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REVIEW: Submission Times Two by Claire Thompson

Dear Ms. Thompson.

143924622X.01.LZZZZZZZI’ve had numerous people recommend your books to me as examples of good BDSM romances. When James Buchanan recommended you yet again, I broke down. I’m glad I did. I really enjoyed Submission Times Two and look forward to reading more of your books.

I started with Submission Times Two because how could I not?! It hit all my buttons: menage, m/m, and BDSM. But especially the menage. Cam and Ethan are desperately in love with each other. They’ve been living together for just under a year. They’re committed and focused on making their relationship work no matter what. The problem is, they’re both submissive, and unable to dom each other convincingly. So they’ve worked out a deal: on the weekends, they each go to different clubs, scene with doms there, get their pain-play needs met that way, and then go home and fuck like bunnies. So far, it’s been working out for them. Then Ethan hooks up with Maestro and starts thinking about how he needs more than just weekend scenes — he needs a full-time dom, which of course starts getting in the way of his relationship with Cam.

“Maestro” is actually Andrew, and he’s sort of semi-stalking Ethan. He had a huge crush on Ethan back in high school, when Ethan was the so-closeted-even-he-didn’t-know-he-was-gay quarterback who everyone adored, and Andrew was Andy, nerdy and completely forgettable. Andrew finds Ethan through Facebook, and figures he can finally make a dream come true when he figures out that not only is Ethan gay, but he’s submissive. He goes into the relationship figuring he’d steal Ethan from his partner, only to change his mind when he meets Cam.

Cam, of course, is pretty upset when Ethan starts keeping things from him, but what I loved about this story more than anything else is that no one huffs off in a Big Misunderstanding. They all TALK with each other, and work things out, just like real people in committed relationships should do. If they do go off half-cocked (harhar), they get their heads out of their asses pretty quickly and figure things out.

Although the story is only 100 pages, all three characters have emotional arcs, all three characters fall in love with each other, all three characters make it work together. And the BDSM aspects of the story are wonderful. You obviously know what you’re talking about and the BDSM is about the sensation and the psychology, as it should be. You show how intimate it can be, how mind-altering and relationship-changing. It’s also not for the faint-of-heart. The BDSM is pretty heavy at times, definite pain-play, not just submission with some slap-and-tickle. So readers should be warned.

I loved the actual story, the BDSM was fabulous, the emotions were strong and made my stomach all swirly. But…but two things: characterization and writing.

The characters weren’t 100% differentiable (if that’s a word). When you’re dealing with three men, more has to separate them from each other than their names. While Andrew was obviously different from the other two because he was a dom, Cam and Ethan were less distinguishable. They had different backgrounds, of course, and difference relationships with Andrew, and different needs. But I couldn’t tell them apart by speech. I couldn’t figure out whose head I was in without a name marker. The dialogue was great, the banter well done, the conversations good. But the characters didn’t sparkle and because they weren’t instinctively different from each other, I kept having to consciously remind myself that Cam was the one who ____ and Ethan was the one who ____ and that was a little distracting.

For those in my “How not to write BDSM” mega-review who said they didn’t want a BDSM manual while reading, this book was proof both that something that reads like a manual at times can be hot and that it can also be slightly tedious and preachy. I don’t know if it was just that I was super-sensitive to the issue, reading the story as I did while also dealing with the debate in my last post, but at times I felt like Ethan, Cam, and Andrew were reading from a “How to do Safe, Sane, Consensual BDSM” script, rather than organically moving through the story. But I also felt it was better to have that than not. The book did a great job depicting BDSM and the extra little preachy bits were just slightly too sticky-sweet icing on the cake.

But overall, I think the preachiness is a result of the biggest problem I had with story. The writing was inelegant. I’ve thought long and hard how to say this, and I think that word is the best choice I could make. The writing has no sparkle; there are no surprises. Every cliche is milked for all it’s worth. If a situation happens, I just knew what phrase was going to be used to sum it up. The story and emotions and characterization were all mostly solid. And although there was nothing terrible about the writing — with the actual stringing of words into sentences — it was pedestrian, sometimes even boring, although the story itself wasn’t boring. At times this annoyed me, at times I could ignore it and sink into the story. I loved the story and these guys, but the writing was, well, inelegant.

However, I’ll be looking forward to reading the other books of yours that intrigue me, because, inelegant writing aside, you’ve got nice situations, pretty good characters, and solid, even hot BDSM scenes. Oh, and can I just say: Predicament bondage! OMGyum!

Grade: B-

Best regards,
-Joan/Sarah F.

This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format (this vendor is unknown to us).

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.

11 Comments

  1. Claire Thompson
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 11:11:02

    Well, I was definitely holding my breath on this one. I appreciate the constructive criticism on writing style, and take it to heart. I am delighted you appreciated the story, despite the inelegance! I am glad I squeaked past the BDSM debate relatively unscathed. The review is thoughtful and in-depth, and much appreciated! I’ll take a B- from Sarah any day of the week.

  2. NoAccidentAboutIt
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 15:45:08

    I read Submission Time Two and as a gay submissive man, I found it resonated with my own life experience, if not in fact, at least in spirit. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good, hot BDSM read.

  3. Jambrea
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 17:37:24

    Very nice review. I’ve read Submission Times Two as well as a few others from Claire. Her BDSM is very involved and I like that. When I think of true BDSM writing, I think of Claire.

  4. Rhonda
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 20:34:16

    Nice review. I have read this book along with all of Claire’s books. I’m like Jambrea, any time I think of BDSM books, I think of Claire.

  5. T (ebookaddict)
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 21:50:15

    Nice Review. I’ve read Submission Times Two and very much enjoyed it. Claire always pushes me past my boundaries and I appreciate this, as a rule I don’t always enjoy BDSM but Claire’s is written so well that it is hard not to enjoy it, I will admit I have not read any of Claire’s m/f BDSM (not my cup of tea) but have read all of her m/m and will read any in the future, and would recommend it to others, and like Jambrea and Rhonda any time I think of BDSM Claire’s name always comes to the forefront.

  6. Jen
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 23:46:31

    Good review. I have read Submission Time Two as well and truly enjoyed it. Like the other commenters I tend to think of Claire first whenever someone asks me which BDSM author they should read. I know when I’m in the mood for a great BDSM story, whether m/f or m/m, Claire Thompson is always my first stop.

  7. Marie*
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 04:05:05

    Nice review.
    I have not read this book yet it is on my to read asap but I would like to comment that I find all Claire’s books are about erotic surrender & sensual submission.
    Marie*

  8. CourtneyLee
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 07:23:13

    Reading hard-core BDSM isn’t my thing in general, but I have read several of Claire’s mm BDSM books and enjoyed how faithful she is to the motivations and practices of those in the lifestyle. I agree about the writing, but I guess no one’s perfect and if I have to sacrifice sparkle to get Claire’s brand of quality BDSM portayal, that’s just fine with me. I’ll add this book to my TBR.

  9. Claire Thompson
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 07:40:21

    I appreciate all these supportive comments very much! They sustain me and make me want to write more! But Sarah’s constructive criticism is really food for thought. I am the sole support of myself and my family with my writing (And an EDJ) and sometimes I think I might be rushing through a novel to get the story out and get product out there, without taking enough time to really polish my offering into the gem readers deserve. Sarah has really made me think about that, and I want to do better. I want to take the time to FIND the sparkle, to breathe life into my work so it’s more than just a hot read or an expose on BDSM-Claire-style. I honestly don’t know if i have what it takes to produce and nurture that sparkle, but I plan to open myself to it. Thanks.

  10. JenR
    Nov 20, 2009 @ 13:13:07

    Personally, as a reader and reviewer of ebooks (romance and erotic romance primarily) I would put Claire Thompson’s writing in the top 10% easily, if not even the top 5% in the ‘ebook’ field, for quality, consistency, intriguing plot line, and loveable characters.

    I can’t think of a handful of authors (maybe 3 or 4 total) that I know each and every time I pick up their books I’ll be happy with that decision — Claire is already one of those authors (and most of the others either don’t write ebooks or write both e and print — they are different animals entirely as far as writing technique and style, in my opinion).

    I think Claire gives her readers what they need. They crave an escape from reality for a period of time and it’s delivered in the form of hot characters, scorching hot scenes, and intriguing plots with the happy ever afters that make you ….. well, make you want to read another one. :)

    I’m sure every author could strive harder to have more sparkle, more character development, more grit (for lack of a better word), but there’s nothing better than knowing that at the end of the day, when you just want to kick back and read a good solid story you won’t go wrong in picking up one of Claire’s books.

    All that being said, I can agree with many points in this well thought out review of Submission Times Two — and I, for one, am VERY eager to see where Claire takes her writing. If she’s already in the top 10%, anything she adds to the development of her writing style will surely make her a must read on EVERYONE’S list! :)

  11. Tuesday Midday Links Roundup: RWA Conference Faces Uncertainty with Nashville Flooding | Dear Author
    May 04, 2010 @ 11:43:56

    [...] and publishing about leather, SM, bondage and fetishes. The winner is Claire Thompson with her Submission Times Two. Honorable mention goes to James Buchanan with her Hard [...]

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