Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Review Tuesday: Love at First Sting (#bdsm #PowerExchange #ReviewTuesday)


Love at First Sting cover

Love at First Sting: Sexy Tales of Erotic Restraint
Edited by Alison Tyler
Cleis Press, 2007

If I had noticed Love at First Sting on the shelf at a bookstore, I probably would not have picked it up. The main title is awkward and derivative, the subtitle makes the book sound like frothy porn, and the olive drab cover, featuring a blurry, corset-clad torso, is hardly compelling. If I hadn't been asked to review the book, I probably would not have read it. This would have been a shame, because this collection is one of the best erotic anthologies that I've encountered in a long time.

I read a lot of BDSM, partly from personal interest and partly because as a reviewer I've been pigeonholed (accurately, perhaps) into the "kinky" category. Alison Tyler's volume is a refreshing contrast to some recent anthologies that focus on the more recreational aspects of spanking, bondage, and other perverse sports. The stories in this collection (with a few exceptions like Lisette Ashton's frisky "Bound to Kill" and "The '76 Revolution", a sweet tale by Nikki Maggennis) concern themselves with the darker side of dominance and submission. Temptation, obsession, guilt, fear, ecstasy and revelation - these stories crackle with serious emotion. These are not about "play parties".

In Teresa Lamai's breathless "Small Windows", a man and a woman are drawn together by mutual needs that neither can fully understand, or control.

"I have one cell phone just for his calls. When it vibrates, I drop everything. I feign sickness if I have to. I once left court and ran twenty blocks in the fog because there were no taxis. I thought my heart would burst.

Each time he opens the door the fugue starts again. I know once I see him I'll feel the shock in the solar plexus, the painful flash of heat behind my pubic bone that sears out all other questions, that cauterizes my mind until it's closed and quiet. With Josh I'm a starfish, spread flat and writhing gently, mindless and swollen and tingling."

James Walton Langolf's raw and lyrical "Abraham" begins:

"She is his Isaac laid out on the hood of his Ford - open, bared to his blade."

The tale continues, a fierce conflagration of a fuck between a man who's lonely and a woman who's desperate, but all the roughness ends in redemption - "the rain is washing her clean."

In the quieter darkness of Alison Tyler's "The Kiss", a master deliberately traps his sub in an impossible situation by forcing her to disobey him, and then makes her suffer the consequences.

Vida Bailey's "Torn" features a severe older woman and the disobedient young man whom she's tutoring. She tans his hide to improve his motivation, but the focus here is not on this classic situation, but on the dominant tutor's reactions and regrets:

"She watched his back; his long legs walking down the lane, away. His stride was more careful than the one he had come with. He was tender. Tears rose in her eyes. If she could she would keep him tied, to her bed, to her body, to move within the circle of his warmth and have him smile a smile that was for her only, secret, teasing and possessive."

"Silence is Golden" is perhaps the best story I've ever read by the prolific Rachel Kramer Bussel. When she is bound and gagged, a talkative woman learns to really pay attention:

"The silence rang in my ears as I came, the absence of sound coaxing me over the edge as saliva pooled in my mouth, my burning wrists took the imprints of the rope, and I reveled in his fast, hard, hammering thrusts. When we were done, there was no need to speak."

Two other tales that deserve special note are Sommer Marsden's "She Looked Good in Ribbons", and Brooke Stern's "The Art of the Suture". The former is a beautiful, intense account of two strangers meeting for the first time to fulfill their most cherished fantasies. The latter is a highly original pseudo-historical tale which may be the most perverse in the entire collection, even though it includes no graphic sex.

My favorite piece in this book is Donna George Storey's "Blinded". A woman and her lover stumble together into an escalating series of games involving a blindfold. Their physical communion masks the misunderstandings between them, which climax when he seems to be threatening to kill her. The story is an amazing roller coaster of emotions: lust, terror, uncertainty, silence, anger, love. I was shaking when I finished reading it.

Dominance and submission have been claimed by popular culture, and tamed into bedroom games played with fur-lined cuffs and whips made of feathers. Undiluted, in its original form, though, BDSM is strong stuff. A few stories in this collection were too rough, too cruel, for my personal tastes. Overall, though, Love at First Sting recaptures the thrill and the terror of genuine power exchange. Readers who have no experience with BDSM may find it confusing and disturbing, or possibly enlightening. Initiates are likely to recognize themselves in these stories.

No comments:

Post a Comment