You’ve all heard about a popular “erotica” books-which-shall-not-be-named. I’m not naming it because every time I hear the title, I start grinding my teeth. Yes, I read the series. I had to, because it’s impossible to have an intelligent discussion or voice an informed opinion without having done so. I consider those painful hours spent as a sacrifice for the greater good.
Why? Well, to start, the writing itself is uninspired and a study in mediocrity. The plot itself, such as it is, could have easily been told without the poorly-depicted BDSM elements, using any combination of a male character damaged by his past, exhibiting severe control issues and wallowing in self-loathing, and a previously inexperienced young woman. (Though it still would have been “meh.”)
The BDSM hook that is drawing in many readers is so weak it boggles the mind. Yes, he presents her with a contract listing many hard-core activities and shocking requirements in the area of control and restrictions. But the young woman not only never signs the contract, she never actually participates in any activities other than some which are pretty low on the whole BDSM scale. Things an awful lot of people who don’t consider themselves into BDSM at all have experienced. (Raise your hands. I know you’re out there.)
Many people express “outrage,” saying these books are about an abusive relationship, that the woman is a victim. But guess what? I don’t agree. The man is presented as a Dominant, harsh and controlling – if badly damaged. She is supposed to be an innocent being introduced (coerced?) into a dark and terrible lifestyle. He is portrayed as someone so twisted by his past that he needs this extreme lifestyle in order to feel any control over his own demons.
The whole series beats us over the head with the idea that there’s something “wrong” with wanting or needing BDSM or Dominant/submissive roles in a relationship. This isn’t true. If these roles are agreeable to two consenting adults, who’s to say this is wrong? Plus, the plot is all about the woman pulling him out of that mindset, or at least back to the shallow end of the D/s pool, because doing so makes him “better.” People worry about her being forced, of him controlling her, but in fact she is the one with all the control. She continues to do as she pleases for the most part, defying him frequently, and never doing anything she absolutely did not want to do.
While I consider these books trite and over-hyped, giving readers who have no understanding of BDSM or D/s a tiny (if distorted) glimpse at another aspect of sexuality, and an ability to pretend they’re reading something “scandalous,” I will say one positive thing about them. All the publicity is opening doors, and maybe ultimately a few minds. People who read this, and either love it or find it lacking, are seeking out other erotica titles. I hope some of them are expanding their personal horizons and increasing the value and perceived legitimacy of real, better written, more intelligent, more tantalizing erotica.
And what is “real, better written, more intelligent, more tantalizing erotica?” Easy. Eden Baylee. I’d been recommending her first anthology, Fall Into Winter, ever since I read it last year, and more so lately, every time I see someone rave about the books-which-shall-not-be-named. But yesterday I finished her new release, Spring Into Summer, and I’m still trying to pick my jaw up off the floor.
Before you even consider the erotica element, these books are brilliantly written. True literary fiction. (Literotica? Did I just make that up? If so, I claim ownership now and forever of this word. Send money.) The depiction of characters and settings is amazingly vivid, sometimes to the point of being painful. The language is rich and lyrical, and a true joy to read.
Spring Into Summer grabs your heart and your hormones in equal measure. Far from the cliche “girl meets boy (or girl, or vampire, or rugby team) in an implausible situation and does a bunch of smutty, sweaty, messy things” stories which unfortunately make up a lot of amateurish erotica, Eden Baylee gives us four poignant, touching, steamy, sexy – and sometimes heartbreaking – novellas. Have you ever actually cried when reading an erotic story??? I hadn’t. Until I read Spring Into Summer.
The four stories in this anthology are so strong they could easily stand even if you dialed down the erotica-meter by 90%. But why would you want to, when the sexy parts are so hot, so evocative, and so well-written? Eden Baylee shows us that erotic elements should enhance an already wonderful story, taking it to a whole new level, rather than being the only relevant part of the story.
From a too-short but life-changing romantic and erotic relationship, to a love lasting decades and spanning an ocean… From a personal healing and awakening, to an uninhibited, sexy, passionate bargain… Spring Into Summer has it all. If you want to get the most impact for your book-buying dollars, forget that other book. Get this one. And get it now.
(The links for Eden Baylee’s books in this review are for Amazon US. However, both are available on Amazon UK and other online retailers. Fall Into Winter is now also available in print editions. Visit the author’s website for current information and links to various purchase points.)