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GUEST REVIEW: Uneven by Anah Crow

I emailed Jane a couple of days ago, wondering if she’d be interested in reviews of BDSM romances (BDSM is a combination acronym of the sexual practices/identities of Bondage/Discipline, Domination/Submission, and Sadist/Masochism and covers under its umbrella many sexual paraphilia and fetishes). While I’m a contributing blogger at Teach Me Tonight and at Romancing the Blog, the reviews I want to do are not appropriate for either forum. I don’t want to analyze these books, I just want to pimp them. I want to show the world how brilliant these books are as romances despite the fact that a large portion of the population might find their subject matter repellent. I want to pimp the books that get BDSM relationships, that understand how they can be just a loving and supportive as vanilla relationships. So while I might be "blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd" when it comes to these books, at least I’m aware of it, right? And I’m still writing a review-’showing the bad with the good, trying to be at least slightly impartial (is that like being a little bit pregnant?).

I found Crow’s Uneven because I’ve been procrastinating by flipping through Samhain, Torquere, Loose Id, and Ellora’s Cave, finding myself books with which I will "reward" myself when I get my current projects finished. Not buying the books, understand, but just finding them. Because of one quote in a review, I couldn’t stop myself from buying Uneven:

“Tell me what you want.” Gabriel got his hand in Rase’s hair again and pulled his head back so far that Rase’s neck hurt, his back starting to curve like a bow. Gabriel’s mouth ghosted over Rase’s, hovering there as though Gabriel were breathing in Rase’s rasping exhalations.

“Hurt me.” Rase’s eyes filled up with tears, wetness seeping out to chill his skin, when he heard his own words. “Oh, God, please. Gabriel, please, hurt me.”

This stunningly perfect depiction of a BDSM relationship blew me away in two short paragraphs. So I bought it and proceeded to inhale it in one sitting. At 126 pages, it’s a slim little volume (or would be if it weren’t an ebook). But it’s emotionally raw. In 126 short pages, it grabs you by the throat, much as Gabriel does to Rase, and just doesn’t let go.

Rase is that ultimate romance hero cliché: "a middle-aged captain of industy." He is the owner and CEO of Illian Industries. He’s in his forties with a trophy wife, an estranged son, a gorgeous house, and a life that is blown wide open when one of his stockboys, Gabriel Chariton, returning for a pair of handcuffs that Rase takes away from him, loses his temper and backhands him, splitting his lip. Rase has repressed for thirty years his homosexuality and his submissive and masochistic tendencies and Gabriel’s actions blow his control to smithereens, leaving him raw and bleeding and scared:

Life became nightmarish. Rase felt as though the careful sutures of his repression had split and the infection that he’d tried to contain for so long was seeping out faster than he could wipe it off his skin. He looked at himself in every reflective surface, searching for the signs that had given him away. Nothing but his own face, lined slightly here and there with age and sallow with anxiety, ever looked back at him. There were no answers. (10)

One of things I adore about this book is how it subverts the romance clichés at every turn. Rase appears to be the domineering hero but is a masochistic submissive. Gabriel seems to be the young, inexperienced ingénue, twenty years Rase’s junior, but turns out to be the sadistic dominant who controls Rase with a look. Gabriel is a former pro-dom, a sex worker, but it’s not really an issue in the book. And most of all, the BDSM interactions are not typical: Gabriel "bottoms" to Rase sexually in their first encounter, but is still completely in control.

Another romance cliché that Crow makes beg for its mother is that the story is told entirely from Rase’s perspective, with Gabriel initially presented as completely emotionally unfathomable, dominant and apparently unfeeling, yet inexplicably soft and tender at times, confusing Rase, who has no experience with being taken care of. And yet Gabriel is as fully realized a character as Rase, as fully sympathetic and fascinating. The insights into his character are almost as heart-wrenching as the immersion in Rase’s thoughts, and watching Rase see himself through Gabe’s eyes is a feat of a master author and adds immeasurably to the relationship between the men:

“Do you know how perfect you are?” Gabriel twisted his hand in Rase’s hair and Rase’s eyes slipped half-shut as he moaned involuntarily. “Like that. I don’t even know you. I’m fucking nobody. And then you get down on your fucking knees and make me into the goddamn universe. Not because you can afford it, but because you can’t help it. Oh, Christ, Rase, that is so fucking hot. You made me want it, too.”

Gabriel is not only a romance cliché, however: he could have turned into a BDSM stereotype, a boogey-monster sadist, a unknowable dominant, more physically attractive but less emotionally appealing because of his impenetrability. Instead, Crow manages to show Gabriel’s own vulnerability, his own desperate need for what Rase can offer him, as much as Rase is lost without what Gabriel can give him.

After their first almost anonymous sexual encounter, Rase slowly pulls his life back together with honesty, separating from his wife, reconciling with his son, coming to understand, if not accept, himself. Once he has begun this process, he looks for Gabriel again, only to find that he’s disappeared. Rase’s stereotypically fiercely loyal personal assistant (who reminded me very much of Jules Jones’ My Lord and Master, another series of novels that play with romance conventions) finds Gabriel in Florida. Rase follows him there and they feel their way slowly into a real relationship based on mutual trust and caring.

And this is where Crow’s writing truly shines, because that relationship is completely and utterly a BDSM relationship, one of the most raw, most devastatingly violent ones I’ve read. But it works as a BDSM romance because Crow shows the mutual need between a dominant and a submissive, between a sadist and a masochist. She shows that they are equally vulnerable to each other, and she manages to do this solely through Rase’s perspective:

[Rase realizes,] Gabriel didn’t want to be Rase’s release from the pain of who he really was or the pressure of the life he was lucky enough to live. Gabriel wanted to be Gabriel, the person that he was who seemed to need to hurt and to dominate as badly as Rase needed to be hurt and dominated. Rase remembered the uncertainty in the man who had sat across from him at the bar, the pain of the man who had turned away from him at the poolside.

He didn’t want to be like all those people who had never seen that man. He didn’t want to be, he realized, like his father: a man who only wanted what he paid for and none of the consequences, none of the humanity, that went with it. More than he wanted to hide, Rase wanted Gabriel, wanted to know the person inside, wanted something real with someone, with whoever would want something real with him. (85-86)

This book works as a BDSM romance because it wasn’t Gabriel’s violence that devastated Rase at the beginning of the book, it was his aftercare, the fact that he comforted Rase, "cleaning" him literally and figuratively. There is repeated imagery and symbolism of cleanliness, freshness, newness (sorry, you can’t get rid of the literary critic completely) as well as mirrors and reflections that work so well with Rase’s and Gabriel’s tentative steps into self-understanding and a mutual relationship. That is what makes this book worth reading, more than the hot sex scenes-’although those are certainly a nice addition.

The quibbles: Anah claims on her blog that she wrote Uneven in a few weeks. While you couldn’t tell that from the story, you can tell it from the copy-editing. There are a lot of dropped or extra words that can get distracting, which is a shame in such an engrossing book. And she seriously overuses the word "whine." While appropriate in places, especially for a BDSM romance, it does not have the best of connotations and is not something you really want your male heroes doing as often as they do. Finally, the loyal gay male secretary is just too much. While he’s a fun character, the stereotype isn’t questioned or subverted (as it is in Jules Jones’ novels) and there are too many echoes of the hotel manager in Pretty Woman or any other loyal, wise, "it’s for your own good, sir" servant, for comfort.

But other than those few small issues, the book is incredible. I’ve read it three times already and I’m cursing not having an e-reader so I can take it with me wherever I go and pet it and stroke it and call it my precious. If you can stomach seriously hardcore BDSM or even think you might be able to (did you like Joey Hill?), rush out and buy this book NOW. You won’t be sorry. And you may be enlightened.

Grade: A

Joan/SarahF

This book can be purchased in ebook format at Torquere Books.

Sarah F. is a literary critic, a college professor, and an avid reader of romance -- and is thrilled that these are no longer mutually exclusive. Her academic specialization is Romantic-era British women novelists, especially Jane Austen, but she is contributing to the exciting re-visioning of academic criticism of popular romance fiction. Sarah is a contributor to the academic blog about romance, Teach Me Tonight, the winner of the 2008-2009 RWA Academic Research Grant, and the founder and President of the International Association of the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR). Sarah mainly reviews BDSM romance and gay male romance and hopes to be able to beat her TBR pile into submission when she has time to think. Sarah teaches at Fayetteville State University, NC.

58 Comments

  1. cs
    Sep 22, 2008 @ 15:16:47

    Great review Joan/SarahF. The editing at Torquere with all its books leaves much to be desired. I feel bad for the authors who actually write great stories. Ms. Crow is a talented writer, and I’ll be buying this book soon based on this review. I previously read her The Look of a King and found it to be one of the best stories, I have read this year.

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  2. Diana Peterfreund
    Sep 22, 2008 @ 15:21:42

    Interesting. I’m a huge fan of the film SECRETARY, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader, and I regularly recommend it as one of the best romantic comedies made in the last ten years. The romance it tells is utterly captivating — these are two people who become HAPPY when they are with each other and must accept these things that they may not initially understand, must cross these taboos, etc. to do so. It’s incredibly romantic. It’s not some juiced up “oh, we made a bet” or whatever they are using to justify “conflict” in a lot of contemporary romance movies. there is a REAL problem and they must work hard to overcome it, because they will not be happy unless they are together, and they will not be happy together unless they make these sacrifices/adjustments in themselves.

    this sounds as if there is a similar vibe at work.

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  3. Gina
    Sep 22, 2008 @ 15:27:03

    Thanks for the great review. This is another book that I might have enjoyed; unfortunately, I have trouble reading Torquere books because of shoddy editing and complete lack of any proofreading, as evidenced by awkward paragraphs and a plethora of misspelled words.

    The few books I have read from Torquere are more like raw fan fic than any professionally published work.

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  4. Sarah Frantz
    Sep 22, 2008 @ 15:28:44

    Diana, I’m not going to lie: I had some serious problems with the depiction of the practice of BDSM in The Secretary, and especially with the pseudo-psychological foundations of it for the heroine, but I like your summary here of the relationship and how it needs the BDSM in order for both it and the characters to be healthy. And yes, that’s exactly what Uneven is all about.

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  5. Val Kovalin
    Sep 22, 2008 @ 15:59:04

    How sweet it is to see m/m fiction covered in a major blog like DearAuthor, and with such a thorough, comprehensive, and entertaining review! Sarah, I hope this is just the first one of many such reviews that you plan to write here.

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  6. Barbara B.
    Sep 22, 2008 @ 16:13:54

    Thanks for the review, Sarah. This sounds like my kind of story, but I just can’t stand the Torquere Press website. It’s just too much work. I never buy directly from them anymore. I wait for the book to go to Fictionwise. I hope this one does and soon, too. Anyway, I like that the roles aren’t the typical older dom/younger sub. In much the same way that I prefer heterosexual BDSM to be female dominant.

    BTW, Sarah, have you read Sean Michael’s Caged? If you have what did you think of it?

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  7. Sarah Frantz
    Sep 22, 2008 @ 18:47:33

    Barbara B.: Sean Michael is definitely on my “TBR when I can think” list. But s/he has such a huge backlist, I don’t even want to start, because I won’t be able to stop.

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  8. Evecho
    Sep 22, 2008 @ 19:53:30

    It’s great to see a review of a BDSM book, especially one that seems to hit all the right notes for a good, satisfying read. BDSM stories, written well, are profoundly respectful of the power dynamics between the partners. If it feels right, it’s unbelievably fantastic. If it’s wrong, it’s gadawful.

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  9. Diana Peterfreund
    Sep 22, 2008 @ 20:17:33

    Sarah, I don’t know much about the reality of BDSM, so the story worked for me, much like when I read a historical romance book — I’m not going to get tied up in the type of underpinnings on their carriage harness or the fastenings of their corsets — I just don’t know if they get it “wrong.”

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  10. Jen
    Sep 22, 2008 @ 20:41:50

    It’s great to see a BDSM book reviewed here. The subgenre has a definite niche within the ebook market and among the erotic/hotter romances, and there’s a blurry line between a little “slap and tickle” and something that’s more a serious (dunno if that’s the right word) part of a relationship. I think there are a lot of readers who are intrigued by the dynamic, but not quite sure if they’ll be horrified or turned on by what they read (that “Story of O” feeling). BDSM is a subject bordering on the uncomfortable for a lot of people, and it’s that kind of thing that can really make you think about a book long after you put it down. Which can only be good, no matter if you ended up liking the book or not.

    Sarah, if you haven’t yet, I’d encourage you to check out Roxy Harte’s “Chronicles of Surrender” series at Liquid Silver Books (Sacred Secrets, Sacred Revelations, and Unholy Promises). Sacred Secrets is one of those books that stuck with me long after I closed the file.

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  11. Erastes
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 05:08:41

    Although BDSM is not my bag generally, it’s great to see a m/m review on Dear Author -thank you.

    Torquere continue to shoot themselves in the feet with the “quality” of their editing and their hard to navigate website. It’s a shame because they are one of the largest producers of decent m/m – and probably the largest producer of m/m historical.

    I have to say that the cover of Uneven definitely deserves a thumbs up, too.

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  12. Teddypig
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 08:01:19

    As an avid reader I would no more support Torquere than I would NCP and for many of the same reasons.

    I feel sorry for the authors that get involved with them.

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  13. Joan/SarahF
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 08:27:00

    You know, Teddy, that’s a pretty damning accusation, and I’m sure you have your reasons for it and I know you’ve made it before. The problem is, I haven’t seen any evidence of it, either from my own usage of Torq, or from the many writers friends/acquaintances of mine who publish with Torq. Yes, their website blows large chunks–I’ll absolutely agree with that. But that’s more a usability issue and very bad web design than anything else. I’ve never had a problem with delivery or with security at the site. I’ve also never heard rumblings about the way they treat authors from anyone except you. I’ve heard more crap about the way EC deals with writers (not pay issues, I hasten to add–other stuff) than I have about Torq. I’m certainly willing to listen, but if all you can tell me is that you’ve heard some things and authors talk to you, but you can’t betray their confidences, I’m gonna have to go with my experiences instead. While I’m sure I sound like all the NCP apologists right before the crash, I’m going to continue using Torq until someone shows me proof-positive that I should do otherwise. Unsubstantiated rumors just don’t cut it. Sorry.

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  14. Teddypig
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 08:52:03

    Unsubstantiated rumors?

    Owners hiding behind several Pen Names and using them in email loop discussions. Their commented “my way or the highway attitude” to questions posed by the authors working for them.

    http://www.teddypig.com/2008/03/20/384/

    Go read the comments on my blog.

    The point is that I am a Gay man OK, a real one. I talk to and read other authors of Gay Romance constantly, some of the best, who would never think to go near Torquere for the very reasons I am stating.

    I have no qualms in not only publicly saying these things OUT LOUD but also pointing out their product treatment and packaging is terrible which is very easy to prove and it has nothing to do with homophobia or even jealousy.

    It’s just sad when there are several better eBook Publishers who are open to questions and provide fantastic eBooks and supportive of their authors and provide actual editing without all the stupid games.

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  15. Joan/SarahF
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 09:29:57

    Thank, Teddy, I appreciate it. Sorry about coming on a bit strong about that. I hadn’t seen that exchange/conversation. I’ll look into it more.

    So basically:
    Many pen names, one author, no transparency on the topic.
    Favoritism to that one author when it comes to print books.
    A little too quick to let someone out of a contract when author expresses dissatisfaction/asks questions.

    Right? But no problems with money at all/yet?

    I’m not sure what your sexual orientation has to do with it. Yes, their website sucks–I don’t deny that, never have.

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  16. Teddypig
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 10:00:52

    The point is I simply a customer, a reader, that asks questions, that found out all this stuff that does not leave me with a very shiny picture of what is going on behind the curtain at Torquere.

    I simply noticed some things that bugged me reading eBooks from Torquere from certain authors that seemed to have an uncanny similar tone and style and started asking questions of other authors that worked for them or HAD worked for them.

    My negative opinion here has not ever been about just ONE author or that ONE author’s particular experience and it has not been for a while.

    That event on my blog was simply yet another rather public example when I brought the topic of the Torquere owner Pen Names up that backed up several other author experiences I heard in private. Just more proof for me I guess.

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  17. Margaret Leigh
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 10:12:55

    So good to see a M/M book being reviewed here. Thanks for doing that, Sarah. I was so impressed I now have the book sitting in my TBR list. Can’t wait to read it.

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  18. Dianne Fox
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 10:14:33

    Sarah,

    Congratulations on a great review. You did a wonderful job analyzing why this story was so powerful, and I think that’s really important in a good review. Thank you so much for bringing a review of an m/m romance story to such a great venue. I, for one, really appreciate how you approached this, and I’ll be looking forward to more of your reviews, here or elsewhere!

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  19. Mychael
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 10:18:26

    Wonderful review for an amazing book!

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  20. Stevie Woods
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 10:19:41

    Sarah

    Thanks for a wonderfully in depth review. You obviously know the subject and have given it as much thought as Anah Crow did in writing such a powerful story. Having only recently finished reading it I can attest how affected I was by the strong emotional resonance in this tale. Thanks again for a thoughtful review of an m/m tale.

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  21. Selene
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 11:20:41

    Great review! It’s nice to see novels with BDSM themes reviewed. I have to admit, I rarely look into this sub-genre anymore because a lot of what I’ve read really doesn’t seem to “get” BDSM–often it seems to be all about the toys etc, and the story, characters and/or sex is extremely unrealistic. BDSM is soooo wide, but its depiction in fiction often strikes me as narrow. You don’t need toys or pain to have a BDSM couple, e.g….

    If you have any further recommendations, however, I’m open to suggestions. :-) (I’ll add that poor editing will, alas, drive me up the wall.)

    Selene

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  22. Jane Davitt
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 13:36:08

    I was the Torquere in-house reviewer for this book (that was the quotation I used, so I’m guessing it was my review you read :-)) and it left me feeling very much like you; such a strong, powerful narrative and such compelling characters.

    Thanks for reviewing it here; I enjoyed reading your thoughts on a book that stayed with me long after I’d read it, and that I look forward to reading again.

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  23. Jane
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 13:38:00

    What’s an in house reviewer? Torquere has someone that provides cover quotes for its books by someone employed by it?

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  24. Jessica Freely
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 14:05:50

    I never fail to find something interesting and informative on Dear Author. It’s a special treat to see an m/m book reviewed here. Thank you, Joan/SarahF. I’m really looking forward to reading Uneven now.

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  25. Angelia Sparrow
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 16:41:02

    Jane, for longer items, Torquere will have one of their authors review it for the TQ website. I’ve served in this capacity once.

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  26. Emmy
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 17:26:57

    All the reviews posted on the Torquere site are by their own authors, who read each other’s books and review them.

    I take them with a grain of salt, because if you slam someone’s book, who knows what they’ll say in return when its their turn to review your book. Besides, it’s in Torquere’s best interest to sell books. They can hardly say something to the effect of “this book sucks” if they want it to sell. None of the posted reviews are negative, regardless of the quality of the book being reviewed. Oh so slightly skewed.

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  27. Dianne Fox
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 18:59:49

    Emmy —

    You’ve misunderstood the review system on the Torquere website. I can see how you could get confused, but the only “in-house” reviews are the ones on the Excerpt/More Product Information page. The other reviews are by readers who choose to click the “review this story” button on the righthand side of the product page.

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  28. rebyj
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 21:11:54

    As for bdsm books…. m/f too much buttsecks.. they seem to forget what a vagina is for!!!I am however, happy to see m/m books of any sort being reviewed. The few I’ve read were surprisingly insightful and well written, so I’m glad to see them get any kind of good press.

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  29. Joan/SarahF
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 21:15:56

    As for bdsm books…. m/f too much buttsecks.. they seem to forget what a vagina is for!!!

    OMG, rebyj, you just made my day! Thanks so much for the giggle.

    I’m glad everyone enjoyed the review. Looking forward to doing some more.

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  30. Emmy
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 21:31:50

    Diane- I can see it now that you’ve pointed it out, lol. Thanks.

    If you click on a book and hit the “Read a Review” tab right above the “Add to Cart” tab, all you get is a review that a fellow author wrote. Might just be another design flaw, but it’s one heck of a coincidence.

    I did a random check of ten recent releases long enough to have a review(Immortal Seduction, Vinculum, A Strange Place in Time, Good Cop Bad Cop, Guardians of the Wind, His Sire’s Heart, Miss Me?, Roughstock: And a Smile, The Agency, Uneven). Only Uneven had reader reviews, and those were buried at the very bottom of the page. Even Uneven’s ‘read a review’ button only shows the review by author Jane Davitt and makes no mention of any others.

    So basically 10% of books have a review by someone other than an in house author.

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  31. Jane
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 21:53:57

    Is this a common practice for e publishers? That seems very strange to me. Authors within the same publishing house are asked to write a review of a book to post on the publishing house’s bookstore site? I know the author of the review is identified, but I had no idea that the review was done “in house.” There seems to be a conflict of interest there.

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  32. Dianne Fox
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 21:59:44

    Emmy (and Jane) –

    You’re right, there aren’t a lot of reader reviews. I wish there were more!

    The “read a review” tab is the “in-house” review meant to give a bit more information than the synopsis that shows up on the same page. They’re more comparable to the blurbs from other authors that go on the front cover of a print book. The reader reviews are in the right-hand sidebar (which you’ve obviously found by now).

    I don’t see it as a conflict of interest any more than it is a conflict of interest for authors to blurb other authors’ books in print media, which is a common practice. The reviewing author is not paid for the review; it’s purely volunteer.

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  33. Meli
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 23:19:00

    I find it so disappointing that many people are slamming Torquere and saying they won’t buy Uneven because of Torquere’s editing.

    Uneven is written by Anah Crow. It is published through Torquere, but written by Anah.

    It is such a shame that people won’t even give the book a chance. Ultimately, it is these people who miss out on reading a powerful book that achieves what so few books written about BDSM manage.

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  34. Teddypig
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 23:34:13

    I decided that after seeing people hurt by Triskelion and Silks Vault and now NCP I was not gonna shut up if I heard about strange goings on and I would not support such goings on no matter how talented a certain publisher’s writers were.

    I feel strongly that readers and reviewers like myself should make a point of saying “no can do” more often to ePublishers who are doing things we disagree with.

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  35. Janine
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 23:34:50

    How sweet it is to see m/m fiction covered in a major blog like DearAuthor

    We’ve done several reviews of m/m books — click on the “gay” or “m/m” tags at the bottom of the review, or check out some the links in the “Similarly Tagged” sidebar.

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  36. Val Kovalin
    Sep 24, 2008 @ 00:44:20

    We've done several reviews of m/m books -’ click on the “gay” or “m/m” tags at the bottom of the review, or check out some the links in the “Similarly Tagged” sidebar.

    I will do that. Thanks, Janine, you made my day.

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  37. Emmy
    Sep 24, 2008 @ 02:39:11

    Meli-

    If I’m going to spend money on a book, I have the expectation that it will be professionally published. I know Torquere has some great authors (one great author with a bunch of pseuds?), but books full of grammatical errors, misspellings, typos, and jayzus gawd even editors comments make the books difficult to read.

    I kid you not…I read a book where a couple were smexing out back of a bar behind a trash can and the guys were grabbing each other’s “waste”. Considering what parts were being penetrated, that’s pretty frickin nasty. I’m sure they meant to say ‘waist’, but…scat play, anyone? Hair is routinely referred to as a ‘main’ vs ‘mane’, editor’s comments such as ‘can you switch these paragraphs up’ or ‘where are you going with this’ are left in the final version…I could go on. Really.

    Is my expectation unreasonable? Should I spend my limited book fund on published books that are unedited, unproofed, and practically unreadable because the author has a great story to tell? Seriously?

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  38. K. Z. Snow
    Sep 24, 2008 @ 09:15:25

    Just want to throw my thanks in for Dear Author’s coverage of m-m fiction. There’s an astonishing amount of variety and talent in this subgenre, and it deserves more attention from good reviewers.

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  39. Teddypig
    Sep 24, 2008 @ 11:09:52

    I know Torquere has some great authors (one great author with a bunch of pseuds?), but books full of grammatical errors, misspellings, typos, and jayzus gawd even editors comments make the books difficult to read.

    Actually, from what I can tell mind you nothing is very apparent about Torquere or the way they run it.

    You not only have owners with a whole bunch of Pen Names but then they parlay them into editor positions also.

    So the owners are writing and editing and running the show and they make it all look like there are more people involved than there actually are even to the people who work for them.

    That to me is the worst part.

    Talented authors that sign up with them do not even know this is the deal they are getting involved with because there is this whole “inner circle” thing working there.

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  40. Joan/SarahF
    Sep 24, 2008 @ 11:29:37

    I decided that after seeing people hurt by Triskelion and Silks Vault and now NCP I was not gonna shut up if I heard about strange goings on and I would not support such goings on no matter how talented a certain publisher's writers were.

    I feel strongly that readers and reviewers like myself should make a point of saying “no can do” more often to ePublishers who are doing things we disagree with.

    Teddy, I appreciate this. I do. And I’m sure authors appreciate it too–if more people stood up earlier when things go seriously downhill at epubs, less people might get hurt.

    But I’m going to state for the record that, as far as I know and from my own conversations with multiple Torquere authors, there have never been any money problems, or copyright issues, or contract shenanigans the way there was over at NCP or Triskelion. I feel that this needs to be on the record as well. While things might be a little odd at Torq, there’s never been any problems on the level with NCP or Trisk.

    Even though, yes, Emmy, the editing sucks big time. Uneven was totally worth it for me. YMMV.

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  41. Teddypig
    Sep 24, 2008 @ 11:41:55

    But I'm going to state for the record that, as far as I know and from my own conversations with multiple Torquere authors, there have never been any money problems, or copyright issues, or contract shenanigans the way there was over at NCP or Triskelion.

    Did you talk to any who left?

    I have a different list myself it starts something like this.

    Inner Circle politics to keep authors in line… check.
    Owners with multiple Pen Name identities which are kept secret… check.
    Out right refusal to openly answer questions regarding how they run their business to their own authors… check.

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  42. Naomi Brooks
    Sep 24, 2008 @ 11:51:09

    Yes, Teddy.

    Going on three years working with Torquere now and I still don’t know which authors are real people and which ones are sockpuppets of other authors. You’d seriously need a database for this information to keep it all straight, and I don’t have the time to bother with it at this point.

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  43. cs
    Sep 24, 2008 @ 11:55:53

    Meli -

    In these comments alone, [probably] only one person said they wouldn’t buy for Torquere for reasons stated. The rest of us said we’d give it a look. Yes Ms. Crow is a talented writer, but if the editing is bad, it doesn’t matter how great she is. I’ve had my share of problems with the publisher, and I try not to buy directly from them if I can help it. But they’re selling products, and let’s be honest would you buy a half-assed lawn mower? No – so the same should be applied to books.

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  44. Teddypig
    Sep 24, 2008 @ 12:48:23

    Thank you Naomi Brooks.

    I think all these “takes a database” games do effect everyone, both readers as customers who eventually find these things out, and authors who can’t help but notice. There is no reason they cannot be open business wise and be honest in their involvements and simply apologize and fix this stuff.

    I have been told good things from the authors who worked there too so I can’t demonize anyone personally because that would be unfair.

    I do think however the fact you are still dealing with these same unprofessional bad behaviors after all the lessons from Triskelion, Venus Press, Silks Vault, Mardi Gras, (God, I can’t even remember all of them.), and now NCP.

    It’s just sad and it really does not have to, and should not, be that way.

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  45. K. Z. Snow
    Sep 24, 2008 @ 17:37:04

    Solution? Perhaps more electronic and print pubs that operate in an above-board fashion need to start touting their m-m offerings . . . or establishing GLBT fiction imprints. I know of a few sound GLBT publishers, but it wouldn’t hurt to have more. This subgenre is not only becoming increasingly popular, but, as I said earlier, draws an amazing number of profoundly talented authors.

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  46. Teddypig
    Sep 24, 2008 @ 18:40:09

    Most of the top ePubs all publish M/M Romance and sell the hell out of it.

    Samhain and Loose-Id and Ellora’s Cave
    Amber Quill and Liquid Silver and Cobblestone Press

    They all have M/M Romance and decent editing and great covers and for the most part treat their authors right.

    ReplyReply

  47. Jayne
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 14:36:42

    Oh, had to comment after reading the comment section…
    Jen mentioned The Chronicles of Surrender by Roxy Harte and I just wanted to agree…as in ditto…you should read this series (or at least her very first book in the series Sacred Secrets.) Amazing!

    I have never felt so emotionally involved with characters as I did reading Sacred Secrets.

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  48. Kaetrin
    Sep 28, 2008 @ 03:10:31

    Okay, read this review and thought “hmmmm” “A” review – I’ll give it a go. (For the record, I had no trouble at all downloading from Torquere.)

    However, I think BDSM (or at least the SM part)is not my cup of tea. If this is one of the best examples of it, then I think I’ll pass in future. I just didn’t get the blood, bruising, HURTING thing. I’ve read books in the past where there’s been some light spanking and I got that, but actually drawing blood and leaving welts and bruises that last for days? I just didn’t understand why anyone would want this and after reading the book I am none the wiser.

    (also, what is with the whole “licking blood” thing? Isn’t that like, unhealthy/risky?)

    I didn’t understand what was meant by Gabriel’s previous “relationship” with the lawyer dude. I mean, I thought I did, but then he said there was no sex and I thought, well what WAS there then? Is it that I am somewhat naive or was this just not clear?

    I also didn’t understand how the sex was SM but at other times Rase was the “alpha” (for want of a better term – I know this isn’t completely the right one) in the relationship, taking Gabriel to dinner, his hand on the small of Gabriel’s back, etc how there could be a change from him being so completely submissive to taking charge and kissing Gabriel etc (toward the end of the book). Maybe I just don’t understand the whole BDSM thing (probably!) but I had hoped that there would have been some exposition of how this works, not in a text book kind of way, but as part of the story.

    Oh, and I agree so much about the “whining”. I really thought that word was misused and it was pretty off putting.

    I’d give it a C for writing but an F (as in WTF?) for the SM stuff – but that’s just me.

    It’s good to see lots of different genres reviewed on DA though. Thank you.

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  49. Joan/SarahF
    Sep 28, 2008 @ 10:31:33

    Kaetrin, hrm, fascinating response that really made me think. Thanks! But first, I want to thank you for being open-minded and reading the book at all. :)

    You’ve spurred me to articulate something that I know didn’t come across in my review because I didn’t actually separate out in my own head until now: Uneven is one of the first BDSM romances I’ve read where the sadism and masochism (the SM part, as you say) is as important as the domination and submission (D/s part).

    If you think about it, D/s is something that most romance readers can understand. They might not consciously understand it or enjoy it in its overt form, but all romances are about which partner has control over the other and why. The point of most hetero romances is when the man finally admits to himself and his lover that she has power over him because of his feelings for her. D/s romances (either male-dom or fem-dom) just take that power and make it overt, and it’s not too much of a stretch to understand that. This is why Joey Hill does so well, I think. Her novels are all about power plays, about the domination and the submission, not about the sado-masochistic aspects of BDSM. So while her doms might use pain as a way to dominate, it’s all about the power and are therefore just more intense versions of vanilla romances.

    What Uneven did was foreground the SM of BDSM (and to a lesser extent, the bondage and the discipline). And very few BDSM romances do this. This book reveled in the fact that Rase was truly a masochist and needed the pain as much as the submission. It reveled in the fact that Gabriel was truly a sadist and needed to hurt as much as he needed to dominate. Rather than the SM being a tool for the D/s aspects, here the D/s was a way to access the SM parts. And I think that is truly unique to Uneven (as least as far as I’ve read) and it’s brilliantly done. So, while romance readers might be able to stretch themselves to appreciate D/s aspects of a BDSM romane, the SM parts are probably just weird if you don’t get them, if they’re not truly part of yourself.

    I use the opera analogy in Pretty Woman a lot: Edward says to Vivian, “People’s reactions to opera the first time they see it is very dramatic; they either love it or they hate it. If they love it, they will always love it. If they don’t, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul.” I think SM (much more than D/s) must be like that. If it grabs you viscerally, there’s nothing you can do about it. If it doesn’t, there’s probably nothing you can do about it, either. You can learn to appreciate erotic spankings, but you’ll never understand the people who truly seek to hurt or be hurt by their partners.

    Because, let me tell you, if it grabs you, welts and bruises and, oh heavens, blood, are beautiful and incredibly sexy–they’re badges of courage, of submission, of power, of ownership. But I don’t think it’s ever something I could explain in a way you could understand unless you “get” it. Which is by no means to say that there’s something missing in you–more likely something’s missing in me–but that I don’t think any explanation I give will make sense to you and I won’t be able to find the words to convey what I can feel inside so clearly.

    The way I do try to explain away my inability to explain it is that it’s like being gay. If you feel it, there’s nothing you can do about it–it’s how you were made. There are more sexual orientations out there than Kinsey’s gay/straight continuum. That doesn’t even being to cover it. There’s a continuum for D/s, for sadism, for masochism, for topping/bottoming (as Gabriel showed, different from D/s), for many many things that aren’t covered by a single focus on gay/straight as the only descriptor of sexuality.

    So, a non-answer as an answer. Does it help a little?

    I can answer some of your other questions a lot more quickly: AFAIK, licking blood is no more or less dangerous than swallowing semen. It all depends on the open wounds you might have in your mouth. You’re not more likely to contract anything just because it’s blood rather than another bodily fluid. If your mouth is intact, then it’s just like any other liquid. I might be wrong–I’m sure a medical professional can correct me!

    I read Gabriel’s previous relationship with the lawyer as one of a professional dominant with a client. We’re all very used to the images of the “dominatrix” woman, but I think Gabriel was acting as a male prodom. Truly professoinal prodoms don’t have sex with their clients–it’s illegal after all, to pay for sex. But they’re certainly still considered sex workers and thereby skirt the edges of the law. Again, I may be wrong here–I think Gabriel’s previous life was purposefully kept secretive.

    As for the “alpha” part of Rase–this is one of the things I loved so much about the story. That to all outward appearances, it would seem that Rase is in control, in power: he’s older, he’s richer, he’s a “captain of industry,” Gabriel’s a stock boy. But the story did a great job of showing both how outward appearances are sometimes worth nothing and also how, in a D/s relationship, there is caring and protectiveness on both sides of the equation. Rase wants to protect Gabriel as his lover, as any lover would want to protect the one he cares for. He also wants to stake his claim, again, as any lover would. But then there’s the overlay of the D/s aspects of the relationship to complicate things. The reason I liked this book so much is that it showed how a D/s relationship works in every day life, as well as in the bedroom; it showed how similar to a vanilla relationship D/s is, no matter the “trappings.” But then, it also showed the D/s and SM are not merely trappings, that they’re integral parts of the relationship. And yes, it’s incredibly difficult to explain. Which I guess is why I liked the book, because it didn’t explain–it just showed.

    ReplyReply

  50. Kaetrin
    Sep 29, 2008 @ 02:30:24

    Thank you Joan/Sarah F for responding so thoughtfully to my post.

    I “get it” now. At least, I get that I don’t get the SM part of BDSM and probably never will, as opposed to that this book was missing something.

    It’s strange because I am a monogamous heterosexual but I have read books where the H/H are both male, female, bisexual, or where there is 3 or more in the relationship and have found them a sexy enjoyable read. It’s not my thing personally but I enjoyed the stories (well, some of them, some were shite but that’s because there was NO story).

    I guess I expected this would be similar – eg, even though I personally have no interest in a threesome, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a story about one. In the same way, I thought – just because I don’t like pain and don’t enjoy inflicting it, didn’t mean I couldn’t (in theory) enjoy this story. But, I just didn’t. I guess there is a line which this genre crosses for me in a way that others have not – must be like opera (without the surtitles) LOL!

    ReplyReply

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