Friday, January 21, 2011

Choice of Masters by Joey W. Hill

TITLE: Choice of Masters
AUTHOR: Joey W. Hill
PUBLISHER: Ellora’s Cave
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 33k)
GENRE: BDSM fantasy historical erotic romance
COST: $5.20

Thomas has lived his life by the code King Arthur set, and now has one final quest to complete – rescue the Lady Lilith from her captivity. He dreams of her constantly, and in those dreams, he knows her, loves her, recognizes her as his soulmate. After learning what he must to set Lilith free, he ventures to the wizard’s realms, where the world is not what he expected. Lilith is, though, and now he must show her that she has the power to make the choice to leave…

I adore Joey Hill. I may not love everything she writes, but for me, the sensual eroticism of her prose stands alone. I just have to remember as I read more and more of her backlist – because even though this was just recently released by Ellora’s Cave, it was originally published seven years ago in an anthology – that not only will she hit on some of my buttons, she will also show varying levels of skill in her storytelling abilities.

This one is a little hard to describe. Thomas is a knight who has been dreaming of Lilith, a woman notorious for being held prisoner by a wizard for years with an entire stream of other knights who have failed to rescue her. Thomas is convinced she’s his soulmate and is ready to do whatever it takes to make her accept him as her Master. He spends a month with a group of priestesses renowned for their sensual delights to learn how he can break Lilith free. When he feels he’s ready, he sets off and finds Lilith as the Great Whore in Zorac’s household. He is granted the right to attempt to rescue her, but Zorac is certain he’ll fail and leave in the morning without Lilith. Thus begins Thomas’s quest, a night of unbridled sensuality.

Some people think Hill’s prose is too purple, and I can see how it can sometimes verge in that direction. Much of the time, I adore it. It’s lustrous and rich, like sinking in thick, soft velvet. She has a way of wending and winding with her words that sucks me in, even when the events that unfold might bother other sensibilities. Then, it’s not until I’ve finished the story that I see some of the flaws it might contain.

This particular story has quite a few potential hotspots, but one in particular will likely bother a number of readers. Lilith is being held prisoner and forced to act as the whore to anybody Zorac wants. Worse, she is bound by a spell that keeps her forearms and hands immobile, invisible shackles if you like. On top of that, the magic also keeps her on the brink of orgasm without ever giving her a release. So Lilith is the victim of continual nonconsensual acts, with the demonstration of one at the dinner Thomas shares with Zorac after his arrival. I have to admit, this didn’t bother me so much in this, because it was so clearly fantasy from the very first page, however others are likely to disagree.

While Hill’s eroticism shines, especially in how surprisingly sensual the rituals Thomas performs are, the story suffers in other areas. Lilith lacks much of any kind of personality for much of the story, since she’s already wound tight from her lack of release. She’s much more of a damsel for Thomas to save than I normally like to read. Any strong sense of setting disappears as well. The entire tale has a dream-like quality, making it very hard to pinpoint. Definitive explanations on who Thomas really is or what he really can do are lacking, too.

But you know what? These were problems I identified once I’d already devoured the story. I was so lost in the sensuality of it, much of the other issues didn’t raise their heads until afterward. Thus, my rather skewed scores.


8/10 – Minor editorial problems broke up the flow, but Hill writes lush, sensual BDSM like nobody else


7/10 – Proud and honorable


4/10 – She feels more like a vessel than anything else

Entertainment value

7/10 – Logic and depth of any kind of explanation gets thrown out the window for the gorgeous eroticism

World building

6/10 – With so much focus on the eroticism, the world and its nature felt very superficial



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