Story of O

Written by Pauline Réage

Peel: A fictional novel following the female protagonist in her submission to her lover.

Throughout the novel, O’s consent is asked for, though there are situations of potentially dubious consent featuring other characters. The reader sees O blindfolded, whipped, chained, pierced, branded, masked, and trained to always be available for any type of intercourse with anyone approved by her lover. Additionally, the reader sees O proudly showing off her welts, branding, and piercings to her female lover.

Trained at the chateau of Roissy by a group of upper-class men, O did not know what her lover had or had not done when she was whipped and taken as was frequently blindfolded or partnered with men wearing masks. At the end of this training, her lover gives her to a more dominant master: Sir Stephen. Her lover claims that it is very important for O to learn how to serve someone she does not love, and who does not love her. However, as the training progresses, O falls in love with Sir Stephen, and she is under the impression that he loves her as well. O chooses to remain with Sir Stephen instead of her lover, and is branded and pierced with his initials and crest.

There has been some feminist backlash against this novel. Dworkin, for example, argues that having the protagonist’s name shortened to O represents her being zero, empty, and nothing more than an orifice. It has also been argued that the novel is just about the ultimate objectification of the female, and that it glorifies the abuse of women.

In this light, the character of O does delineate being submissive as a person from being submissive in a sexual context. We do, however briefly, see her life in the outside world as a successful photographer. Furthermore, I think it is useful to keep in mind that Réage wrote this as a series of fantasy letters to her lover, a de Sade fan.

I would not recommend this to anyone uncomfortable with mixing pain and pleasure; otherwise, it’s an interesting fantasy.

Nibble: “And yet all she was aiming for was to make the silks, the furs, and the laces more beautiful by that sudden beauty of an elfin creature surprised by her reflection in the mirror, which Jacqueline became in the simplest blouse, as she did in the most elegant mink.”

Rating: 7 out of 10 rouged red apples

I borrowed a paper copy from the CSPH library; cross-posted on their website here.

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Five Minute Erotica

Edited by Carol Queen

Peel: A collection of thirty-five steamy stories by various authors, aimed at heterosexual women.

Each story is, on average, three pages. Thus, there’s not so much to be done beforehand in terms of character development or description. Not all of the stories include explicit sex, but somehow incorporate sex into it- like an email from a lover, or thoughts about one’s partner. The stories are written for heterosexual women, though the situations change gender narrations they stay heterosexual for the most part. Besides who the stories are written for, the stories themselves are on the diverse side. For example, there are stories with power play, alien abduction, spanking, and dressing up as a kitten.

All in all the stories were a mixed bag for how sexy they were, and they tended to be on the tame side of acceptable kinkiness. Some stories were on the predictable side, especially the more vanilla ones. There are a few more editing mistakes then one would expect, however they don’t significantly detract from the reading experience.

Nibble: “She doesn’t think about his eyes, like she likes to tell herself; or about his lips, like she’d tell her friends if they knew about him […] She thinks about his hands.”

I would recommend this for heterosexual people who want a gentle introduction to erotica.

My Rating: 6 out of 10 little shiny red apples

I borrowed a paper copy from the CSPH library; click here to read the extended version.

Carol Queen’s Site

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In the Flesh

Written by Portia Da Costa

Peel: Beatrice posed for some nude photographs that got leaked to the public, destroying any chance of her receiving a respectable marriage proposal. Her brother has gambled away their money, and things are looking rather grim for Beatrice. Ritchie, a wealthy and powerful man, happens across the photos and decides he must have her.

The book is a lovely combination of historical romance and erotica. The author keeps the two well balanced, and doesn’t unrealistically dive into either too soon. In the beginning there’s a gentle building of anticipation and suspense, while the characters become more rounded. Beatrice’s character is quite likable, she also lacks any major flaws, and throughout the book is treated like a queen. The author also uses some gorgeous imagery, and never breaks away from the time period. The book is around three hundred and eighty pages, but between the plot and dialog feels much shorter. Most gender and sexuality roles are traditional, though there is a polyamorous couple to mix things up.

Throughout the story Ritchie seems to always know what Beatrice is thinking. It happened a few too many times for me, and made his character less realistic.

Nibble: “…she almost purred into his mouth like a plump and lazy kitten accepting his affection…”

I would recommend this to anyone who would like some plot to go with their erotica and romance.

My rating: 9 out of 10 sumptuous red apples

I received an advanced free copy of this book from the publishers, Harlequin,via NetGalley.

Portia Da Costa’s Site

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Lady Seductress’s Ball

Written by Eliza Knight

Peel: Olivia is unfortunately married to the aged Earl of March who she neither loves nor cares for. She dreams of another, Tristan, but she doesn’t want to do much while Lord March lives.

There is plot with this erotica, but it’s pretty well balanced. The erotica is rather steamy from an evening in a gazebo to an enticing masquerade.

Most of the language is true the Regency setting, but there are a few places where a modern phrase jumped out. My only problem with having serious romance in this story was that all we knew about Tristan was he was attractive, got around, and was allegedly in love with Olivia. The whole story was about Olivia, which is fine, but contributed to their relationship seeming only lust based. Perhaps if this had been the length of a novella, rather than a short story, the romance would have felt more authentic and less lust-confused-for-love. So in conclusion, lovely erotica, fine plot, heavy romance that could have used more space.

Nibble: “Waving that delicate fan would never calm the fire building between the two of them.”

I would recommend this to any erotica lover.

My Rating: 7 out of 10 scarlet steamed apples

I received an electronic copy from the publisher, Carina Press, via NetGalley.

Eliza Knight’s Site

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Inappropriate Thoughts

By Ian Dalton

In this story we have a romance novel writing divorcee Jillian as the protagonist, her crazy friend Victoria, her son Rob, and his visiting hot friend Brian. Brian, by virtue of being the protagonist’s interest, attracts every female in the novel and is flawless. Jillian is more down to earth and human feeling. Victoria I was most curious about, as she seemed to have the most potential for depth and an interesting backstory; though in this story she’s not really a sympathetic character.

The first half or so of the book is erotica: amusing, sexy, and fun to read as it flits between different characters’ view points. The ending part of the novel… not so much. Suddenly there’s boatloads of drama and feelings everywhere, and the light style that was present earlier in the book slips away. The book started off very funny, self-aware, and sexy, and slowly spiraled off. Perhaps if everything hadn’t been tied up so neatly this wouldn’t have happened, and the ending could have been stronger.

All in all though I did find this a fun sexy story, and I have high hopes for a novel explaining Victoria. I would recommend this story to anyone who would like a short romantic and erotic piece to read before bedtime.

Nibble: “She wore a nightshirt that wasn’t all that sexy, but what she was typing was—or at least it started out that way…”

My Rating: 7 out of 10 steamed red apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.