing, but 300-some pages of inner goddess sorely tested those limits.

And then there’s the sex itself.  I expected a lot more based on the way that everyone seems to be reacting to it, but all we get to see is a bit of light bondage and spanking.  This would be fine if we didn’t have to listen to Ana incessantly whine about how much it freaks her out even though at the same time she admits that she enjoys it.  Having read other books that explore the topic of BDSM, I also got rather annoyed that Mr. Grey couldn’t seem to explain at all what’s in it for the sub, such as massive endorphin/adrenaline rushes and the stress relief that comes from letting somebody else be in charge (which is why it’s surprisingly popular with modern career women).

Spoiler alert:  I’m going to bitch about the ending for a few moments.  Spoiler text is in white, so you’ll need to highlight it to read it.

Can anyone say anticlimactic?  Not to mention dumb.  “Oh Mr. Grey, show me your worst!”  “Okay… are you sure?”  “Oh yes!”  *spanking commences*  “Oh noes, I didn’t really mean that!”  *Ana runs away*

You’ve got to be kidding me.  You’re running away from him BECAUSE HE DID EXACTLY WHAT YOU JUST ASKED HIM TO!?!?!  I SUFFERED THROUGH THIS ENTIRE BOOK SO YOU COULD HAVE A FUCKING BREAKUP?!?!?!?!

So as not to be completely one-sided, there were a couple things that I thought the book did well.  One thing that I will give the author props for is the fact that Ana and Mr. Grey always used protection.  This isn’t one of those books where characters have unprotected sex five times a day but somehow miraculously never get pregnant.  Another thing I liked is that James is not afraid to use explicit terms to refer to having sex or to the genitalia.  It bothers me when authors try to use phrases like “throbbing member” to describe a dick.  It’s a total mood-killer, by which I mean I usually start laughing too hard to take the scene seriously.  I was happy that James wasn’t afraid to use four-letter-words when they were warranted.

Overall, I would not recommend “Fifty Shades of Grey” unless, like myself, you’re reading it as preparation for reading a parody.  I like my porno novels to be well-written, thank you very much.

Pro-tip:  If you find yourself forced to read the book, it’s helpful to pretend that the novel is satire and to mentally replace Mr. Grey with Gaston from the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast.  It eventually stops working, but it helps.

Categories: Erotica, Fiction | Tags: , , , , , | 71 Comments

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