The Master's Prize by Maggie Nash
Anyone who's had any contact with me or my work will know that I love BDSM. Nothing turns me on like a well-written tale of dominance and submission. The ecstatic release of surrendering to a powerful master or mistress; the intimacy of revealing your most secret and perverse fantasies; the thrill of breaking down emotional and physical barriers, pushing to ever greater extremes of sensation and trust ... Simply describing the attributes of a great BDSM story is enough to make me damp!
Unfortunately, it's more difficult than you might think for me to find BDSM fiction that I truly enjoy. Too many books focus on the physical trials the dominant sets for the submissive, when what interests me is the emotional dynamics of their power exchange. Some authors appear to believe that BDSM is about abuse or humiliation, and I guess that some readers enjoy that – but not me. I also find myself getting annoyed by so-called kinky erotic romance where basically vanilla couples introduce bondage or spanking into their relationship just to spice things up. Please don't misunderstand – I don't think there's anything wrong with erotic play that borrows the trappings or activities of dominance and submission. However, the sine qua non of D/s has to do with the interaction between the top and the bottom, the sub's willing release of control and the dom's assumption of power over (and responsibility for) the sub's experiences. The ropes, blindfolds, whips and nipple clamps are merely external tools to enhance that experience.
I'm pleased to say that Maggie Nash's novella The Master's Prize offers just the sort of story I enjoy. Elise Blake is a confident career woman, a local radio personality who doesn't allow herself to be pushed around. Nevertheless, she's drawn to notion of sexual submission, though she scarcely knows what that means. Mitchell Collins, a wealthy hi-tech entrepreneur who's also a Master and trainer, first sees Elise when she visits his regular BDSM club as an observer. He reads the excitement on her masked face and becomes obsessed with the goal of possessing and mastering her.
He pursues her, practically kidnaps her, and coaxes her into admitting her desire for submission. He then begins to train her in obedience and trust, using a combination of pleasure and pain that's heavily weighted toward the former. When Mitch brings Elise back to Club Fetish, upon her request, he realizes that he doesn't have nearly the control over her that he thought – and that his feelings for her go far beyond anything he's experienced with any of his former conquests.
At first I found Mitchell's cockiness and his no-holds-barred pursuit of Elise a bit creepy and unappealing. I prefer dominants who cleverly seduce their slaves as opposed to overpowering them. Mitch's behavior borders on stalking. However, he makes it clear Elise must willingly consent to be mastered, if she wants to explore her submissive side, and there's no doubt that Elise enjoys the process. Ultimately, it's Elise who turns out to have the upper hand in the relationship. Mitchell comes to understand he has actually misjudged her nature. Despite her readiness to surrender, she's more of a switch than a pure sub. By the time Mitch realizes this, he's so in love with her that he really doesn't care.
The sexual connection between Mitch and Elise is deliciously hot. The story begins with a kiss, which Mitch buys from the reluctant Elise by making a donation to charity. The intensity of that kiss makes it clear that regardless of Elise's ambivalence, the two have great physical chemistry. The promise of that kiss is more than redeemed in their later scenes. Indeed, Mitch is so aroused by Elise he has some difficulties maintaining his Dom persona.
The Master's Prize slides back and forth between Elise's and Mitch's points of view. It's a tribute to Ms. Nash's writing skill that these shifts feel completely natural, never disorienting or confusing. The reader gains insight into both characters' minds and hearts.
The book's plot is pretty simple. I think Mitch and Elise could have used a longer story, to explore their connections in a more leisurely fashion. However, that's just my preference. After all, who wouldn't enjoy more sexy, kinky scenes between two people obviously made for one another?
If you like BDSM fiction that emphasized emotion over the physical trappings of kink, you're likely to enjoy The Master's Prize.