Book Reviews (4)

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I like to kick off the book review section with something 'real' - a biography or something non-fictional - and this issue is no exception. There's a how-to manual and some much-better-than-average fiction - both full-length novels and erotic 'shorts' - altogether some good autumn reading.

Dances with Werewolves
Author: Niki Flynn, Published by Virgin Books, 238 pages

Despite its fanciful title, this is a true memoir - not just true, but eye-openingly, grittily real. Niki Flynn (her 'stage' name) invites you into her world as a lifelong 'spanko' and star of CP (corporal punishment) films. Obviously this is a special niche market - not every one gets off on seeing people being caned, paddled, whipped, spanked and humiliated - but that should certainly not stop you from reading this extraordinary personal expose. Of course, if you're a spanko yourself, it's compulsive, affirmatory reading...

This is a very frank look inside the head of a woman whose primary pleasure is pain - experiencing it, getting through it and looking back on it with a battered bottom and a sense of achievement. As she explains when describing an early shoot with the Czechoslovakian underground film company 'Lupus Pictures' (hence the reference to werewolves), 'I have no idea how many times the cane has slashed into my bottom. I'm in so much pain I'm barely able to draw breath to cry out.' But far from putting her off further film work, this is the beginning of the realisation of her best fantasies. She's doing what she loves and being paid for it. It wasn't always so straightforward for her. She admits that she struggled with early vanilla relationships, and it took her some time to discover what worked for her. She discovered a fellow spanko in her sister's boyfriend, who was the proud owner of a large library of CP films. Then she realises, 'I was born kinky', and, coming to terms with it was a major step. She found websites and chatrooms where she could talk to others like her: 'Once I found other spankos and realised that other people had fantasies complementary to mine, I knew I would never be able to bottle up my desires again.'

Kinky she might be, but she sets out her bewildering mind, full of contradictions, without any of that annoying 'look at me, I'm weird' approach. She recognises the anomalies in her attitudes - she would suffer any amount of pain, wearing the welts, bruises and rope-marks without demur - but she owned to feeling 'a real prude' about filming oral, anal and exposed anus shots. After a nice American upbringing, she moved out of the family home, got an office job and moved in with three guys - but had to move on when she realised that one of them was a coke-dealer. She found she wasn't good at office work - ironically, she had problems with the authority - so she got a job in a strip club, where she found herself mother confessor to some of the more unconventional clients.

It was when she found her long-term boyfriend through a spankers' website that she was able to indulge her fantasies without feeling embarrassed - or, as previously, that her partners had been going through the motions to humour her. Having arranged a meet online, they spent a week together, 'there seemed no limit to the places we could go in our heads'. Her enjoyment of sex could only come from her non-consent in a fantasy setting. To her, the intensity of a relationship comes from 'trusting someone to give you pain to push your limits, to take you to an extreme physical and emotional place... and afterwards you'll be comforted and told how brave you were.Vanilla sex could never take me anywhere like that.'

Dances with Werewolves is an extraordinary insight into the dark recesses of Niki Flynn's mind, and an exposition of the niche CP film industry around the world. Flynn describes in detail a lot of scenarios in which she has played, en route to becoming one of the best-known spanking models in the business, with a following of almost worshipful fans (many of whose emails and correspondence through chatrooms she includes). For a CP fan, these elements make this a 'must-read' memoir - but Flynn writes well, explaining her complex feelings with a genuine sense that she wants the reader to understand her. She cites the erotic buzz she gets from fanmail where she is the centre of their fantasies, as the writers try to live out the pain with her, 'the profound psychosexual experience of being intimately objectified in someone's fantasies' and the perverseness of her addiction to deliberately administered punishment: 'Afterwards I bask in the glow of the subsiding pain and marvel at what I've endured. I can't enjoy it unless I don't enjoy it'.

Seeking out film scenarios which pique her imagination, Niki Flynn started, very tentatively, with politically-based punishment in her Lupus Pictures productions - and progressed to her signature schoolgirl CP roles (always in proper, authentic school uniforms - realism is paramount, even when having her hair hacked off on camera).While the time sequence is fractured with flashbacks to scenes from her childhood, teens and pre-CP days, this device sheds light on the present Niki.While you may not share Niki's tastes and peccadilloes, she's a compelling and complex character - and her book gives an insight into her world.

Well written and an absolutely 'revelationary' read.

I'd give it 8 out of 10.
With thanks to

Electrify your sex life
Author: Carole Altman Phd
Published in America (where else?) by Sourcebooks Inc.

Well it's cheap. I, too, am a qualified psychologist, but I wasn't - until now - obsessed by telling people. Unfortunately, Ms Altman is.While 'I' is the commonest word in spoken English, it shouldn't be in the written word. But it is in this book.

What we have here is re-hashed Masters and Johnson, and I'm pretty certain that anyone reading this magazine doesn't need this type of help. So why am I reviewing it? To be honest, as we always are, it was sent to us and we have a duty to protect our members and subscribers from such garbage. Also, despite England winning the Rugby World Cup (it was a try!) but the trophy going to South Africa, and Lewis just missing out, I was bored... but not as bored as I was when reading this book.

As you can probably tell, I'm pushed to find something good to say about this magnificent octopus. I've found something: it's 277 pages long, long, long. Before I go, I'll give you the 'about the author' (sic) bit.:
'Psychologist Dr. Carole Altman is the author of 101 Ways to Make Love Happen, From the Files of a Sex Therapist, and Don't Have Sex Until you Read Chapter 15: Secret Strategies for Successful Dating, and soon to be published Sex Talk. An expert in her field and a popular radio and TV personality and consultant, she lectures and offers workshops on positive attitudes and joyful sex. Carole has three children and six grandchildren. She lives in Las Vegas.' (In my opinion she lives on a planet somewhere between Zanussi and Zog.) Need I say more? Actually, yes. The picture on the front cover almost beggars belief - if the guy isn't asleep, then I support Chelsea. As Dorothy Parker said, 'this is not a book to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force'.

Unsurprisingly, I, along with the French jury, give this book 'Nul points'.
With thanks to CherryBliss -

The Ten Visions
Author: Olivia Knight, Published by Black Lace, (Virgin Books) 255 pages

Under their Black Lace imprint,Virgin publish in a number of different genres - contemporary, historical, paranormal and anthologies - and The Ten Visions falls into the paranormal category - and rather spellbinding it is, too.

Fresh home from America, our heroine, Sarah Kirkson, moves into 'a house with a history' in Oxford - and she quickly gets down to some action with a stranger who's muscled in on her house-warming party - and here the normal run of sexual adventure ends and the paranormal takes over.
I'm no connoisseur of wicca or the occult, but I suspect Olivia Knight is. Either that or she's made up some very imaginative names for her chapters... they probably have some occult significance. Similarly, she demonstrates an extensive knowledge of herbs and ancient rituals - details which it would be daft to include if they weren't essentially authentic.

So, there's a convincing backdrop of occult wisdom as Sarah embarks on a voyage of paranormal discovery among the arcane societies and traditions of Oxford and its colleges, and two romances unfold in her life. There's the pale and mysterious Jo, and the beautiful, sensitive and spiritual Adrian - both part of Sarah's exploration of her own powers. Soon she finds herself at the centre of a dangerous battle for good against evil, where the devil himself leads the powers of darkness, souls are at stake and only faith in Nature's own magic and the power of ritual can save Sarah and her friends from inevitable perdition.

The ten visions themselves are strongly symbolic and take Sarah back into a past life, long ago, which influences and informs her presentday experiences. Of course, decorating the storyline (which, pleasingly, stands pretty well on its own) are lots of sexual encounters, with the paranormal adding some interesting dimensions to these. There's voyeurism, ritual orgy, girls together, domination and lashings of good, horny hetero stuff. I reckon The Ten Visions is a really good page-turning read, where the themes of sex and magic combine to thrill and chill.

A well-earned 8 out of 10 from me...
With thanks to

Sex and Seduction
Edited by: Cathryn Cooper
Published by Accent Press Ltd, (Xcite Books) 209 pages

This twenty-tale collection was one of Xcite Books' first three-title offering back in February this year - the others being Sex and Satisfaction and Sex and Submission. (I reviewed one of the second trio, Five Minute Fantasies 1, 2 and 3, in our second magazine, and Spank Me, from the third set in Issue 3). As such, I'm aware of what I can only term a progressive 'learning curve' in range and editorial handling across the series so far. In the more recent books the experience of the previous titles pays off, giving a better pace and contrast from one story to the next - but that's not to say the early stuff isn't good too.

There's a range of tales, set in the UK and the US, with a couple of holiday forays to Greek islands and Australia, and one in an unspecified sci-fi environment in the future. (I did notice, reading as I did straight through from start to finish as opposed to dipping in here and there, that there were two tales in a row which started with the heroine opting go go off alone on a holiday booked for her as part of a couple because of some physical or relationship mishap.)

The stories embrace a wide variety of writing styles too - the embarrassed confessions of a sacrilegious coupling in a church, the understated English reserve of the tennis secretary's wife who 'plays in' a new member, the US 30's gumshoe casehistory of the missing dong, an American college kid's encounter with a Mrs Robinson-style older woman at a pool party and a wonderfully Shakespearean account of a lecturer targeted by a student - and there's the blend of seduction by strangers, lesbian and bi pairings, teacher/student impropriety, threesomes, foursomes (and more). You can read a sample from the collection, Personal Enquiries, in this issue's Erotic Tales.

So, on the strength of a year of titillating Xcite collections, you could do worse for a Christmas present for a suitably inclined lady reader than to buy her a year's subscription which will deliver a new volume every month. Check the website below for details.

A well-earned 7 out of 10
With thanks to

Black Lace Quickies 8
Erotic short stories by women
Published by Black Lace, (Virgin Books) 123 pages

I like the short story genre, so I dipped into my first Black Lace Quickies collection with gusto... and I wasn't disappointed. The 'Quickies' series are compact little volumes, around 120 pages, of six stories a go - and although I've not sampled any of the previous collections, I'm impressed with the standard and style of the stories.

'Erotic' fiction - rather than frankly pornographic reading, is very much a women's niche genre, both in writing and reading, and the Quickies are flagged as being by women (widely published authors) - and also, tacitly, for women. These tales are told in the first person - a girl's eye view, and an insight, one senses, into some of the authors' inner desires.

As I read, Londoner though I am, I felt that the bias was leaning a bit too much towards the capital, as the first three of the six stories were based in modern-day London - but then, pleasingly, the settings changed, and there's plenty of variety within the storylines. There are confessions of voyeurism; submissiveness and domination discovered; encounters with strangers and stalkers; seduction in a changing room - and my personal favourite, the episode of the frottage fanatic on the London-to-Brighton train. To enlarge would spoil the fun - I'll simply say that you'd have to go some to beat this collection for subtle manipulation of a very horny and ambivalent situation.

You can enjoy these 'mini morsels of naughtiness' anywhere - the cover is nonexplicit - and they're just about the right length to brighten up a lunch break or a dull daily commute.

Definitely 8 out of 10
With thanks to

Author: Emma Holly
Published by Black Lace (Virgin Books) 270 pages

As you can see, another title from Virgin's Black Lace imprint - unashamedly flagged as erotic fiction for women, by women - and this time a contemporary tale, set in modern-day Philadelphia. Judging by the publisher's lists, Emma Holly is one of Black Lace's regulars, and I can see from this, the first title I've read by Ms Holly, why her writing is popular.

Kate Winthrop (who tells the tale), a divorcee in her thirties, finds herself in that most rare and improbable of circumstances - that of having two (notionally) gay lodgers in their twenties, both of whom she discovers, as events unfold, nurse a secret desire to get into her designer silk knickers. One, Joe, is quite a novice at any sort of sex, having been put off girls by a first bad experience - but even 'gay' Sean has a soft (wrong word...) spot for Kate. So, this highly-charged trio - the menage - start to interact. There's a power struggle at first, the dominant Sean quickly moves to establish his status as master - but the sexual balance of power shifts and fluctuates. This gives plenty of opportunity for some bondage, blindfolding, whipping and spanking as Kate's not-so-gay lodgers plot and plan some interesting scenarios for their mutual entertainment.

Cautious (and rapidly becoming more hetero) Joe has no trouble warming emotionally to his 'older-woman' landlady - but the dynamics with the more committedly gay Sean are more complex.

As unlikely as the threesome menage may be, Holly deals with the real relationship issues which arise, as well as the plentiful and varied sex. There are twosomes, threesomes, voyeurism, role-playing, domination, all among our star menage - and then there are some interesting cameo appearances by other characters who frequent Kate's 'Mostly Romance' book store and the distinctly shady underground world of Sean and his colourful acquaintances.

Of course, it's optimistic (nay, downright unrealistic) to think that a menage a trois can last successfully - there's no denying that Kate, Joe and Sean give it their best shot. Although it's a Black Lace title, aimed at female readers, it's a good romance, a raunchy read and well written.

Definitely 7 out of 10 - and blokes might well get off on it too
With thanks to