These are questions every author, especially those of us in the erotica genre must ask ourselves. And that brings me to "Unconventional Desires: A Diary of Discovery by Victoria Louise Sadler. The story is made up from the diary of a young woman in her early twenties who harbors secret fantasies of BDSM. Her exploration of the "scene" is documented in her journal, and she eventually forms a permanent relationship with a dom who takes her to unprecedented levels of sexual delight.
While that synopsis sounds intriguing, the reason I wonder about the reader "Unconventional Desires" was meant for is because the narrator's diary reads like a shopping list and wanders aimlessly back and forth. The narrator adds unimportant detail to each journal entry, and this plethora of minutiae, instead of creating depth to the character, becomes a literary speed bump that slows the plot and action to a crawl. The first fifty or so pages is like this, peppered with only a few actual nuggets of erotica as well as plot development, the result being that I think many readers would be frustrated and lost before getting to the juicy parts.
Eventually the journal entries of "Unconventional Desires" do turn into something erotic, and can certainly spark the imagination, but the narration is told in an emotionally flat, rather dry manner, with no tension build and little in the way of any plot. The narrator is relating to us what was done to her, and while there are some comments that reflect on her mental state, most of the description is not what I'd call robust.
Satisfied, I desperately needed to remove the vibrator and even though he allowed me to do so, I remained on all fours as he continued to whip me. The pleasure from the whipping had been entirely replaced by the pain and the pain had become unbearable.
I knew that this was for his enjoyment not mine, but despite this I struggled to remain still and desperately wanted to pull away from him. I struggled to find my voice until the next stroke landed harshly, though when I finally found my voice my respectful pleas were ignored. He made it abundantly clear that he was in charge and it would be his choice to stop, not mine.
Another issue that concerns me is the portrayal of BDSM. I'm more of a sensualist than a true BDSM aficionado (it's tough to be true to the lifestyle when you've got four kids ranging in ages from 2 to 19) but those I know who DO live the lifestyle would take umbrage at the fact that the submissive in the story had no choice to stop. And the above passage is just one example of this kind of behavior in the book. Granted, the narrator makes an effort to explain away her attitude, but it's a half-hearted explanation, and if "Unconventional Desires" is more of an attempt to provide guidance to women interested in the BDSM world, then Ms. Sadler has missed one of the more important aspects of the BDSM D/s relationship. The true power rests in the hands of the submissive. She or he can always say no. That's the point.
Admittedly some of the scenes described in "Unconventional Desires" were a turn on, but nothing out of the ordinary happens to the narrator that demonstrates some unusual spark of creativity, and due to the journalistic nature of the narration, any tension buildup in one scene is hopelessly lost before the next happens. In fact, I'm more disappointed in the fact that the author didn't try to write an actual fictitious BDSM tale. Ms. Sadler clearly writes well and her prose is a pleasure to read.
In summary, I give "Unconventional Desires" a five out of ten rating. At the astronomical price of $7.50, which is a ridiculously high price for an e-book, I can't honestly recommend it for those seeking erotica to stimulate the senses. This is not a book you take to bed with a vibrator or warming oil. As a book for those seeking information about the lifestyle it might serve better, though I still hesitate to endorse it, due to the unusual, yet still somewhat consensual relationship the narrator has with her master, Sebastian. In essence, it makes the exact same mistake about BDSM that Fifty Shades of Gray did. BDSM is not about doing what the "Master" wants. It's about both partners getting what they want.
You can purchase "Unconventional Desires: A Diary of Discovery" from Amazon.com
A complimentary copy of the book was provided to Michael Alexander in exchange for an honesty review.