REVIEW: The Christmas She Rules by Jennifer Leeland
Dear Ms. Leeland,
Yes, OMG, this is a femdom book — a book with a female dominant and a male submissive. I read it solely for that, because despite being told time and time again, as I’m sure you are, that femdom just doesn’t sell, and is therefore rarely offered, I’m still and always on the look-out for it.
Pamela is lonely during the holidays. She’s in her 40s, has very few close friends, no lovers, and her part-time submissive just went back to her husband. She goes to San Francisco for the holidays and goes to a club where she meets Christian. Christian, for his part, is a dilettante in the BDSM world. He’s played both top and bottom, enjoys the pain as a bottom, and the power as a top, but has never really connected with anyone, never truly hit subspace, never really flown. He and Pamela, known as Mistress Dane, immediate hit it off and disappear off into The Cage, a public play space. There they play for three nights in a row, until Pamela scares herself with the depths of her feelings and runs off.
First of all, this is a short novella. 43 pages short. And it could have been at least double the length, what with the Deep Dark Secret In Her Past that Pamela has to get through and with the heat that these two generate. The “I love you” “I love you too”s come way too quickly — after all, these two people know nothing about each other besides their sexual compatibility. I don’t knock sexual compatibility, but still, lifelong commitment should take more than one week of acquaintance and some quick fucking on the floor in front of 20 people. In my opinion. Your mileage may vary, of course.
I’m learning to try to separate my reading of a BDSM story into two distinct tracks (I say try, because I’m not close to being there yet): (1). how completely fucked up is the representation of the physical reality of BDSM? (AKA: how much of a fantasy is the BDSM play?; or, what percentage of people would be hurt if they attempted what the characters do?); (2). how completely fucked up is the emotional realism of the BDSM depicted? Getting either right indicates a familiarity with BDSM, either through experience or really good research, but I’m much more likely to forgive fuck-ups in the first track if the second track does a good job. In fact, in my opinion, fuck-ups in the second track are MUCH more dangerous.
So. Your book doesn’t do such a good job with the first track. A quick litany of issues: DON’T ever throw a flogger on the floor (especially a floor people jerk off onto — yuck) and then use it; a “back criss-crossed with white scars” does NOT “indicate he had been flogged” — it indicates instead the serious abuse of a single-tail whip (which is also what one snaps, not a flogger — very difficult to snap a flogger); one does NOT allow a submissive to hang from his wrists with his entire weight, unable to touch the floor; if one DOES leave a submissive hanging from his wrists, unable to touch the floor, one does it for a few minutes only; one does NOT then also climb on board for a good fuck, adding your weight to his, OMG are you fucking NUTS?!; BDSM negotiations are usually more than a bare-bones discussion of safewords, especially if sex with a stranger is involved; a tight leather skirt reaching to her knees probably means he won’t be able to stick his head under it to lick her pussy; what happened to her pantyhose?! they disappeared!; most clubs don’t appreciate random bodily fluids being flung all over their play-spaces; he can’t think of her by her real name when he has only been told her scene name!
So, yes, some of this stuff demonstrates to me an unfamiliarity with BDSM (the flogger/whip confusion, the suspension), but some of it is just sloppy writing and editing (the tight leather skirt, the mysterious disappearing pantyhose, and the equally-mysteriously appearing name are the prime examples there).
But you do a little bit better with the second track (the emotional realism of BDSM). Christian and Pamela both do a great job describing what BDSM feels like. Christian’s description of subspace is particularly good:
For the first time in his life the energy he’d heard others talk about and seen others experience lifted him. Both power and helplessness combined inside him and expanded. Once he’d heard a woman describe something called "subspace". It was a word bandied around BDSM clubs, but she actually gave it description. Her voice floated through his mind now. It’s as if the whole universe is in my hands, but I can release it because someone else will cradle it for me. It’s both strength and weakness, everything and nothingness. It is the moment of birth and it feels like death. In this moment, with his hands bound and this woman towering over him, the words came back to haunt him. Now he understood them. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for her, his Mistress.
So I’m willing to forgive some of the ridiculousness in the first track (although not the hanging by his wrists thing!) for the emotional realism of the second track. Until you abruptly throw them into the “I love you because you fuck so well and you’re my Sooowwwl Mate!” scene after she sobs out her Deep Dark Secret In Her Past. The emotional arcs are seriously truncated. Christian learns about subspace and Pamela has to learn to accept emotional connection. Pamela’s journey is much more the focus of the story, which sometimes makes Christian seem like little more than a pretty cock for her to play with, despite their emotional connection. Again, more length (har har) would help this, I think.
All that aside (ha!), you generate quite some heat between these characters. The sex scenes are hot hot HOTT! proving that femdom can be done and done well (at least, when it comes to the sex scenes). The femdom dynamic is not is what’s wrong with this book — in fact, that’s what’s very right with this book. It’s the other stuff that needs a LOT of work.
This book can be purchased at Samhain in ebook format.