Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Review Tuesday: Those Girls by Alison Tyler

Those Girls by Alison Tyler
Go Deeper Press, 2015

In the post-FSOG era, writing effective, arousing and literate BDSM erotica has become an almost impossible task. Ideas and expressions that were once fresh and exciting are now clichés. At the same time, the readership for kinky fiction has expanded to include hundreds of thousands who are intrigued and aroused by dominance and submission, but who may have never experienced it.

As an author, you have to avoid sugar-coating the interactions between the top and bottom, reducing a BDSM scene to “romance with ropes”. Without a hint of danger, at least a whiff of challenge, a power exchange will feel tame and lack authenticity. At the other extreme, a BDSM story that focuses too much on the physical activities and implements, spinning out page after page of bondage, floggings, and brandings, will end up being boring and maybe a bit alarming, rather than hot. Okay, I’m revealing my own prejudices here, but in my view, the core excitement in a BDSM scene derives from the psychological and emotional elements, which run the gamut from arrogance and shame to devotion and trust. What characters think, feel and say turns out to be much more important than what they do.

It’s tough to write that way, though, because some readers don’t understand that the thrill of surrendering control—or taking control—has little to do with the whips and chains, leather and latex the public associates with BDSM.

Alison Tyler makes it look easy.

Those Girls, her recently released title from Go Deeper Press, is only a few thousand words long, but it’s far more nuanced and complex than the infamous trilogy. Narrated by Sandy, an expert dominant who prides himself on his insight into a submissive’s desires, it’s actually a signal lesson on the dangers of first impressions. When Sandy encounters newbie Vanessa, looking nervous and wearing brand new leather, at a very private club, he first figures she’s a hopeless wannabe sub who knows nothing about kink. Then, when he recognizes her as a local newspaper reporter, he’s furious that she has somehow penetrated the club’s defenses in order to write an expos√© he knows will be calculated to shock rather than to portray the reality of kink.

He sets out to teach Vanessa a lesson, but in fact, he learns as much as she does. His initial assumptions turn out to be gravely in error.

I don’t want to say too much and spoil the pleasure of exploring this beautifully crafted story. There’s enough sex to satisfy readers who believe that the physical part of BDSM is what counts. For me, though, it’s the kaleidoscopic emotions animating this tale that will stick in my mind. Anger, fear, lust, respect, stubbornness, generosity, wonder—it’s amazing how much Ms. Tyler packs into this brief gem.

But then, that’s who she is, and that’s what she does, so very well.

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