Friday, May 20, 2011

Fresh Start by Jane Davitt

TITLE: Fresh Start
AUTHOR: Jane Davitt
PUBLISHER: Total-e-bound
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 17k)
GENRE: BDSM contemporary erotic romance
COST: ₤2.49

Connor and Helen have been living together for the past eight months. It’s the relationship Helen has been wishing for and never thought she would have, with her as a submissive to a Dom she adores. Just before Connor leaves for a business trip, he gives her a letter which details how he doesn’t feel she is truly submitting to him. That’s what Helen thinks she’s been doing but with his unavoidable departure, she has to figure out for herself if giving herself over to him exactly as he desires is what she wants from the relationship, too…

After such a lackluster week, I decided to get a book from an author I don’t have to worry about on an editorial level. While I found her usual clean and elegant prose, I can’t say I actually enjoyed the story.

“Fresh Start” was an entry in the Master Me anthology, but I bought it when it was released on its own very recently. It’s the story of Helen and Connor, an English couple who have been living together in a D/s relationship for eight months. Connor is Helen’s first Dom, though she is definitely not his first sub, and she’s spent the last eight months like a kid in the candy store, eager for everything Connor will give her, disappointed when she hits his boundaries. At the top of the story, Connor is about to leave for an eight-day business trip to San Francisco. He’s writing a letter with Helen kneeling and in clamps nearby. She isn’t supposed to move or fidget, but she’s not entirely successful, so afterward, he gives her a spanking as punishment. Though she usually loves this, on this particular evening she doesn’t get the same satisfaction. She doesn’t want Connor to go, and she’s not relishing spending the next week and a day on her own. It turns out that the letter Connor was writing was to Helen, a list of things he wanted her to do every day while he was gone. She discovers that he isn’t as pleased with the way their relationship has developed as she is. He’s spoiled her by letting her top from the bottom too much, and yielding to her pouting and disagreements when she decides something is too stupid or inane to obey. He’d like to re-evaluate their relationship, but when she points out that telling her this and then taking off before they can discuss it is the worst possible timing, he lets her off the hook. Helen isn’t comfortable with that. She’s especially not comfortable when she reads his letter. But her devotion to him is such that she wants to try, so she sets to learning what she can before he returns to determine if this is a change she wants to embrace or not.

It’s an interesting take on the D/s angle. Many stories that I see focus on the ohmigod so good angle of a new sub discovering a Dom, but in this, we find a sub whose eagerness and ignorance has held the relationship back rather than turning into true love. However, while I loved the idea of this approach, it ended up falling short for me in two areas. First of all, Helen’s ignorance and ultimate quest for knowledge ends up evoking a primer feel that detracts from any kind of emotional weight. The story’s not long enough to sustain it, and it breaks up any kind of flow it might have achieved, especially with a last chapter that felt entirely pointless and tacked on. It’s not helped that Connor is gone for a good part as well, leaving Helen to discover these things on her own.

And therein rests my second problem with this short novella. Helen comes across as an entitled, petulant, spoiled child in spite of being a successful professional. She tops from the bottom and when Connor attempts to explain things to her, gets defensive and argumentative to the point where I was thinking, “Just dump her, Connor, you’ll be so much better off.” I wonder if my perspective on her would have been altered if I’d had the chance to get to know her before she fell into such a sullen role, but that wasn’t to be in this case. She is incredibly distrustful and borderline disrespectful of much of what Connor suggests, which became the root of my disbelief that she would ever change her ways, no matter how much she said she cared about him. Personally, I think she was just too afraid of not finding somebody else, which isn’t conducive to believing in an HEA. I finished the story thinking, “She’ll leave him as soon as somebody else comes along who doesn’t make her do the stuff she doesn’t want to.”

Considering my respect for this author, I’m thinking of this one as a miss.


8/10 – Clean and elegant, just like all her prose


5/10 – An absent figure for much of the story, though his presence looms throughout


5/10 – I can’t say I believed her transformation, she seemed too much like a petulant child

Entertainment value

6/10 – I was really looking forward to the promise of this but without liking or believing in the heroine, it’s hard to actually enjoy it

World building

7/10 – Much discussion about the variances of BDSM contributes to a sense of verisimilitude, though it can feel like a primer, too



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