Movie review: The Duke of Burgundy

I love Peter Bradshaw, he is my go to movie reviewer. I just watched Duke Of Burgundy and was not disappointed. A masterpiece of film making that centers on a BDSM relationship and heart wrenching tensions of a relationship falling apart when it is clear love is no longer enough. Art at it’s finest. The link to his review is here. If you don’t follow is column I urge you to try out a few of his 5 star rated films.

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Book review: Yield by Cari Silverwood

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Yield is dark, bloody and erotic romance at its best. It is a deeply emotional journey that is both poetic and brutal. Consent is dubious at times – but climax is guaranteed.

Wren is our protagonist. While on her mission to find her father’s killer she crosses the path of two dominant, sadistic men: Glass and Moghul. Each man has his own flavor of domination. Glass approaches her with love. Moghul approaches her with powerful obsession. Both are determined to have her, even if it kills them.

Although Wren is at a vulnerable time in her life, she doesn’t give up and her spirit never breaks. Wren has spunk, class and a great ass. Cari’s characters are finely written with a balance of strength and openness that immediately and easily invite you in for the ride thus making the scenes of dubious consent easier to access emotionally. So, even though Moghul is clearly bad we are given such depth of character that we can relax into and understand his cold, sadistic domination of Wren.

Cari’s masterful characterization makes it easier to journey deep into the heart of BDSM relationships. She realistically captures the bliss that pain can bring thus portraying the essence of Dom and Sub space with long overdue honesty and flare.

The book starts out on the lighter side as we witness the blossoming of Glass and Wren’s relationship and their journey into BDSM. However, Moghul is a consistent haunting and dark menace, watching and stalking from a distance. As a reader you are never sure if you want Wren to be rescued from the darkness or for her to surrender to it.

Moghul eventually kidnaps Wren and is determined to bend her to his will, even if it breaks her. Glass might be a bad boy but Moghul is a deliciously evil man.

The beginning of the book was a little hard to get into but I guarantee if you stick with it you wont be disappointed. Plus, I am a sick little bunny – I like the darkness so I may have just been impatient to get to the darker aspects of the novel. Upon reflection, the contrast between the sunny beginning and the darker ending may help illustrate the different shades of being and loving for the characters as their relationships evolved through the book.

During her time in captivity we learn that Wren is not the kind of girl who breaks – quite the opposite. Wren blossoms under Moguls regime of heavy handed of pain, mind-blowing sex and general psychological fuckery. In the darkness Wren finds herself and her bliss.

Whilst the plot is fast and gritty Yield is dripping with sensuality. The first sex scene with Glass caused me to put the book down and draw (panting) breath. I know that scene will stick with me for a long, long time, the imagery was so hot and vivid it is burned into my mind.

Cari talks about her books being a mind-fuck. She neglects to mention that reading her books can leave you feeling quite literally fucked and in need of a cold shower, cigarette, a drink and a good lie down to recover. And this is no mean feat considering she has included a detailed hook suspension scene.

The hook suspension scene was masterfully written. Cari’s portrayal is so realistic, delicate and hot I had to read the scene three times over. The first time I just bathed in its beauty, the second time I focused on the technical side of the scene and the writing, and the third time was pure indulgence. This is important because the technical aspects of BDSM novels can pull you out of erotic novels. At no point did Cari’s descriptions pull me out of the story (no pun intended – okay, a little bit intended). That is why I had to go back over and read the hook suspension scene to see just how she had managed that in her writing.

I have recommended this book to all of my friends in the BDSM scene who are looking for romance novels that speak to their lifestyle choices and desires.

What was so wonderful about the hook suspension scene was that it fitted in seamlessly with the plot and assisted in character and relationship developments. In short, the hook suspension scene wasn’t just included for shock value, which was a huge relief. Quite often when I read these elements of the BDSM world they feel like they are just there for shock value – they serve no purpose in the plot other than to be edgy. While Cari certainly shocks at times, in this instance Cari hasn’t disrespected her readers by including hook suspension for simple shock value. When Wren was suspended – I was right there with her. When Wren came off the hooks, I felt the change in her and the shift in the relationship.

The novelty of this book was the fact you could choose your own ending. I don’t normally like this option in a book but in Yield it worked beautifully. You could read the Blade Path or the Thorn Path. I read both in the order they are presented in the book. I would strongly recommend this approach because wow did that pack an emotional and visceral punch. Let’s just say, I will never look at a rose bush the same way. There is a definite rawness and poetry in the darkness Cari captures. Each Path provides a Happy Ever After – but with a dark twist, that is why I still class Cari’s books as romance.

Cari clearly enjoys pushing her characters and readers to their absolute limits. This book will enthrall you, seduce you and challenge you. It will test your moral compass and leave you questioning what you thought you knew about love and romance. But do yourself a favour, let it bewitch you and take a walk on the dark side. You might like it, Wren certainly did.

Book review: The delicate dependency by Michael Talbot

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I am always wary when I pick up a book that has ‘cult like’ status because I know my expectations are already heightened. As such, I have felt unduly disappointed with a book I felt ‘sure’ was going to be a treasure. Well, to start with, I am not sure why The delicate dependency has a ‘cult like’ status. Why doesn’t have the full rock star status of other world-class novels in this genre? This is easily one of the best vampire novels ever written.

Talbot’s writing is beautiful. The Victorian era is accurately and seamlessly captured and the gothic atmosphere permeates every page. Dialogue in the Victorian era can seem cumbersome however; Talbot manages to make it crisp and easy to read.

It dawned on me that the Victorian era is perhaps the perfect setting for a vampire novel. The standard vampire mythos is a contradiction. The typical vampire is both a bloodthirsty, sexual beast and also, a culturally refined, elegant, sensual, and intelligent member of society. The Victorian era was an era of very strict social norms, so strict that culture itself sought escape in the form of romanticism and mysticism. Similarly, scientific development was was steaming ahead and with it came cultural changes in terms of class and consumerism. The world was at once culturally restricted, and also emancipated in terms of beauty and science. The Victorian era holds a tension that echoes the tension of the vampire. The vampire has a need to fit within social convention and to move among the populace, even if it is just to hunt effectively. However, the vampire also has a need to feed and to seduce, to let the beast out and break free of social conventions, conventions that must feel so limiting to an otherworldly being. So, I can only hazard a guess that Talbot chose the Victorian era very carefully.

The plot of The Delicate Dependency is masterful, so much so that I know I will have to read it again to pick up the many threads I missed. There are themes of existential reflection that I did not get a chance to dwell on because of the page-turning nature of the plot. (These themes make sense when reading over the history of the author.) Throughout the novel there are numerous unexpected twists and turns and a constant sense of haunting suspense and subtle horror. The horror is rarely made explicit which makes it all the more terrifying.

Another exquisite aspect of this novel is how it captures the sensuality, passion, romance, and melancholia of the vampire mythos without having an explicit romance between a vampire and human. However, it may be argued that there is a romantic ‘dance’ of sorts between the protagonist, Dr. Gladstone, and the vampires. But this is never consummated.

Talbot uses an interesting technique of introducing us to the themes of the mysterious but ultimately doomed human-vampire relationship at the beginning of the book through writing about the romance between Dr. Gladstone and his wife; Camille – a dark mystery herself. Although neither Dr. Gladstone or Camille are vampires, there is something in the haunting nature of their relationship that is perhaps the very definition of duende. Duende is a concept very closely linked with the vampire mythos.

Finally, the character development in The delicate dependency is well rounded and complex. After finishing the novel I still had questions regarding each of the characters and some of their choices, but these questions are the normal questions that I find myself asking of any multifaceted person or character. I suspect the author intended his audience to go away and consider some of the troubling questions raised by both the plot and the characters. Further more, none of the characters are either all good or all bad. As such I was able to develop a relationship with each of them and was invested in their journeys despite the questions I was left with at the end.

My only noteworthy criticism is that the singular ambience of the novel. As stated earlier, the gothic permeates every page that in some ways is perfect for a vampire novel however, there were times I felt the monotonous grey-darkness suffocating.

The delicate dependency is a wonderful and innovative exploration of the gritty realities of what it would mean to be an immortal vampire living among humans. However, this tale is told without removing the romance and beauty that comes with the vampire mythos. It was a thrilling read that at times washed over me like poetry. I know I will be hunting down a first edition, hardcopy of this book for my shelves to read time and time again.

4.5/5

Book review: Lord of the vampires, Gena Showalter

As per usual with Gena, this was an easy and enjoyable read with lots of sultry and well-crafted sex scenes between a strong alpha and sexy, capable female. There were some interesting twists and turns early on in the book. However, I felt the plot thinned and the pace waned a little towards the end. Unlike what I have come to expect of Gena, her clarity of expression waned at times too. Her work is usually very crisp and tight allowing you to really focus on the sensual and often beautiful descriptions. I felt that some of Gena’s flare was missing from this book. Despite this lack there was still plenty of sizzle packed into these pages.

I enjoyed Jane’s (the protagonist) personality as much as her physicality (some of the descriptions are breathtaking), but I felt that Nicolai (alpha male) was poorly developed, especially given how central he is to the series. As such, their banter wasn’t particularly witty or sharp. Some may even argue Nicolai sounded like a Neandertha,l but I reserve judgment on that fact because it is hard to tell whether this was Gena’s intention or not. The shallowness of Nicolai’s character development made it difficult to invest in their relationship at times. However, Jane’s character was so enjoyable that she carried the plot along regardless. Also, there were some major holes in the plot regarding what could and couldn’t cross between worlds; but given that Gena was drawing inspiration between Alice in Wonderland, a few Cheshire Cat/Mad Hatter moments can be forgiven. However, I never once tired of reading about Jane and Nicolai’s romps so Gena still has the magic in her fingertips!

Despite a few minor pitfalls, Gena has done a stellar job of developing the majestic world of Elden and setting the stage for the rest of the series. If someone were to ask me for a sexy vamp book to read, this would be on the list for sure.

3.5/5

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