Alison Tyler's Dark Secret Love had a happy ending. After a long search, the main character Samantha had found the dom who could truly satisfy her desires. But Tyler knows that an ending like that is actually a beginning, and so we are lucky to have The Delicious Torment, which follows Samantha and Jack's relationship as it develops and matures.
Falling in love is one thing. That's a story about a character saying, "I think this person might be who I'm looking for," and then concluding that the possibility is worth a leap of faith. Staying in love is something else. That's about figuring out what to do when the object of affection does stuff that makes you fear you've made a terrible mistake. It's about discovering unexpected truths and adapting to them. It's about never forgetting why you're in that bed with that person in the first place.
The Delicious Torment is that second story, and the title is apt in more ways than one. Of course, Jack finds many thrilling, sexy, and mind-bending ways to cause Samantha pain, but the characters also experience the delicious torment of learning how to live with each other.
This book reads as fresh and hot as the first. Samantha's reactions never dull. Humiliation still burns bright and clear across her cheeks (face and ass). Jack is unrelenting in his sexy menace, always throwing her off balance and keeping her guessing. Samantha is just as wild and exciting. Pain is sweet and constant. Samantha is monogamous at heart, but there are quite a few scenes that include additional players.
Like Dark Secret Love, however, The Delicious Torment is much more than a string of hot scenes. To properly explain why I loved and fed on this book, I'm going to have to talk about something I do not love, which is the concept of the True Submissive. The True Submissive was born to be enslaved, created to be taken by whichever dom comes along first. She never questions her Master. Once he finds her, she becomes the lowercase letter to his capital, disappearing sweetly into his controlling embrace. In the books that feature her, she is often discovered amid a chorus of awestruck whispers. "She's a True Submissive," someone says of a woman who has been "broken" in about five lazy minutes.
I have so many problems with this, it's not even funny. For one thing, I don't think this "True Submissive" is very realistic. For another, the things she's supposed to be—unquestioning, docile, and broken—don't line up with what I think BDSM is about.
Now I'm back to The Delicious Torment. At first blush, Jack and Samantha may appear to have this sort of relationship. He demands extreme obedience, and he expects to receive this devotion 24/7. I would argue, however, that Samantha is the refreshing antithesis to the myth of the True Submissive, and that the last thing Jack wants is a woman who is broken.
Samantha may obey Jack, but it's always crystal clear that it's her choice and for her pleasure. There may not be many explicit boundaries in their relationship, but she draws and defends them where necessary. In Dark Secret Love, she specified that her writing was her own, but The Delicious Torment largely concerns the exploration and drawing of other boundaries. What is the proper role of third parties in the bedroom? How should Samantha deal with signs that Jack doesn't trust her? And so on.
One of my favorite scenes in the book occurs when Jack asks Samantha to call another dominant "Sir."
"He's not—" I started. God, how to put this into words? "He's not you. He's not the same as you." Almost sobbing. "He's not your equal. I don't want to call him Sir."
Jack smiled at me, startling me. "Yet you're disobeying an order."
I didn't know what to say to that. I had no response.
"You'll say, 'Thank you, Sir,' after each blow."
I'm a stubborn animal when I want to be. I wouldn't say Sir. And Jack, after regarding me for a moment, seemed to realize that. His eyes took on a glow.
"Ten extra for disobedience."
I grimaced but nodded as Jack let Alex back into the room.
What I love about this scene is that the characters show each other ultimate respect and maintain their own power while never breaking out of their BDSM roles. Jack obviously loves that Samantha won't roll over to him, and yet he doesn't make any exceptions to the rules.
This is a view into a real, empowered submissive. Samantha submits. She craves pain. And yet she makes real, constant choices about her submission.
I also love a scene in which Samantha refuses to take an extreme action that Jack wants.
He didn't even hesitate. He simply said thank you to the employees and led me down the stairs. There was no anger in his face, no pressure to 'do it for him.'
This view of submission is desperately needed. There is so much misinformation out there, so much pressure to prove oneself a "true submissive." I once wrote a piece about my own BDSM relationship, and found myself criticized online for "all the complaining" I did (which was how certain people described my efforts to give my dom information about how I was feeling). I have heard too many stories about subs getting hurt because they get caught up in the moment and don't remember that they can speak up. Alison Tyler's Samantha gets caught up in the heady sensation of the whole experience, but she never loses herself, and I love that about her.
Jack and Samantha explore the boundaries and dynamics of obedience and rebellion, but another major theme is how they deal with Alex, an employee of Jack's who has developed a complicated relationship with his boss. I loved that this involved trying out kinks outside of Samantha's comfort zone.
Tyler writes, "See? You can be dead sure that you are into one thing, focused on that concept solely, and then be demolished when something else turns you on."
As before, I'm so happy to read Tyler's experienced and energetic voice and to be guided through Samantha's relationship as it progresses. This is a wise and fascinating story. As I get deeper into the series, it's ever clearer to me that Jack would not be the right dom for me, but the thing about an honest voice is that it elicits an honest response. On more than one occasion while reading the book, I trotted out of the bedroom to find my partner, my collar in my teeth, dying to practice our own version of this drama—the one that's right for me. Ultimately, that's what this series is about in my view: Samantha is on a journey to find the most honest way to live out her sexual desires. That's the journey I want to be on, too. It won't end in precisely the same place, but how could it?
My only complaint is that the next book isn't out yet. If you'd like to see my review of Dark Secret Love, it's here.
I was offered a review copy of The Delicious Torment, but insisted on buying my own because I'm weird that way. I'm honored to be part of the blog tour for The Delicious Torment. You can see all the stops here.
This is the official blurb:
Alison Tyler has been hailed as the best BDSM fiction writer of today. But wait a minute—is her work really purely fictional? Blurring lines between memoir and meta in The Delicious Torment, Tyler dares to expose in prose that pulsates off the page. Raising all bets that began in the critically acclaimed Dark Secret Love, this coming-of-age story sees Samantha entwined with an older man, a bondage connoisseur and her equal in every way, as she explores the deepest recesses of her master’s desires and her heart.
A Story of O meets 9 1/2 Weeks, The Delicious Torment is fueled by lust, longing and need.
And Alison Tyler's bio:
ALISON TYLER has made being naughty a full-time job. Her sultry short stories appear in more than 100 anthologies, and she is a prolific editor of bestselling erotic anthologies like The Big Book of Bondage, Sudden Sex, and Down and Dirty. In all things important, she remains faithful to her husband of 15 years, but she still can’t choose just one perfume. Find her at alisontyler.com and alisontyler.blogspot.com