Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

REVIEW: Sweet Persuasion by Maya Banks

Dear Ms. Banks:

book review This is one of those books that are well written and evocative but made me feel personally uncomfortable. Despite my issues, though, I recognize that it is a good story.

Serena is in the business of fulfilling fantasies for other people, whether it is preparing an elaborate princess party for a young girl or satisfying a grown man’s desire to be a chef at a noted restaurant for the evening. But she’s got a fantasy of her own that she wants to explore. Serena longs for a submissive relationship. Oh, she’s not so much into the pain aspect (although there is some of that in the story), but she wants to be possessed or owned by a man.

Fortunately for Serena her friend Faith knows of a man, Damon Roche, who could help her fulfill those fantasies. Damon Roche owns, among other things, a house of pleasure and has members who could very well meet Serena’s demands. Once Damon reads her request and sees her, he decides that he wants to be the one to make her fantasy a reality. He lays out his proposition: for one month, she gives herself over to his care to fully immerse herself in the lifestyle of a submissive.

Serena agrees. Damon is a safe choice. Faith knows him and trusts him. He’s not a stranger. He’s very handsome. More importantly, Damon’s actions show himself to be trustworthy. Prior to obtaining her agreement, he provides her with medical papers. He is clear about his demands and his expectations and evinces an understanding of what Serena is seeking through this experience.

As Serena moves into the fantasy, she is told that it will end at any time she says no.

He propped one ankle on his knee and relaxed further into the chair. "In a lot of circles, indeed for most in this, shall we say "lifestyle,’ the use of safe words abounds."

She nodded because she knew what a safe word was.

"I won’t use them," he said fi rmly.

Her eyes widened. "You’re asking me to trust you that implicitly?"

He shook his head. "I won’t use a word that encourages a man to disregard the word no coming from a woman’s lips. If you say no, if you’re even thinking no, then it ends for me. I won’t indulge in silly little no- means- yes games. When that word crosses your lips? It’s over. If I ever ask of you something that you won’t give unreservedly, then all you need to say is no."

It is with this word that I am to believe that Serena holds the power in the relationship. Perhaps this is true. But I struggled with the concepts of ownership. I struggled with the way in which Serena was treated. On the one hand it takes the fantasy of giving up control to the extremes. Serena is dressed, fed, and bathed in accordance with Damon’s orders. At a couple of junctures in the story, Serena sleeps on a pallet at Damon’s feet during the day while he works. In some of these actions, I failed to see the beauty of their pairing. I would have liked more of the "I want to please you" than the "You please me" attitudes.

There’s a section at the end wherein Damon acknowledges the vulnerability that the perceived position of power places him in. He fears “screwing up” & failing to properly anticipate and then meet the needs of his partner.

"I understand it because I live it every day that I’m with you," he said. "Do you think that I don’t burn to please you? That I don’t live in fear of disappointing you, that I’m not afraid that I’ll let you down or fail to protect you? It’s hell, Serena. But it’s also the sweetest pleasure I’ve ever known."

I think if I had seen more vulnerability in Damon that maybe the power scales would have been tipped more equitably.

Damon had always longed for this type of relationship but each ended with the woman leaving him, not ready to live the fantasy in the long term. He tries to hold himself aloof emotionally from Serena but cannot because she so perfectly fills his emotional needs. The emotional struggle of the two characters was very poignant. Serena viewed this as a fantasy and she’s confronted with a harsh realization that fantasies are fleeting, ephemeral and whatever she might have had with Damon is similarly elusive.

While it was clear that this lifestyle pleased Serena and that it sexually fulfilling to her, it still made me uncomfortable. I, the reader, struggle with the lifestyle choice even as Serena struggles to square her desires with her own beliefs. In the end while Serena won peace, I wasn’t so convinced. Having said all that, I still enjoyed this book despite my discomfort and thus the writing must have been good because otherwise I would have thrown a book like this with this topic against the wall. (can you tell how conflicted this book makes me) B-

Best regards

Jane

This book can be purchased in trade paperback from an independent bookstore or ebook format from the Sony Store and other etailers.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

16 Comments

  1. JJ
    Jun 04, 2009 @ 15:25:48

    Your first sentence summed exactly how I felt about this book.

  2. Sam
    Jun 04, 2009 @ 15:31:25

    Jane I agree, I read this book a few days ago and it still lingers. I was very uncomfortable but at the same time intrigued. 3/4 of the way through, she’s struggling with her feelings and she shows up at Damon’s house and he has guests, what happens next actually brought me to tears, and I should say I DO NOT cry (usually). I put the book down and called a friend to discuss…lol

    For me it was a roller coaster ride of emotions and trying to understand where she was coming from, I’m glad I took the trip. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series.

  3. Jennie
    Jun 04, 2009 @ 15:47:51

    Thanks for the review. I skimmed this book a bit and it did look interesting and well written, but the subject matter is not my cup of tea, either. It’s just a mindset I don’t understand, and as much as I think of myself as someone who doesn’t judge other people’s consensual sexual activities, I find judgment creeping into my mind when I read books like this, so it’s probably just better for me to stay away. It’s weird, I don’t mind it when it’s obviously just “play”, but when the characters are seriously interested in maintaining a long-term D/s relationship, it’s a turn-off for me.

  4. More on Sweet Persuasion – Maya Banks « My Thoughts On Nothing Much At All
    Jun 04, 2009 @ 20:10:21

    [...] take notes, but often I don’t have any paper with me when I am reading. Today, when reading Jane’s review over of Sweet Persuasion over at Dear Author, I realized that she brought up a very important [...]

  5. Kaetrin
    Jun 04, 2009 @ 22:20:30

    I usually enjoy Maya Banks’ books so I’ll give this one a whirl when next I’m on a buying spree.

    It will probably make me uncomfortable, but then again, I am curious about the whole D/s thing, so it might enlighten me a little too! (I’m looking forward to some comments from Sarah Frantz about this one too).

  6. Sarah Frantz
    Jun 05, 2009 @ 19:11:02

    Hmm, this looks intriguing. I have real issues with maledom books, precisely for the reasons Jane lists, so to find one that’s well-written means it’s at least got a fighting chance with me. I’ll have to check it out.

  7. MaryK
    Jun 05, 2009 @ 20:10:03

    @Jennie:

    I don't mind it when it's obviously just “play”, but when the characters are seriously interested in maintaining a long-term D/s relationship, it's a turn-off for me.

    I feel the same way. I can handle it in a fantasy or if they’re just playing at it but not as “real life.” That’s why I can’t read some of Joey Hill’s books even though I know they’re sure to be well written.

  8. Tazallie
    Jun 07, 2009 @ 09:27:39

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book for the simple reason that it made me question my own pre-concieved ideas about Dominant/submissive relationships. The book was incredibly well written, but it isn’t for the feint hearted, it pushes not only the characters to their limits of comfort but the readers as well.
    The whole point of this book for me was that this isnt a game for many people, it is a way of life, a choice they make and live by…and that is what Serena was faced with and what terrified her the most…that it isn’t just a fantasy its a reality.

  9. Karen Scott
    Jun 07, 2009 @ 13:34:57

    I still enjoyed this book despite my discomfort and thus the writing must have been good because otherwise I would have thrown a book like this with this topic against the wall.

    That’s just how I felt about the book myself. Hated the subject matter, really appreciated the story and the writing.

  10. Jane
    Jun 07, 2009 @ 15:40:53

    @Karen Scott what grade would you give it?

  11. Karen Scott
    Jun 09, 2009 @ 15:00:12

    I’d have given it the same grade as you. As I told Maya at the time, it had an emotional integrity that was hard to ignore, regardless of the subject matter.

  12. Scarlett
    Jun 09, 2009 @ 17:11:44

    I’m in the middle of this book, and I pretty much agree with the review so far.

    A lot of this is very hard to understand and relate to, and it makes me uncomfortable. But the story is well-written and strangely compelling.

    I don’t have any problems reading about the “out there” sex stuff, but it’s the non-sex behavior that is hard to take. The worst thing to me is when Damon makes her walk around completely naked in front of the housekeeper and chauffeur, knowing that she is very modest and doesn’t like it. That comes across as humiliating and downright degrading. And mean. For some reason that bothers me more than cuffing her to the bed and having her lie on that pallet and all the other stuff.

  13. Kaetrin
    Jul 10, 2009 @ 20:10:03

    I just finished this book last night.

    For me personally, I must say that the D/s style relationship portrayed in the first book (Sweet Surrender) was more my style – in that I could understand better.

    This one was a bit too much. But, then again, I don’t really understand the idea of “punishment” – no way would I let someone whip me to punish me – I just don’t get it. I can (sort of) understand the idea of spanking etc for pleasure but in this book there was a scene where she wasn’t supposed to get any pleasure from it – it was purely punishment. Frankly, I just didn’t understand it. Maybe I just don’t understand this type of lifestyle well enough but it crossed the line and well into abuse territory for me at this point.

    Also, at the end of the book, I didn’t understand how they were going to work out as a couple. It was all “we’ll see how we go, we’ll be together and work from there” but I wasn’t clear on how that was going to be.

    On the one hand, Damon had been very clear that what he wanted was a woman to live the “fantasy” as real life. So, I gathered from that, that he wanted the experience he had with Serena all the time. Serena, on the other hand, just wanted to try the fantasy and didn’t want that all the time. Even though she enjoyed pleasing Damon she struggled with living it forever after. For me, this conflict wasn’t really resolved. They ended up together – but how?

    Does Damon tone it down because Serena herself makes him happy? Does Serena just acquiesce to Damon’s desires despite her misgivings? Does that mean he gets to “punish” (aka abuse) her if she doesn’t want something?

    In the fantasy, the if Serena says “no” it’s all over red rover. What happens if she says “no” IRL? This wasn’t discussed.

    Perhaps it will be picked up in the next book. The first in the series didn’t mention Serena at all and only briefly mentioned Julie. This book has actual sections about Julie and her “quest” for Nathan. So, in that sense it was a different set up from the first. Maybe the Serena/Damon story will be added to in the 3rd book.

    The other thing I wondered about (and maybe this is just me thinking too much!) was – what happens if Serena and Damon stay together and then have children? Do the kids watch mum walking around the house naked all the time because dad likes it? How do the kids learn about the real world? What sort of dynamic is between Damon and Serena (hey, I just realised their initials are D/s – coincidence? – I think not! Sorry, I digress…) as parents? How can they be “equals” as parents if they are not actually equals as partners? (although this last question may just reveal my total disconnect with this type of relationship).

    The dynamic between Gray and Faith is much more understandable in this regard – he comes across as an uber-alpha male but he adores Faith and I can see how their relationship works. I just can’t see it for Damon and Serena – at least not from this book alone.

    I know it’s been a while since anyone posted about this book, but I’d love to hear what others think.

    I am looking forward to Micah’s book – I quite like him as a character and he is much closer to Gray’s “type” than Damon’s – I think this one will be book 4 in the series as Julie/Nathan’s is next. As for Book 3 – well, at this stage I’ll read it because I plan on reading book 4 and I’ve read the first 2 but really, I’m thinking “meh”.

  14. Kaetrin
    Jul 10, 2009 @ 20:12:05

    Have just looked at my completed post – man, I think too much!!!

  15. Lucie-Alfons
    Jul 29, 2009 @ 11:51:22

    Sometimes it’s really that simple, isn’t it? I feel a little stupid for not thinking of this myself/earlier, though.

  16. Dear Author Recommends for June
    Mar 25, 2012 @ 07:58:27

    [...] makes you think about people’s desires.   Come with an open heart and mind.   Recommended by Jane, but read the review to make sure this book is fo you.   (Berkley Heat, trade [...]

%d bloggers like this: