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REVIEW: Beautiful C*cksucker II: Such a Good Boy by Barbara Sheridan

Dear Ms. Sheridan.

57Thank you for sending me your story when I was moaning on Twitter one night about wanting to read a BDSM romance. I hope you don’t regret it.

When I agreed to read the book, I had no idea it was #2 of the Beautiful C*cksucker series. I had no idea that BC *was* a series. I tend to agree with the outrage over the name (Paul Bens’ original reaction, Teddy Pig’s response, Karen Knows Best’s extensive discussion) but I also know that in BDSM play, some epithets that would otherwise be unacceptable (“cunt” comes to mind) are endearments during a scene. Which is not to say that they should be used as titles to the book/series. I will admit, though, that I deliberately avoided most of the debate and arguments because it was too huge and I’ve only got so much mental energy. But if the writing for BC#1 was anything like the writing for BC#2, we should all just have ignored it and let it slip into well-deserved obscurity.

I also had no idea how BC#2 connects with BC#1. And OMFG, doing the research, BC#2 is the second romance for the dom of BC#1 after his sub from BC#1 fucking DIES!! Holy Flying Spaghetti Monster, if I’d known that, I wouldn’t have read it. Don’t freaking kill off the main characters from a previous book! Cardinal Sin of Romance #1! Even if it is after 20 years of “happiness.”

Right. So. That aside…Mikisaburo Nabeshimi is a high-profile cop in Tokyo. He goes to New York to drop his son off at Columbia and meets Dave Kirkland, a brash young cop, when Miki meets a friend of his at the courthouse. Dave is the unofficial foster son of a Chinese woman killed by the man that Miki’s friend successfully defends against the murder charge. (Confused yet, dear readers? This is a novella. None of these stories are really resolved.) The story is the progression of Miki and Dave’s D/s relationship as they chase down Miki’s friend’s client and prove that he’s actually guilty of serial murder.

So, my notes say: “Dave is a bratty little shit with no personality, Miki is stereotypical inscrutable Japanese dom.” I think that kind of sums it all up. This is one of those books that, to my mind, get BDSM so wrong, it’s scary and dangerous. Miki basically inflicts his domination on Dave, a complete BDSM newbie without a clue of what Miki’s doing. He makes Dave guess what’s going on, never talks with him about anything, “punishes” Dave in various ways for infractions in protocol and behavior that they haven’t talked about or agreed to, and just in general acts like an absolute shit. The whole concept of

“I can sense what you need even if you can’t. Trust me”

is actually contrary to all good BDSM practice. It’s not sexy, it’s frightening. Then again, Dave is an immature asshole who takes risk after risk without thought for the personal or broader consequences. BDSM is about safe, sane, and consensual, and all three of those require open and honest communication. BDSM is both mentally and physically dangerous when not discussed openly and for Miki to keep Dave guessing, to never talk to him about what they’re doing, is stupid and wrong. (And biting hard enough to leave a scar, without TALKING ABOUT IT BEFOREHAND, is not only wrong, it’s actually about impossible.)

What is also stupid and wrong is that Miki decides that he and Dave will go under cover to catch the killer. He informs Dave of this fact, then acts the same way with the undercover assignment as he does with the BDSM: never talks to Dave, never tells Dave his plans, keeps Dave guessing and on his toes and in the dark. Which is all very well for the sex (or not), but OMFG!stupid for a freaking undercover assignment that could get either or both of them KILLED! Metaphor for the relationship? I think so, but not in a good way.

There are story lines that go nowhere and coincidences that are just too much to believe (Dave’s best friend’s suicide?! The fact that Miki figures out the connection between the NY killing and killings in Japan in about a second?! Dave’s inherited apartment?!). All the incest imagery was strange and freaky and odd: Miki’s (platonic, lesbian) wife talking to Dave about their son gets Dave all hot and bothered, for example. Ick. And finally, Miki talks about his former lover (hero of BC#1, remember) as a friend and sometimes lover, but not as the love of his life: this is romance? How am I supposed to trust the HEA of this book if you’ve not only destroyed but called into question the very existence of the HEA of the previous book? All this AND the resolution of the suspense plot is confusing (I have no idea of who is doing what, where, and in what order) and anti-climactic.

So. Just no. Thank you for your generosity and I’m sorry I couldn’t like the book. But just no.

Grade: D

Best Regards,
-Joan/Sarah F.

As a Mean Girl review, this one doesn’t really need an FTC disclaimer, but here’s one anyway: This book was provided to the reviewer by the author. The reviewer did not pay for this book but received it free. We endorse good books that portray BDSM positively, realistically, and safely, but this book isn’t and doesn’t.

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.

28 Comments

  1. katiebabs
    Oct 15, 2009 @ 18:47:03

    The title alone is so not my bag! Sorry.

    You are a mean girl? No way! :P

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  2. Sparky
    Oct 15, 2009 @ 18:49:47

    Ye gods it’s bad enough that that utterly vile title got a second airing.

    But poor plot, and unresolved story line? Oi. At least the book may sink from view with it’s horrible title

    But the killer for me is the BDSM. I’m a practioner but I hate 90% of the books out there on it. So many of them seem to not have the slightest clue (and chocked full of stereotypes) – and some are down right frightening.

    And this? No discussion, no exploration, no idea of what each other needs (except his super sekrit SENSING abilities. If any top ever said that to me I’d tell them “so you’re sensing the door then? Because I am OUT of here”) That would have the book make another dent in my wall.

    And I just laughed at the undercover bit – hey, we mayu be shot by these guys – here have some random surprises!

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  3. Sarah Frantz
    Oct 15, 2009 @ 18:58:05

    @Sparky: What BDSM romance *do* you recommend? I have such a hard time finding any that get it. My list of five go-to books: Ann Somerville’s Remastering Jerna, Victoria Dahl’s The Wicked West, James Buchanan’s Hard Fall, Matthew Haldeman-Time’s Affair in Paradise and Anah Crow’s Uneven. Oh, and KA Mitchell’s Collision Course has a fabulous scene that’s perfect but the characters don’t BDSM-identify. Oh, and Joey Hill, of course: Natural Law and Rough Canvas in particular. So seven good BDSM romances. Among how many…?

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  4. Sheryl Nantus
    Oct 15, 2009 @ 19:12:44

    I would recommend ANYTHING by Lauren Dane.

    The Woman Rocks.

    IMO, of course.

    ;)

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  5. German Reader
    Oct 15, 2009 @ 19:40:48

    I read Samurai Captive by this author – the blurb was the only exciting thing of the entire book.

    I found the whole writing very unsatisfying and quite boring – like the author had an idea about her hero’s/heroine’s first meating and than really had no plan what road should lead to their HEA.

    I usually give an author a second chance in case the first book I read was a bad exception, but I guess this time I won’t.

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  6. Maggie
    Oct 15, 2009 @ 20:10:33

    As a Mean Girl review

    I’m sure the author won’t think of it as a mean girl review. You laid out all the reasons why this didn’t work out for you.

    I read a co-written book by this author (Blood Brothers). I don’t think the lack of research is limited to the book you read. I’m Asian, and I had to stop reading Blood Brothers because I found the cultural inaccuracies too hard to take (even little things you could learn by just googling).

    I stayed away from this series because I found the offensive BC title tasteless and unimaginative.

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  7. leela
    Oct 15, 2009 @ 20:38:06

    A Japanese high-profile police officer who opts to go undercover? I’ll ignore the story isn’t even taking place in the officer’s own country, and that any cop with more than a week’s worth of academy classes (in any country, really) would know there’s “being outside your jurisdiction” and then there’s “tourist go home!” Sheesh.

    But more importantly, it’s the notion of a Japanese police officer volunteering for any kind of undercover operation. That’s not the same as ‘plainclothes,’ which is still somewhat suspect but not entirely unheard of. Undercover is an investigative technique not only considered immoral and unethical, it’s also just plain illegal per Japanese law. (Along with wiretaps, subpeonas, plea bargains, and offers of immunity.) On the other hand, Japanese cops don’t need to get a warrant to search a residence, hearsay is considered acceptable for testimony, and a suspect can be held for weeks, even months, without actually being charged, pending the suspect giving in and signing the police-written confession. Fine, so they’re not in Japan for the story, but it just seems like asking the character to go so completely against culture & training… y’know?

    Well, it’s probably moot, anyway, considering I’ve no interest in reading about inscrutable cardboard, or in putting my money towards unrealistic and unsafe representations of BDSM.

    For recommendations: seconding (thirding?) Joey Hill. Kim Dare has some decent BDSM-themed stories, when she’s not doing the “gay for you” trope. For more of the S/m side of BDSM, try Jay Lygon’s trilogy: Chaos Magic, Love Runes, and Personal Demons. For D/s with overtones of S/m, try Catt Ford’s Strong Hand.

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  8. hapax
    Oct 15, 2009 @ 20:51:03

    *blink*

    I love DA and have it bookmarked because it reviews so many titles that my patrons might like that I don’t see in “standard review journals”, but I must confess that this is the first time at work that I slapped the browser closed before a colleague could glance over my shoulder!

    And am I the only one to find that cover a rather creepy case of Fetishizing the Other?

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  9. Robin
    Oct 15, 2009 @ 21:49:06

    Okay, the “offensive title” tag cracked me up.

    The hardest thing for me to believe re. BC 1 was when Jill Noble insisted that the title was not chosen for sensational or provocative impact, but was chosen because it was just the ‘perfect’ title for the book. That it’s been used again after so much controversy and a good deal of opposition simply sustains my inability to believe her. In terms of book one, I can believe they did not expect people to be offended, but since they’ve done it again, all I can say is it smacks of rubbing that offense in people’s faces (people who articulated extremely sound reasons for being offended), which is, itself, outrageously offensive, IMO.

    And am I the only one to find that cover a rather creepy case of Fetishizing the Other?

    This topic was discussed extensively in one of the links Joan/Sarah provided. I will not even try to represent the discussion, although I will say that I walked away extremely frustrated and disappointed. And as I said above, the insistence on using a title that was viewed by some as extremely insensitive the first time around, doesn’t make me inclined to give anyone involved in the production of this book the benefit of the doubt.

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  10. Paul G. Bens, Jr.
    Oct 15, 2009 @ 22:22:46

    Well, as many know, I didn’t find the title appropriate for the first book and when I had seen that they’d used the title again for the sequel, it was clear that the “we’re sorry if it offened” was simply BS.

    Interestingly, reading this review, the title apparently isn’t the only concern to be had. Bad understanding of BDSM, questionable and possible othering of Japanese people and lack of knowledge of Japanese culture let alone police procedures both domestic and not.

    Choosing a “controversial” title or making a controversial statement I have found is often nothing more than derailment. In conversations about othering, it’s derailment to stay away from the real issues. In fiction, I’ve found it generally is derailment to hide the flaws and, in some cases, massive ones by creating a “controversy.”

    In the end, the author’s works are not for me. The publisher’s works are not for me. My choice and that’s OK. If I really felt I was missing something from either, I’d be the first to sample them. I just highly doubt I’m missing anything.

    I'm sure the author won't think of it as a mean girl review.

    I don’t know why, but this made me chuckle.

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  11. Paul G. Bens, Jr.
    Oct 15, 2009 @ 22:27:08

    Anah Crow's Uneven.

    I so have to read this. So many people rec it.

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  12. Maggie
    Oct 15, 2009 @ 22:37:09

    I'm sure the author won't think of it as a mean girl review.

    I don't know why, but this made me chuckle.

    LOL. Well, now that I read it back, it does make me sound rather sarcastic…

    I wasn’t trying to be. Just wanted to say the review was well thought out.

    Anah Crow’s Uneven. I so have to read this. So many people rec it.

    I really liked it. You should move it to the top of your list.

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  13. Caligi
    Oct 15, 2009 @ 22:39:36

    What there’s an almost total lack of is believable hetero BDSM romance out there. I enjoy m/m romance, but vastly prefer my erotic romance m/f. Love, to me, is a lot more universal than sex. If we’re getting down to the nitty nitty gritty, I want to recognize the naughty bits.

    Maybe it’s my own hang up, who can say.

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  14. Paul G. Bens, Jr.
    Oct 15, 2009 @ 23:09:01

    @Maggie:

    LOL. Well, now that I read it back, it does make me sound rather sarcastic…

    =-) I didn’t take it as sarcasm.

    I agree the review is well reasoned, but that’s never stopped some authors from trashing the reviewer (either in public or privately). I think that’s why it made me chuckle as in my reaction was “I wouldn’t be so sure.”

    ETA: Not meaning to imply that this author has or hasn’t done this. I don’t know as I don’t follow her. I just know I see a lot of it within the genre.

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  15. Anida Adler
    Oct 16, 2009 @ 03:48:39

    This is truly sad. A few of the best books I’ve read in Romance/Erotica have been BDSM, exploring the pshyche of those choosing the lifestyle and examining it intelligently. It’s a real pity when this controversial and delicate ground is trompled (is that a word? Well, it is now haha, a combination of tramped and crumpled) by a poor book.

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  16. Sparky
    Oct 16, 2009 @ 05:20:33

    @sarahfrantz
    Well that’s kind of the problem – you’ve listed most of the ones I would recommend. Every now and then I dip my toe back in the genre in the hope of finding something shiny then I recoil awayand have another dent in my wall. I don’t sp[end a lot of time looking because it seems I have to wade through a lot of books that are full of insulting stereotypes, utter cluelessness or no small amount of downright unsafe and bloody stupid activities and mindsets.

    I could probably find more if I’d dive in, but I don’t have enough time to dedicate to reading to get through the slosh

    You name 7 good BDSM romances among so many – and it’s the so many that I am tired of slogging through

    I do have a TBR list though from recommendations here and last time I complained at the utter lack of good BDSM novels

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  17. Sarah Frantz
    Oct 16, 2009 @ 06:30:43

    @leela: But the undercover activity DOES take place in Japan. In fact, they go back to Japan, after Dave’s suspension (!) precisely so Miki can be in his jurisdiction. And not only does he go undercover, he does so in perfect, passing drag, where he’s so good that everyone is convinced he’s a beautiful female dominant. o_0

    But just wow on undercover work being illegal. Wow. What a mistake to make.

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  18. Mireya
    Oct 16, 2009 @ 06:54:38

    I am not into the lifestyle, but Joey Hill does know how to weave a good BDSM story. BDSM is not my thing, but I’ve always enjoyed hers.

    On a side note, I find extremely off-putting the title of the series the book reviewed in this thread belongs to.

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  19. Georgina
    Oct 16, 2009 @ 07:30:30

    Leela, that information on Japanese police procedures was fascinating.

    I’m on the lookout for romances with non-white protagonists, so I’m sad to hear this book’s so flawed. Thanks for taking one for the team, Sarah F.

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  20. Jill Sorenson
    Oct 16, 2009 @ 07:48:07

    I defended the choice of title the first time around, because I thought the intent was not to insult, and the reasoning was sincere. Assuming that the author (not the publisher) chose to use it again, knowing how many people were offended, I’m just…sorry I bothered.

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  21. Maili
    Oct 16, 2009 @ 12:40:23

    @Sparky

    Every now and then I dip my toe back in the genre in the hope of finding something shiny then I recoil away and have another dent in my wall.

    I spluttered on my drink when I read that. Such an awesome line. If you spot this line in one of my future postings you’ll know I stole it from you, so apologies and thanks in advance.

    (Sorry for going off-topic. Excuse me.)

    For what it’s worth, I’m firmly in the ‘not keen on the title’ camp.

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  22. JenB
    Oct 16, 2009 @ 21:19:32

    Hmm…I liked this one as well as the first one. Maybe even better. And the author made it pretty clear in all her promos that it’s not a traditional romance, so the death didn’t bother me.

    No, it’s not particularly realistic, but then I’m not sure it was intended to be. It’s just sexy and fun.

    My feelings on the title are pretty neutral. I’ve seen worse.

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  23. Nadia Lee
    Oct 17, 2009 @ 00:25:26

    @Sarah Frantz:

    And not only does he go undercover, he does so in perfect, passing drag, where he's so good that everyone is convinced he's a beautiful female dominant.

    I’ve seen some really effeminate Japanese men, so I’m not THAT surprised that he can pull it off…although not sure if Japanese cops would go that far. Usually they just raid whatever place they think is suspicious and be done with it.

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  24. Janine
    Oct 17, 2009 @ 01:51:27

    Sarah and others — re. BDSM recs — I’m not that knowledgeable on the subject but I really liked Megan Hart’s novellas “Stillness” and “Determinata” in Pleasure and Purpose.

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  25. Pai
    Oct 19, 2009 @ 03:32:56

    The thing about ‘effeminate Japanese men’, is that they make be able to pass as women to Westerners, but other Japanese can tell pretty easily. When I was in college with various exchange students from Japan, they would giggle at how various members of ‘prettyboy’ or crossdressing bands could fool us, when to -their- eyes they were -obviously- male.

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  26. Debra Date
    Oct 19, 2009 @ 22:18:00

    I’m also hungry for more good BDSM titles, guys please share if you find any!! When they’re good, they’re atomic sex amazing, when they’re bad, well…you get “Beautiful” apparently..

    ReplyReply

  27. cs
    Oct 20, 2009 @ 15:14:34

    Cindy Rosenthal – Keep You.

    I’m no expert on how BDSM is practiced, but I thought this was a brilliant book albeit very hard for me to read. Sadly it seems to be out of print, either the contract expired or something? It was available through Torquere Press. If you’re interested then maybe contact the publisher and see what they say. To be honest she was still listed as an author, cause she had a short story at the publisher, but it seems she’s been removed completely. Shame she was a talented writer.

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  28. leela
    Oct 20, 2009 @ 15:40:36

    @Nadia Lee:

    Usually they just raid whatever place they think is suspicious and be done with it.

    That’s the impression I’ve gotten from my own research. Hell, when you don’t need a warrant to raid a place, and you can hold any suspects indefinitely, why would you go through half the machinations used in the Western world? Wiretaps, undercover operations, stings, and whatnot are all tools created when the bulk of the law is designed to protect against authoritarian abuses by officers of private citizens. They’re unnecessary in a culture that is effectively authoritarian and thus sees little to no risk of abuse in the police-citizen dynamic.

    It’s not just an indication of some pretty bare-bones research; it’s also an indication that the author doesn’t get, on a fundamental level, the culture itself. Our attitudes towards — and prevention of, and protection against — criminals and crime stem in great part from our culture’s notions of citizenship, ethics, civic duties, and civic rights.

    The review’s description of Miki’s skills as a Dom sound a lot like what a (stereotypical, if such there be) Japanese man might think is perfectly acceptable for a dominant/master, but as Pai’s comment highlights, it sounds like that might be purely an fortunate accident. I doubt it’s actually the result of any significant research, given how many other major (and easy to research!) details are so terribly wrong.

    These details may seem secondary to some, or nit-picky, but trivializing the little things becomes a baby-and-the-bath-water situation, I think: dismissing this tiny law makes it easier to dismiss the cultural attitude that created and perpetrated that law. But that kind of dismissal is a fast road to exploitation, because if you don’t even realize there’s a chasm between your assumptions and the concrete daily details of the culture you’re writing, then how much more are you getting wrong about the much greater unspoken depths of your characters’ cultural fabric?

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