Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Review: Alison Tyler's Dark Secret Love
I wish I'd had Alison Tyler's Dark Secret Love when I was young. This is the sort of fiction that can save a person—wise about the world, unashamed, unafraid of truth, full of voice and strength.
Something like this might have saved me from years of self-imposed sexual denial, the marriage based on pretending not to like the things I like, the visits to the therapist who tried to teach me how to fantasize about something "nice."
Tyler had me from word one of this book—the book starts hard and moves fast. She really captured me, however, when she wrote about the big mistake her main character Samantha makes—"depriving me of any sexual pleasure for three lonely years." That mistake turns out to be getting involved with a man who forces her to be someone she's not, and a lot of Dark Secret Love is about Samantha escaping from that terrible, soul-crushing sort of emotional bondage and finding freedom in the wild, sexy sort of bondage that she craves.
I've read plenty of books about doms and subs, pleasure and pain, but it's so rare and special to find one so raw and powerful. Samantha, the main character, seeks her own pleasure. She's no passive toy. She explores, makes mistakes, gets lucky, and slowly claims her own needs and desires.
I love the way Cleis Press designed the covers for this series, because even the covers of the books say this to me. They're girly and hard-core at the same time. Just looking at the cover of this book (and of the sequel, The Delicious Torment), I can see that what's being written about is a woman's pleasure.
There is a love story, a very important romance, but it takes its time arriving. I liked that. Every time a new man appeared, I wasn't sure how significant he would be or how long he would stay around, and that reflects life. Tyler knows the reader is expecting the happily ever after, and she makes a tease out of the reveal. It's a fun game.
Samantha's journey is also very hot. It's filled with delicious scenes of spanking, bondage, public display, anal sex, and the testing of limits, and all of them ring with authenticity.
When Tyler writes about her main character being caned, she talks about getting six strokes (more eventually, because the count inevitably starts over, but the amount she and her top are talking about her taking is six). I appreciated this because, for anyone who has any idea of how much caning can hurt, six is the sort of number that ought to be getting talked about. As soon as I read "six," I knew this book was written by someone who knows the deal.
I read it in a delicious buzz of arousal. It's the sort of book that screws up plans—plans of starting work on time, of going to bed, or of going anywhere. But I found that what I appreciated most, even more than the heat of it, was having Tyler's strong voice as a companion. It healed me to read about Samantha admitting what she needed. I have so often wondered why I couldn't just have "normal sex," so I was moved when Samantha also wonders why. I felt her relief every time she found a man who understood those needs in any way. I felt her appreciation for those men and her enjoyment of them.
Samantha's insights often seared me or stunned me. Tyler's prose is clean and clear, presenting her character's revelations as nakedly as the character so often presents herself.
I will admit that I sometimes am bored these days by reading about what I think of as basic BDSM—some handcuffs here, a whipping there. Tyler's writing reminded me that when a person lives it, needs it, and does it with connection, there's nothing boring or basic about any of it. It was refreshing to be turned on as hell over things I sometimes now find run of the mill. It made me wonder how it could ever be boring to me. It made me remember what it was like to want it so badly and be afraid to even whisper about what I wanted.
Late in the book, Samantha says, "Good-girl sex, the type I always imagine other people to be having in their dark bedrooms every night, with minty breath and cooing dove talk, that sort of sex isn't meant for me."
I've had similar thoughts, but I don't think I ever put it so boldly to myself. The most important books I've read are the ones that manage to say what I need to say but can't quite articulate. The author says her piece and somehow in the process also gives me a lost piece of myself.
I'm honored to be part of the blog tour for Dark Secret Love. You can see all the stops here. Be sure to check out the tour post, because it includes an exciting giveaway!
This is the official blurb:
Keep Your Safe Word Handy
Dark Secret Love is a modern-day Story of O, a 9 1/2 Weeks-style journey fueled by lust, longing and the search for true love. Inspired by her own BDSM exploits and private diaries, Alison Tyler draws on twenty-five years of penning sultry stories to create a scorchingly hot work of fiction, a memoir-inspired novel with reality at its core. A luscious and literary experience of authenticity, Dark Secret Love is a romance for readers who desire sweetness edged with danger and a kinky fairy tale with a happily-ever-after ending. Take a deep breath and prepare to submit. Alison Tyler will push your boundaries to the limits—and have you begging for more.
And Alison Tyler's bio:
ALISON TYLER is a prolific author of erotic fiction and is the editor of Three-Way, Heat Wave, Best Bondage Erotica, Love at First Sting, and Naughty or Nice. She lives in San Francisco and has a well-traveled website at AlisonTyler.com.
Cleis Press's info page about the book is here.