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.


MB (Leah) said...

Well, Kirsten, I'm glad you were the one to read this one.

I'm not so much a fan of teh BDSM, although there are writers who really suck me in and intrigue me with this lifestyle.

Sounds like I probably would have been more intrigued by Mira as well.

A person who is a full on submissive or total dominant is a little too boring for me. I like characters who are a bit more complex and who maybe sometimes go against their own grain when faced with certain situations. Mira sounds like someone I could sink my teeth into as a character.

Mike is annoyed. He's made it clear that Cassie's habit of chewing on pens and pencils is a no-no,

OK, seriously? I think that might have made me laugh. Like she's a dog or something.

I like the psychological dynamics of BDSM as well and if that's incorporated really well, then I would read it. I know from the blurb I would never have picked it up. But your review makes me think it might be OK, maybe. :)

kirsten saell said...

Well, like I said, for some reason I didn't get too pissed about the master/slave stuff in this. I mean, I usually have a hard time buying the whole "He really loves her and wants what's best for her" thing. It almost always leaves me with the feeling that he just really really likes to be in charge and she's a doormat.

But no, I don't think you'd really enjoy this one. The BDSM elements were really strong. It might have been the mood I was in, but it didn't bug me this time.

But Mira...oh, there was this one scene--the only real three-way scene--and it was damn hot. Mostly because she and Mike were working as a team and there was the hair-pulling that I so enjoy, lol.

Yeah, the pen thing--he actually washes her mouth out with soap for that, which I found...a bit squicky. But whatever. The writing kept me engaged, and despite the "dubious consent" in the warning, I didn't feel like she was doing anything she didn't want to do. Different strokes, I guess.


MB (Leah) said...

Yeah, the pen thing--he actually washes her mouth out with soap for that,

Oh, no, no way. My parents used to wash my mouth out with soap as punishment and... it DIDN'T turn me on at all. Hated it! I would have had a very negative visceral reaction had I read that.

The writing kept me engaged, and despite the "dubious consent" in the warning, I didn't feel like she was doing anything she didn't want to do.

Well, this might be why I would read it. Like you, the D(M)/s thing can, and often does for me, go the way of controlling prick/doormat. But if the author gets me to believe that the s really gets off on it, then I'm really OK.

Cathy in AK said...

I've read little in the way of modern BDSM stories, but Jacqueline Carey's first Kushiel trilogy--my only real reference to that--was amazing. Those weren't really "lifestyle" situations, but whew! they were hot.

The washing the mouth out in this story would have been a tough one for me to read too. That seems a bit over the limit. But hey, I'm no expert on the ways of the D/s relationship.

ver. word: carho--if I were, I'd have a much nicer car to ho in, I assure you ; )

M. A. said...

*takes quick "breather" to post*

Hi ya'll. Kirsten, you're definitely reading more interesting stuff than I am right now.

Regarding the pen chewing...*raises hand with guilty expression* I like to bite and gnaw on stuff and I nibbled and gnawed ink pens through most of my childhood and teen years.

No one washed my mouth out with soap, though. There was no need. I broke a pen once from gnawing too much. Despite multiple brushings and rinsings, I tasted black ink for two days after the incident. Never put a pen in my mouth again.

I still like to gnaw, though. Raw veggies, for example. Apples, stuff like that.

Regarding BDSM...I have mixed feelings about it. I've read some BDSM stories that are done very well and "work." Others are just plain "weird."

kirsten saell said...

Well, for me, this one was a bit weird, but it still kind of worked for me. I'm still wondering exactly why. I mean, there were moments within the BDSM scenes that really turned me on--even though the kind of ritualized nature of BDSM doesn't do it for me, those moments kept me reading.

And her writing style (after a bit of navel gazing in the first chapter) was light and easy. But yeah, I did wish for more f/f(/m) interactions.

The hero kind of skated right along the line of going too far a few times, but he was aware he was skating on that line. As I said, I don't know how realistic the relationship was, but I did buy that the characters were getting what they wanted/needed out of it.