Friday, July 31, 2009

Review- Rules of Attraction by India Masters

Rules of Attraction
by India Masters
April 2009
Contemporary/ m/f, f/f, f/f/m/ erotica
49K words -$5.99

Buy it Loose-Id, Fictionwise, ARe

Successful and stylish fashion consultant Anna Craig thinks love is a greeting card marketing conspiracy. Her overgrown hippie of a best friend, polyamorous professor Parvoti Jordan thinks she couldn't be more wrong. Challenged, Anna decides to put it to the test, convincing Parvoti to sign up with her for an online dating service for wealthy men.

Playboy Jonathan Bain's not interested in relationships. So he has no qualms about making dates with two women he gets matched with. No problem. He has no intention of falling for either of them. Let alone both.

But Jonathan's not the only one who falls. Parvoti and Anna do too...and for each other. Maybe there's something real to those Rules of Attraction.

The words “Beach Read” are commonly used this time of year and that’s what I felt Rules of Attraction is; a good ménage beach read. It’s a fun, light, no need to think too much-- juicy love story in which three people come to really love each other and start a relationship.

Anna is a young writer for a chick magazine who thinks that men are only into relationships for the sex. She herself doesn’t believe in love. Being more concerned about appearances and the latest trendy clothes and make-up, she thinks that’s what her readers want to know about, not things like how to get a man. Her boss Nina thinks that the readers want to know more about dating and finding true love, so she puts Anna up to writing an article about it. Wanting to prove that she is right and that love really doesn’t exist, she signs up for an online dating site that caters to wealthier men.

To prove her point, Anna enlists the help of her best friend since childhood, Parvoti, a professor and expert on sexuality who believes in love and free sexual expression, including polyamory. She sets it up so that both she and Parvoti will date the same guy without telling him. Parvoti is a much deeper person though and feels uneasy about the whole thing, but goes along with it to prove to Anna that love does exist.

Jonathan is a major player and doesn’t believe in true love or settling down with one person. His best friend has found love and wishes that Jon could know the bliss of that. To prove his friend wrong that he’s not cut out for love, he signs up with his friend’s new online dating site. Of course, Anna finds Jon straight away and sets it up for both her and Parvoti to date him.

This is one of those stories that is nicely developed in all areas, which keep it fun to read. The characters are each so different and the plot, while a bit contrived in parts, has enough depth to keep out of the realm of being too fluffy. It’s not a deep book, but a very playful and loving take on a polyamorous relationship.

Author India Masters managed to convey that these three people all love each other and that somehow they will work it out. What I specifically enjoyed was that Anna and Parvoti have known each other since they were children and although they are completely opposites as far as personality traits, they still love and support each other. I liked that they don’t make a big deal about getting sexual with each other. It comes across as a natural progression or extension to their friendship and not something just to do. And they don’t do it solely for Jonathon’s titillation, which I appreciated.

Another positive note: normally, I don’t buy it when guys are a playboy, find “the one” and suddenly do a 360. But in this case, Anna really is a player herself and doesn’t cling onto Jon like all the other women have. For the first time he meets his match, which makes him think about things. So I could see him becoming very intrigued by her.

Parvoti is also a very interesting character and totally different from both Anna and Jon. She’s so open minded, socially a bit awkward, and down to earth. She’s not after his money or anything he has to offer and he finds that very attractive as well. When it comes to sex and love she’s rather innocent emotionally about it. And it’s hinted at that she’s open to women sometimes, which I liked.

While I really enjoyed this book, some bits of the plot were a bit goofy. OK, first, I don’t buy a woman not believing in love on any level. I can see a woman, in this case Anna, thinking that for most men sex is a bigger issue than love, but that love doesn’t exist at all is a bit far fetched. I also thought the set up of her and her friend dating the same guy anonymously as a very unrealistic way to test love being real or not. What if he hated both of them? What if he loved only one of them? As an excuse for the threesome though, it worked well.

The ending, not the relationship part, but the magazine part was also a bit hokey. You know those typical feel good American stories in which it all easily works out and is highly improbable? That was this ending. The relationship between Anna, Parvoti and Jon was what this story was about for me though and that ended on a very good and satisfying note.

The sex in this story is no holds barred steamy and juicy. However, one thing was just a bit off for me. Parvoti is a sexologist, meaning that she is very intellectually oriented about sex and talks very matter of fact about it. But then all the sudden, during sex, she’s talking like a sailor using very sexually explicit language and telling Jon and Anna what to do. It didn’t fit her character really; it’s more like how Anna would act.

Still though, I thought it was a nicely written story and for a f/f/m it’s my perfect kind of read; two women who are good friends and very close who take it to another level easily. And a man who can be a part of that, loving both of them.

Sex rating: Orgasmic- very graphic sexual language, public sex, f/f, m/f, f/f/m.

Grade: B++

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Review: Two's Company by Marie Soutien

Two's Company
by Marie Soutien
Contepmorary BDSM f/f/m menage romance--bisexual

Mike doesn't pay his sexy slave, Cassie, as much attention as she'd like. That is until she absentmindedly disobeys a direct order. When her disobedience is brought to his notice he is jolted out of his complacency. Her misdeed needs punishing and with a dungeon of delights close to hand, he is just the man to do it.

Cassie is thrilled by her Master's newfound enthusiasm and wholeheartedly joins in with his plans for them to return to the BDSM club scene. At the club there is a surprise waiting for them, in the shape of the flame-haired siren, Mira.

When Mira later turns up on their doorstep, the heat is on. Neither Cassie nor Mike wants to resist her charms, but can they enjoy playing with Mira and still love each other?

Publisher's Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: BDSM (includes bondage, caning, Domination/submission, fire play, flogging), dubious consent, exhibitionism, ménage, same sex interaction (f/f).

Two's Company is a short, well-written story embracing the master/slave aspect of the BDSM lifestyle. This is not "bondage lite"--Mike is the master of his domain, and Cassie is his willing and obedient slave in all aspects of life, not just in bed. I have to admit, BDSM is not exactly my thing, but considering the scarcity of f/f/m erotic romance out there, I figured what the hey. I've read more than a few Loose Id books, and I've rarely been disappointed by issues like poor editing or less than competent writing, and I've found myself surprised in the past by enjoying things I never thought I would when they're presented by a good author.

I have to admit, I felt a bit at sea while reading much of this. As much as I can appreciate and relate to the innate desire to be submissive to a man in bed, I can't imagine putting up with the kind of relationship Cassie and Mike have. I often find the heroes in books where the D/s dynamic is a 24/7 lifestyle to be, well, condescending, and the heroines more like doormats than women (although for some reason I have no problems at all when it's another female in the dominant role--in fact, that kinda floats my boat). I was a bit surprised to not find myself bristling and annoyed by all the kneeling and lowered gazes, the domestic demands put on Cassie, or even when Mike disciplines Cassie by making her sleep on the floor. Granted, these things didn't particularly resonate with me, but I have to give Ms. Soutien credit for writing them in a way that didn't put me off.

Part of this, I think, is the alternating POV. Though Mike's and Mira's POVs are written in third person, Cassie's is in first. It was a little disorienting at first, but I do think that the added intimacy of the first person POV helped me understand that though this kind of relationship isn't what I would want, it's what Cassie wanted.

The story begins with Cassie being bored--it's been a long time since Mike has had to discipline her, and she's looking for a line to cross to get the punishment she craves. After chewing on her pen to the point where her tongue is stained, she agonizes only briefly before confessing her transgression. Mike is annoyed. He's made it clear that Cassie's habit of chewing on pens and pencils is a no-no, and Cassie's dread and anticipation of her punishment reignites the fire in their stagnant relationship. After a scorching-hot session of caning, Mike decides they've been shut in too long, and it's time to go clubbing again.

At the club, they meet Mira, the sub on display during a demonstration of fire play. Both Cassie and Mike react very strongly to her. One of Cassie's previous relationships was with a female Domme, and she finds Mira incredibly sexy. Mike is likewise hot for Mira, though he berates himself for being disloyal to Cassie. Mira reveals that she's a lingerie designer looking to set up an internet storefront. Fortunate happenstance: Cassie is a web designer. They set up a meeting at Mike's house for the next day.
Mira arrives while Mike is out and about, and she and Cassie have a nice lunch together. When Mike arrives home, the delicate, half-spoken negotiations begin, and Mira's uncontrollable giggles earn her a sound spanking. I'll admit, there's something about spankings that gets me hot, and the scene itself was pretty...ahem. The three of them agree that they'd like to explore a relationship together.
After a couple of weeks to think about it, the three spend a weekend at play. I'm not big on the play part of the lifestyle--I like the dynamics, but the accouterments always seem kind of silly to me. Floggers and restraints and elaborate, orchestrated scenarios often make me feel one step removed from the nitty gritty, flesh-to-flesh heat of sex (and yes, I know it isn't all about sex). But once the games were over and the floggers got put down, I was kind of blown away by how well these three worked together. Mira is a switch, and I absolutely loved seeing her be forceful and dominant with Cassie. In fact, I found myself wishing there had been more of the three-way action in this fairly short story.
The weekend is a success, and Mira departs with promises that they'll get together again soon. And Mike and Cassie--through an admittedly schmaltzy, pat ending--reaffirm their feelings for each other.
Though the main relationship in this story is Mike and Cassie, I found myself most intrigued by Mira. I love to read about switches of any kind--especially those who are bisexual (I think because it pertains to my own life). The fact that she was compelled to dominate Cassie, but be submissive to Mike really resonated with me. That said, very little of this story was told in Mira's POV, and I'd have loved to read more of it, to get more into her head. The story ends without me really knowing her at all, and that's a shame because I felt she was the most intriguing of the three, and given time might have ended up as the center of the relationship.
My feelings about the story itself are mixed. I'm probably not the best judge of how accurate the BDSM lifestyle was reflected, but it was well-written enough to convince me that the characters want and are happy in this kind of relationship. The orchestrated scenes left me a bit cold (an entirely subjective reaction), although there were moments within them that grabbed me by the throat. What carried me through the story to the point where Mira entered the relationship was Ms. Soutien's light, easy prose. I read this one in an afternoon--and with my DNF average at 50% or higher these days, that's saying a lot. But at the end of the day, I did find myself wishing for something longer and more meaty, with more focus on Mira. Call me a hopeless romantic, but I almost always end up wanting my f/f/m menage romances to end up poly.
I suppose if I gobbled up BDSM like I gobble up popcorn with extra butter, this one might have been more enjoyable for me. That said, it was good, and I'm happy to say the one real f/f/m scene in it bumped it from a C to a C+ in my reckoning.
Sex rating: hard to really say--the sex was vanilla for three-way (no anal or dildoes or fisting or anything), but the BDSM elements were pretty extreme.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


see more Lolcats and funny pictures

To everyone who reads this blog, Moi, Leah, is feeling very lazy these days and doesn't feel much like reading... anything. So reviews will be coming very slowly and sporadically for a while.

If anyone would like to post a review, discuss a book you've found that we'd like, or would like to talk about anything, please feel free to jump in. We don't bite. I consider this an open blog.

I just needed to warn you all that I won't be posting much until I get out of my slump.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Should Lesbians have their own clubs?

Surfing through blog land I came across a link to this article. It's about a party organizer in Australia who wanted to be able to ban men from parties specifically organized for lesbians and bi women. They won the ability to ban men in court.

The article in itself is very interesting and it does bring up a lot of issues around equality and non discrimination based on sex or sexuality, but what was more interesting to me were the comments.

If you read them you can see that mostly men showed up to comment. Most of them came across as totally angry that their rights are being diminished while women get to have what they want. OK, WTF???

Those comments are EXACTLY why those lesbians need to have a safe place to congregate without having to deal with neanderthals. Because you know, a party full of lesbians is not going to attract a normal, conscientious man who is empathetic to women and what they deal with. Nope, the men who'll show up at those parties are just the type of guy that will harass and act incredulous that those women just don't want them.

Normally, I think a party consisting of 99% lesbians would be intimidating to a man. Why would men want to go to something like that anyway? The fact that men wish to go tells me they are going for only one reason, to mess with them. Unless they are gay men.

I just don't get why the men in those comments were so angry. What's it to them really if a bunch of lesbians want to gather without men? And they are so slanted in their thinking as well. I mean really, how often do men get sexually harassed at work, on a crowded train, in a crowded bar, walking by a bunch of women, in a gym, and so on? These things happen constantly to women on a daily basis. Those comments just go to show that many men, who've really had it so easy all through history, are feeling so angry and oppressed by women getting any kind of right that puts them on some equal playing ground.

For me, if all of those neanderthals wish to have their own club banning women, fine by me. They aren't the kind of men I'd want to be around anyway.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Review- Jessie's Girl by Amber Scott

Jessie’s Girl
by Amber Scott
Contemporary/ lesbian/ f/f-bi
Ebook- 50,200K

Buy it Liquid Silver Books, Fictionwise - $5.95

Her life was exactly on the path she wanted. The right man, the right career, even the right wedding dress. But, Sabrina’s perfectly laid plans unravel in one heartbeat when she sees the only person whose very memory could always tingle her toes.

Jessica Hayes. Those bee-stung lips, those soft curves. Jessie.

Like an addict, Sabrina finds herself fighting for a reason to be near her, to see her, to touch her one more time. Six years ago she’d been too scared, but today, despite all that she would put at risk, she craved being Jessie’s Girl.

I’ve wanted to read this book for quite a while as I’ve heard much about it. I think this book will go down as one of my favorite f/f stories even though it does have some minor flaws.

It’s Jessie’ brother’s wedding and her twin brother Kyle has brought his girlfriend Sabrina as his guest. Jessie is instantly attracted to Sabrina but doesn’t want to hurt her brother, so she keeps her distance. Fortunately or unfortunately, Jessie’s mom had Sabrina stay in Jessie’s room for the few days she was there and Jessie finds it hard avoid her and what she feels for her as they are sharing the same bed.

Sabrina has been dating Kyle for a few months but is getting ready to break it off after the wedding, not really being into him. To her surprise though, she’s very attracted to Jessie and initiates a sexual encounter the last night she’s there, which turns out to be a mind blowing experience for both of them. Sabrina leaves early the next morning and that’s the last that Jessie hears from her.

It’s six years later and just by coincidence they meet at a Bridal store where Sabrina is getting a dress fitting for her upcoming wedding to Chet. Sparks fly again between Sabrina and Jessie, but both have so many obstacles to overcome; the main one, actually expressing what they really feel for each other.

Overall, I really loved this story. Author Amber Scott did an excellent job of creating a burning passion between Jessie and Sabrina. Right from the beginning I was rooting for these two women to get together.

One thing that I liked was Sabrina’s sexual ambiguity. We don’t know her past sexual experience before Kyle and Jessie. Yes, she did have a short relationship with Kyle and she is getting married to Chet, whom she’s been with for a couple of years, however, it’s seems that her main reason to be with him is not out of a sexual/romantic love, but to fit in socially. She doesn’t really get that though until she meets up with Jessie again.

This was something that bothered me though; Sabrina has issues around being proper and fitting into “normal” society. She has a strong sense of duty to her mother who cares only about appearances and her marrying Chet, Mr. socially connected. At the same time though, she’s been very open with Chet about liking women. He pushes her into a threesome with another woman to sew their wild oats before marriage,--- (I didn’t get this at all. Why can’t they do things like that after they’re married as well?)---- which she readily goes along with. While she’s doing that, all she thinks about is Jessie. So I did wonder why she just walked out on Jessie after what was described as the most amazing night for both of them, with no explanation to Jessie at all.

Jessie is the one who really has problems, because she knows that Kyle loved Sabrina and was very hurt when Sabrina left. It eats at her and she’s hates that she betrayed him by being with Sabrina. Jessie is actually the one who had more of an immediate concern if she and Sabrina continued somehow. I didn’t get why it was Sabrina and not Jessie, who walked away. That’s what makes for good drama though, right?

What did work well for me was the build up of tension and heartache at not being together as Jessie and Sabrina both fight against, and give into their overwhelming attraction. The deep ache and need these two women have for each other is palpable. This is what kept this story very intense and juicy for me. The pacing was just right to keep me wanting them to get together, but at the same time wondering how they will work it out without acting in an inconsiderate way to the other people involved.

Jessie’s Girl was just one of those very sweet love stories between two people who love each other more than anything and fight for their love over what seems to be insurmountable obstacles. It’s my perfect kind of love story.

Sex rating: Orgasmic—f/f, the sex in this book is very hot and explicit vanilla. There’s also a minor f/f/m scene.

Grade: B+

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What are you whining about? There's TONS of f/f out there!

Warning: this is not a "sunshine and lollipops" post.

Biphobia and bisexual erasure are rampant in popular media. From Phoebe's "The Bisexual Song" on Friends--"Oh, sometimes men love women, and sometimes men love men. Then there are bisexuals, though some just say they're kidding themselves..."--to Willow's total conversion from straight to lesbian in one fell swoop on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to even supposedly LGBT-positive shows such as Queer as Folk suggesting that if you aren't totally straight or totally gay, there's something wrong with you--the implication is that bisexuals simply don't exist.

In my own personal experience since coming out, I've had people suggest that I'm only faking it to titillate straight men, or I'm deluded in my attraction to women, or it's "just a phase" that I'll eventually get over, or I'm really a closeted lesbian. The assumption is that I can't possibly be sexually and emotionally compatible with people of both sexes. And oddly, this assumption seems to me to be more prevalent in the LGBT community than anywhere else. It may be no more common there, but because that community is supposed to serve all the letters in the acronym, it is more...noticeable.

Well, I'm not particularly interested in what straight men think of my sexual orientation--other than to say how infuriating that straight-guy eyebrow waggle is. If I'm deluded, I've been deluded for my entire adult life (and my adolescence and much of my pre-adolescence) and by now, at age 38, I think I can safely say it's not a phase I'm going through. As for being a closeted lesbian? I just find men too damn hot to give any credence to that.

I'm bisexual. Get over it. And please, please, please stop telling me I don't exist!

So what does this have to do with f/f erotica and romance? It comes into play when making a distinction between f/f romance and lesbian romance. This is a distinction both lesbian and non-lesbian f/f authors have been known to make. Many lesbian romance authors shudder at the very thought of that slash-tag being associated with their work, and rightly so. Lesbian romance is a specific genre with specific tropes that are common to it.

According to Rory, a lesbian romance aficionada, bisexuality seems to be virtually non-existent in the f/f romance published by LGBT presses. Women who were once married tend to end up total converts to full-on lesbianism, often accompanied by references to how their ex-husbands were inattentive, inconsiderate lovers, or simply didn't know how to fulfill their needs. An egalitarian power dynamic is also common in lesbian romance, a dynamic that simply does not work for me as a reader. It's a rejection of the D/s power dynamic inherent in male/female relationships in favor of one where no woman has to be on the bottom.

Now don't get me wrong. Lesbian romance can be whatever it wants to be. I'm not going to tell authors what kind of stories to write, or what kind of tropes to include, or that they must give me what I want. And frankly, lesbians (and everyone else) can think what they want about my sexual orientation (and my opinions as I express them here. Feel free to strenuously disagree if you like--discussion is good).

But I do believe that lesbian fiction--as immersed (subtly or not so subtly) in gender politics, lesbian ideology, feminism and the casting off of patriarchy as it can be--is a very specific niche, and it's one that does not serve my needs as a reader. So whenever someone chimes in with a "What are you whining about? There's f/f romance all over the place!" I end up gritting my teeth until my jaw hurts.

I'm not particularly interested in reading romance fiction that supports a world view of either/or. I'm not interested in reading romance fiction that does not acknowledge I exist. I'm not interested in reading about how sex with a woman is always better than sex with a man, how a relationship with a woman will always be deeper and more loving and more fulfilling than one with a man, or that a man can never truly appreciate a woman.

I'm not interested in closing a door and leaving men on the other side of it. I'm about opting into the possibility of a same-sex relationship, not opting out of the possibility of an m/f one. I'm interested in sexual fluidity in all its forms (whether that's bi- or pansexuality, gender-bending, polyamory, whatever), and lesbian romance fiction doesn't seem to address this much or at all.

I decided to write this post after Teddypig did a blog post on Bold Strokes Books (and I should really give him kudos for posting about f/f considering it's certainly not his area of interest, lol), and the comments turned into a debate about whether there's a difference between f/f romance and lesbian romance. He holds that there is such an enormous overlap in readership between gay romance and m/m there's no distinction to make between the two, and that this holds true for f/f and lesbian.

I think he's mistaken.

Gay and m/m may be all but interchangeable because the readership does overlap. Women will happily read a gay romance, and gay men will happily read m/m.

This is not true of lesbian and f/f. Lesbian romance is often entrenched in a feminist ideology in a way gay romance (which still enjoys a degree of male privilege) is not. The issues in gay romance are gay issues. The issues in lesbian romance are not just lesbian issues but feminist issues.

Women will read gay romance because gay romance doesn't make them feel bad about themselves. Gay men will read m/m because m/m doesn't commonly contain tropes that subvert their ideology, their sense of self, and the long battle they've fought, and are still fighting, for acceptance.

The same can't be said about men and lesbian romance. Lesbian romance is often written from a perspective that makes the male reader feel like an interloper, or even an oppressor. What man wants to read fiction that often tells him he can never understand or please or sexually gratify a woman the way another woman can? What man wants to read fiction that makes him feel like he's only there to keep women down, thwart their success and happiness, or in the best case, help them achieve a happiness that can never include him? And I'm not saying lesbian romance should have to concern itself with making men feel okay about themselves, either. It shouldn't need to include men at all. But it isn't a genre targeted at men.

The same can't be said of straight women and lesbian romance--no woman wants to read a book that implies you're either/or (therefore, if she's getting turned on, she must conclude she's a closeted lesbian), or that she's a chump for being with a man. And judging by the het romance most popular today, straight women also tend to like the D/s dynamic (whether it's subtle or in your face), and complain there's no fire in a relationship without an alpha and a beta.

The same can't be said for lesbians and f/f. Bisexuality and sexual fluidity are not topics much explored in lesbian romance--for a reason. Whatever individual lesbians might feel, lesbians as a market aren't interested in reading about them--at least not in a romantic context.

Add to this the age-old co-opting of f/f sexuality for the titillation of straight men (and the resentment that must accompany that), and it's not surprising to see that female bisexuality is pretty much a no-show in lesbian romance. Lesbians (and most women) rightly protest the depiction of f/f sensuality as two women in bikinis rubbing against each other at a Nascar race. When such images are so pervasive in the media, it's only logical that many lesbians don't want men to own or have any part of their sexuality or the genre of fiction they've developed to serve it.

Female bisexuality invites men back in. Sexual fluidity invites men back in. Maybe not into the bedroom, but at least into the house. And that's what I like to read, and what I write. As a bisexual, I want to read characters who are like me, fiction that acknowledges f/f sex and f/f love are different from m/f, but not necessarily better. That I can be with a man and still be attracted to women, and it isn't a concession or a defeat or a compromise--it's just love. That I can be with a woman and still be attracted to men, and it's not the end-all and be-all or a rejection of maleness--it's just love.

After a certain amount of searching, Rory went on to recommend two romances to me where the characters are bisexual. I'm pretty stoked to find something to read that might satisfy my longing for girl-on-girl love while also accommodating my bisexuality--even if the m/f sex is minimal or non-existant. But the point is, if Rory hadn't recommended those books, I'd have never known they existed, because they're marketed as lesbian romance.

I don't read lesbian romance. I read f/f romance. The two are different. What say you all?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Interesting Discussion

An interesting discussion is going on over at Teddy Pig's blog about labeling f/f vs. lesbian in girl on girl romance, in case anyone is interested.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Review- A Swithin Spin I: A Queen's Move by Sharon Maria Bidwell

A Swithin Spin I: A Queen’s Move
by Sharon Maria Bidwell
Fantasy/ F/F- bisexual
48K- $5.99

Buy it Loose-ID, Fictionwise

Tressa, the Swithin Queen, doesn't always manage to act as a lady should. Her marriage is one of duty, though not without love. Even so, Markis, her husband, is happy for her to try a softer, feminine touch, if it means that Tressa finally finds true love. Meira is half Swithin and even though she's a great healer, some look upon her heritage with suspicion. Still, she's stronger than that; what others think of her has never why is it suddenly important to her that Tressa looks at her with love? Why does she want to protect Tressa even if it means possibly failing to do the right thing? Will the nation be able to stand up to the two women? Even more importantly, how will Tressa and Meira manage their dominant natures between the sheets?

A Queen’s Move is one of those books that’s hard to write a review for. While I didn’t hate this book, I didn’t love it either. Something was missing for me in both the love story and the general cohesiveness of the several story lines going on, but there were some things that I enjoyed about it.

Tressa is the Swithin Queen by marriage. The Swithin are a race of socially enlightened people who honor the rights both men and women equally. Sexually the Swithin are very open and have no judgments about gender preferences, only that it’s OK to love whomever you love. They’re also very powerful in this universe and so they hold much sway.

Tressa was born to the king of the Azulite, a race of people who are dominated by men. Women have absolutely no rights at all, are not allowed to even think for themselves and are forced to be completely subservient to men. Tressa escaped being forced into marriage by running away and marrying the king of Swithin, Markis. While their marriage is one of convenience---Markis is a gay man with two partners--- they do have a mutual love and respect for each other. So when Tressa expresses her desire to be with a woman, he supports her.

Tressa wants to go back to her home country to try and open them up and enlighten them on the errors of their archaic ways and takes Meira with her for support. Meira was born of parents of two races. Because of her parents intermarrying from two warring races, they were slaughtered and Meira was raised as a slave basically, being abused both sexually and mentally. She’s now a healer and Tressa is in love with her, although Tressa is reluctant express that to Meira. Meira feels this attraction but is reticent and doesn’t want to get emotionally involved. It’s only when they are jailed together by the Azulite that they do something about what they feel.

There are several issues I had with this book. The main problem for me was the lack of oomph or juice in this story. I got bored quite often and really pushed myself to keep reading this book. To be fair, I will chalk some of it up to my mood. However, there were some concrete problems that I can identify as to why this book didn’t quite pop for me.

Unfortunately, this book starts out really slow and doesn’t get much better until the very end. In the first chapter there’s hardly any dialogue and it’s about Tressa and Meira basically ignoring each other or being perfunctory on their way to Tressa’s homeland. While they are busy not talking, Tressa’s inner dialogue goes on and on though, explaining the back story of this Swithin world, which bored and confused me since until that point, I had no investment in the current story or the characters.

Another issue; I felt no heat between Tressa and Meira. Tressa supposedly has it really bad for Meira. And Meira is attracted to Tressa, but likes to keep her distance and acts rather cool with Tressa. When Meira, who is bisexual, finally seduces Tressa, Tressa retracts from Meira, suddenly fearing and wondering if she really can be with a woman since she has no experience.

I felt these constant reservations going on between the two and didn’t really believe that they want or need each other badly enough. In the end when they do finally open up to each other totally, it’s rather bland as they discuss rationally, rather than passionately act out, their feelings for each other.

Then there was problem in which I felt that the focus of this story was not very clear. It wasn’t completely about Meira and Tressa’s love story as there were other story lines going on. There’s a major story line of Tressa’s brother being in love with a woman who loves another woman in a society where that is strictly forbidden and Tressa trying to help him. I thought that this part might be used as an excuse for Meira and Tressa to get closer, and they do to a degree.

Again though, there was no passion that came from that for Tressa and Meira; it was all about the brother and the relationship between his love Kiana and Helsa. I actually felt more passion going on between Kiana and Helsa. Probably because they are doomed living in a place that they can be killed for being together, unlike Meira and Tressa who are free to love in Swithin territory and don’t have to fight for their love.

Another story thread running through this book was Tressa going home with this idealistic idea of trying to change the attitudes of her people. The Azulites are written as so misogynistic that it was clear to me right from the beginning that Tressa doesn’t even have a chance and that she’s basically got her head in the clouds chasing windmills. I really didn’t get why she thought she could change a whole nation’s way of thinking just like that. So that part of the story was unbelievable to me and felt contrived as an excuse to throw all these characters together.

Within this I felt there was too much of an underlying general social statement going on about the persecution of women and homosexuals by men, which negatively colored things for me.

On a positive note, I do admit that I liked the contrast of the Azulite race being so anti women with the Swithin being so open and conscientious as a people. It did make for some good conflict in this story. And I felt this world in general to be an interesting backdrop for character growth and the concept itself is unique.

The sex scenes between the women were also nicely written. And the story did pick up with some major action at the end, which I think helped my overall opinion of this story. I think if you like fantasy this book might appeal to you. As a f/f love story I wish it had more passion to it, which I think was possible due to the cultural and racial differences.

Sex rating: Wet panties: f/f. fairly graphic sexual language and scenarios, minor anal. Barely described fisting.

Grade: C-

For another review, which might help you better understand this book: Rainbow Reviews.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Girl kissing Girl Fad

I came across this article the other day: Lipstick Lesbians: How this kiss sparked a teenage trend that will disturb every parent and found it very interesting. The subject of girl on girl as a fad has come up many times on this blog and I find it very interesting to read different points of view on it.

This article presents it as a problem. I can see that there are problems with this recent development, but not for the reasons that the article writer states.
She comes from the POV that this is potentially harmful for young girls to willy nilly be kissing and being sexual with other girls as a fad and not for themselves. She blames celebrities who she says are doing it for the attention and shock value for spurring this recent trend on.

"For women such as those [celebrities], it's just another layer to the mystique they try so hard to create around themselves. But for the teenage girls who are, at 15 or 16, in some ways precocious, in other ways they are deeply naive about what the fallout might be from kissing another girl in public.

Yes, they're vulnerable to intense social pressures to fit in with whatever is perceived to be fashionable. And yet few are mature enough to deal with the complicated sexual issues surrounding such behaviour. That's why this celebrity fad is so insidious."

See, I kind of disagree with this statement. I agree that teens will do things from peer pressure. However, I would wager that being pressured by some boy who claimed love and then dumped the girl or even worse, spread the word that she's a tramp after sex, which is far more likely to happen--- is way more harmful to a girl's self worth and sexual maturity than kissing another girl just to be "cool" and emulate a celebrity.

And clearly, when a teenage girl kisses another girl when all their friends know it's due to the fad and they aren't being serious, then how "insidious" is that really? Frankly, I also don't think that 15 and 16 year old girls are that naive about the effects of kissing a girl for themselves and how others see it.
Far worse for me is this statement by one girl.

'It's really not such a big deal. Some of my girlfriends do kiss each other at parties - sometimes because they are drunk, sometimes because they think it will impress boys.

I think this is the bad part of this trend. While I don't think celebrities are doing this to impress men, it's turned into young girls doing it to impress boys, which only reinforces the whole girl on girl as male fantasy thing. I think this is the detrimental part personally.

Then there is this:

'It doesn't mean at all that they'd go further in private. Just that they are happy with each other to be seen doing that. It is a way of showing off, or flexing their sexual muscles to prove they are not square and boring.'

One 14-year-old girl confided to me that 'kissing a girl' was now considered by some in her set to be one of the first 'sexual bases' - a new rite of passage for teenage girls. 'It's something you have to do. It's part of growing up,' she told me.

Another said: 'We know it's the kind of thing that would shock adults, so we enjoy doing it.'

Well, there's no doubt that adults, and particularly the parents of teenage girls, will be disturbed, to say the least.

Seriously, I can't understand why parents would be disturbed over this particularly as opposed to say, sex w/o protection, doing oral and anal sex while claiming virginity (also another fad), etc.

I don't know where this article writer has been, but even back in my day in my tween years, my friends and I would do things like showing our growing boobs to each other, or the sudden appearance of pube hairs and so on during sleep overs. Considering that it was always groups of 5 or more girls, I don't chalk that up to specifically same sex desires of one girl to another girl. It was more a rite of passage and not near as bad as boys masturbating in groups, which is not uncommon.

Tweens to young adults are experimenting with sex and dealing with strong hormonal changes that they don't have control over. Maybe girls haven't kissed other girls as openly before, but same sex sexual experimentation on minor levels has being going on forever. The only difference now is that it's more in the open and less of a big deal.

But psychologist Donna Dawson warns that such things can lead to problems - as a result of undue peer pressure.

'Some impressionable young girls may be influenced to behave in a way they really don't want to. It's a trend they may feel they have to latch on to.'

Again, teens doing things and being damaged by giving into peer pressure is a common issue across the board and not specific to girl on girl kissing or experimenting.

Ironically enough, while some girls think it's cool to kiss other girls, 'lipstick lesbianism' has served only to anger sections of the lesbian community.

Yes, I agree with this problem. I can see how lesbians would be less than thrilled about this phenomenon. Girls kissing girls as a fad and not because they are lesbians means that they don't really have to deal with the stigma that many girls who are lesbian, who have no choice, must deal with. Real lesbians are teased and taunted for who they are as teens. This fad rather makes light of what they live daily and the real prejudice that they face.

On the other hand, for someone like me who would love to live in a world with no labels and where people could just be with who they love no matter what the gender, this recent fad is good.

I think it opens the doors for people who are on different points of the Kinsey scale and who would like to be open to some same sex experimenting and love, but who stop themselves due to stigma. At least discussion is happening around same sex relating and that can only be good in the long run.

The comments to this piece are particularly interesting and state what really people think about this, including parents. They are worth to check out.