Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sub for Hire by Claire Thompson

TITLE: Sub for Hire
AUTHOR: Claire Thompson
PUBLISHER: Ellora’s Cave
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 56k)
GENRE: Gay BDSM erotic romance
COST: $5.95

When his finances become precarious, aspiring writer Josh Hanson checks out an ad for a BDSM dungeon looking for submissives. The money is good, and since he’s not in a relationship, Josh thinks the arrangement is perfect. That is, until he has a scene with a man who shatters the barriers he’s put in place in order not to get hurt by his part-time job. Michael is gorgeous, arresting, and the most sensual Dom Josh has ever known. But Josh is still a sub for hire, and it’s going to take more than one session for either of them to believe otherwise…

The story starts out with a bang, as Josh auditions for a role as a submissive for hire at Dungeon Dreams. The owner, Sam, personally puts potential hires through the ropes with what would be a standard one-hour session, and the intensity and chemistry between the two leaps off the screen. The BDSM is hot and evocative, even though there is no actual sex involved, and the promise of what is to come tantalizing at the very least.

It maintains a level of smooth presentation for another chapter. Michael is introduced and he’s likeable enough, though there is a too good to be true vibe to him that never gets shaken. Unfortunately, I got jerked out of the story in chapter three by an editorial mistake that I probably would have overlooked if it wasn’t played as important later on in the next chapter. See, when Josh is in a scene, he’s known only as “slave j.” The first time he and Michael interact, it starts out with the same intensity that was present in the opening sequence with Sam, but then, Michael asks him, “Would you do that, Josh? Would you give of yourself so completely to your Master, to the one who owned your heart?” Completely innocuous, and absolutely 100% fits the tone of the scene. Except Michael called him by name, and it stopped me enough to go back and read to see if I’d missed the point where Josh told him. I couldn’t find it, so I just dismissed it as nothing and continued reading. I fell back into the gorgeous rhythm of the scene, letting it play out, but then, at the very end of it, after these two have had a very profound moment, Michael is leaving and we get this exchange:

“Sir—Michael…” Slave j’s voice was earnest, even pleading.

Half reluctant, half eager, Michael turned back. “Yes?”

“My name is Josh.”

Honestly, it’s not even a big editorial mistake. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed it if Josh hadn’t made a point to tell Michael. And then both of them spent the next chapter ruminating on the ramifications of such a detail getting shared in the first place. The only reason I bring it up at all is because it pulled me out of the story for a short while, and I became wary as I read, wondering what other inconsistencies might pop up.

None did. Within a few chapters, I was back into the flow of it. Mostly. I find the author’s voice for erotic scenes highly engaging. She makes BDSM seem accessible, even to those who don’t practice. She highlights the mental aspects of it rather than making it all about the pain, which makes a refreshing change. Where I don’t sink into her prose as much is in the dialogue. A good portion comes across as stilted. It might look good and be grammatically correct, but when I hear it in my head as I’m reading, it sounds artificial. It’s a personal peccadillo, though, and with this particular story, a minor one at that. Both men are likeable in their own way, and if they’re painted a little too romantic, it’s consistent with the tone of the entire story. Much like the overly romantic ending. It might be pain that brings them together, but it’s love that keeps them that way.


8/10 – An early editorial mistake made me wary, but as long as the characters aren’t talking, it’s a smooth read

Hero #1

6/10 – There’s a sweet sort of innocence about him that makes up a little for some of his stupid decisions

Hero #2

6/10 – Amiable, though the too good to be true vibe is hard to shake

Entertainment value

7/10 – The erotic scenes work best; some of the sappiness of the conclusion drags this down for me.

World building

9/10 – An excellent job in portraying varying degrees of BDSM




Teddy Pig said...

She makes BDSM seem accessible, even to those who don’t practice. She highlights the mental aspects of it rather than making it all about the pain, which makes a refreshing change.

Claire Thompson is obviously an extremely intelligent writer because it is so obvious she really thought about the dynamics of BDSM and what she had the characters do and how they came together.

BUT... I felt the dialog not only was stilted but actually treated as a way to info dump instead of allowing the characters actions to speak for themselves.

Points given for not being the typical BDSM romance that ends with us finding the characters were never really into it to begin with.

Points taken away for speeding along the plot developments by using way too much dialog to tell us instead of show us.

Book Utopia Mom said...

Yeah, her dialogue is definitely the weakest part of her writing. I had read Handyman not too long before this and actually, that was far worse in the information dump aspect so I think I was more forgiving of it in this.

I think she has a real knack for making such physical acts almost cerebral, which makes her erotic scenes so strong.

Teddy Pig said...

BDSM is (Like most good sex!) in the mind.

Even the infliction/receiving of pain involved is directly associated mentally with either submission or dominance.

That is why it is not that difficult to understand when you equate it to regular sex active/passive = dominance/submission mentally.

So writing it from a cerebral perspective (a participant and not an observer) is the most appropriate way to describe it.