REVIEW: The Seduction Hypothesis by Delphine Dryden
Dear Ms. Dryden:
The Seduction Hypothesis is the sweetest book I’ve ever read involving stainless steel butt plugs and a spreader bar with a set of neoprene ankle cuffs. The hero Ben is just adorable. A few months ago he stupidly broke up with his now ex-girlfriend Lindsay because he’d panicked, an act he’s regretted since the moment he did it. Now, the two are on their way to BeastCon–sort of nerd convention for fans of comics/games/anime–and Ben is going to use the next five days to get her back.
It takes Ben just a few hours riding to Phoenix with Lindsey for him to realize she is turned on big time by the erotic graphic comic she’s reading, Balls ‘n’ Chain. Ben knows just how she’s feeling.
In the single issue he’d read, the girl called Sub Red had worn a shiny black sleeveless catsuit thing unzipped almost to her navel, with suicidally high-heeled boots. Halfway through the comic, the pants had been replaced with short shorts for some reason he couldn’t recall.
He’d read that entire issue with a painful hard-on, put the comic aside and never touched another one for fear he’d explode. It was actually more potent than porn in its effect on him, but he felt horribly guilty for getting turned on by the stuff. He wasn’t supposed to be aroused by the idea of hitting girls on the ass with whips. Or his hand. Or any of the rest. He couldn’t understand why Lindsey, who seemed as progressively feminist as all the other girls of their circle, wanted to read something so misogynistic. True, there were as many women giving the beatings in Balls ‘n’ Chain as receiving them. But shouldn’t that be beside the point? Even the Dominatrices were objectified into sex objects. Hell, everyone was objectivized into a sex object.
He’d told her as much, maybe even scolded her a little, the next time she’d tried to show him a panel from the comic.
Ben, who really is a total peach pie, is also very smart. (A grad student in history. Sigh.) As he thinks about himself and Lindsey, he begins to understand that the whole Master/Slave dynamic is just the thing he needs to, well, master, in order to be the guy Lindsey wants. In fact, not only does he want to be that guy for Lindsey, he wants to be that guy for himself. So, when they get to Phoenix, Ben embarks upon a well-thought out and very sexy totally in charge seduction of Lindsey. It’s the nicest, hottest, campaign to get a girl out of her Slave Leia costume I’ve ever read.
The Seduction Hypothesis is a great book. It’s funny, emotionally engaging, and full of fabulous dialogue. As Ben begins to begin to be Master Ben, he runs everything he’s doing by Lindsey. This endeared him to me. It’s not enough for Ben to realize what Lindsey wants, he’s such a good guy, he talks her through why they weren’t like this before, and how, now, it’s all going to be different.
At the convention, Lindsey, who looks a lot like Sub Red, is recruited to stand-in for–actually, be tied up as–Sub Red at the Balls ‘n’ Chain booth. Ben finds her after she’s done her first shift.
“Did that guy paddle your ass? Or spank you, or flog you, or any other variation of that?”
Lindsey shook her head against the tug of his fingers, her mouth suddenly too dry to speak. She was breathing too fast, practically panting. If Ben slid a hand between her legs right now she’d go off like a bottle rocket.
He seemed to give a lot of thought to what he said next, stating it slowly and clearly as though he wanted there to be no misunderstanding.
“I can’t stop thinking about doing all that to you. Not just the spanking, either, a lot more. A lot. If anybody is going to do that stuff to you, I want it to be me. Nobody. Else.”
She was so accustomed to thinking of him as cute, as harmless. The kind of man who would never hurt a fly. Softly focused, with his sandy hair and indeterminate hazel eyes, vacillating about his career. She’d never seen this version of him until last night’s assertive kiss, this razor-sharp Ben who knew what he wanted and seemed potentially ruthless about getting it.
But still. “Just because you think that’s what I wanted you to do before?” The music shifted gears, growing louder, and the bass drum throbbed through her bones in a maddening primal beat.
Ben shook his head and leaned closer, until their lips were almost touching. “No. Because the thought of putting you over my knee and smacking your perfect butt until it looks like my handprint’s tattooed on there makes me so hard I can barely walk. It made me hard before, too, but I was a fucking idiot and thought I had to feel guilty about getting turned on by shit like that. I’m willing to work on my guilt issues if you’re willing to let me take you up to that hotel room right now and violate you eight ways from Sunday.”
Oh, oh, oh…
Oh, oh, oh is right. This book should come with a fan or a teeny tiny portable air conditioner.
I loved everything about this book. The secondary characters–Ben and Lindsey get helpful tips from Ivan and Cami, the couple from the first book in Ms. Dryden’s The Science of Temptation series, The Theory of Attraction–are effectively rendered and add humor and nuance to the novel. The convention is described in fascinating detail and gives the story an ideal context. Ms. Dryden’s writing is wonderful; she shifts easily back and forth from Ben’s and Lindsey’s perspectives, giving each a clear and interesting voice.
For me, this book was a perfect romance read. The Seduction Hypothesis is a kinder, sweeter book than its predecessor, The Theory of Attraction. This novel has lots of hot, kinky sex in it but is first and foremost a love story. The BDSM in it is just one part of the lovely relationship between Ben and Lindsey. The two use their altered sexual dynamic to improve their already strong bond. As Ben tells Lindsey, “I always knew you were a pervert. I just needed to grow up enough to realize that was a feature, not a bug.”
Ms. Dryden’s latest gets an A- from me.
Well, if ever there’s a first line to draw me into a review, this is it. Great review too, I think I got a real feel for the relationship dynamic here and I’ll admit, it was not what I was expecting.
In fact, I’m really kind of curious now.
I get the feeling that part if the tone (and the appeal) is that communication is important and that taking the time to really understand what (and how) you partner is feeling is sexy-good. My questions then:
1. Does Lyndsey follow a similar dynamic? I get the feeling she’s exploring, but is it just exploring her tastes or does she see ‘what she can understand in Ben’ as well? Since the story seems to be post-mistake (Ben’s) I can see this being more of Ben’s story as far as relationship dynamics.
2. Is there a predominant conflict arc (not that there has to be)? Or is it more about confronting the unknown and the uncertain?
3. This seems ripe for exploring the idea that giving or serving another does not make one submissive (or what in reverse I like to think of as a domination paradox). Does the story explore that much?
The whole ‘just because you think that’s what I wanted you to before’ excerpt really caught my attention with its possibilities.
…finnaly, Huzzah for geeks!
1) Yes, this is Lindsey’s exploration too. She’d become aware that she wanted more kink in her sex life, but hadn’t gone down that path yet. In part, because she’d be deeply in love with Ben and, when he didn’t give her the response she was looking for when she showed him the comic, she was sad but unready to leave the guy she thought was the one.
2) There is a conflict, albeit a slight one, about whether Ben is ready to commit to this new kind of relationship or is it just something he’s checking out.
3) Absolutely. This is an equal relationship.
Thank the gods for geeks, is right. My kids always shake their heads when I moon over their dad and say “Mom, he’s such a nerd.” Lucky me.
I’m wondering if this should also be tagged ‘erotic-romance’?
My daughters went to Georgia Tech (27% F, 73% M) where they say the odds are good, but the goods are odd! My oldest daughter’s bf is what she lovingly calls a “late bloomer”, as in she wasn’t even interested in him in college he was still so nerdly immature. I just think there’s something great about that little smart guy nobody noticed showing up at his 10 year HS reunion with Barbie (okay, she’s nerdy Barbie, but Barbie nonetheless). I liked the first book in this series, and have this one on preorder. Can’t wait to read it now. Thanks for your reviews–we have very similar taste in books and you haven’t steered me wrong yet.
@Mom on the Run: That’s good to hear. I really liked this book. I’ve got my husband reading it and I’m very selective about the romances I pass on to him!
@CG: Probably. I’ve been discussing with Ruthie Knox how to define that. There should be a piece about the definitions of romance/erotic romance/erotica up soon at http://wonkomance.com/.
Never been tempted by a BDSM romance but I’m completely sold on this one.
I’m glad to read this review. I loved When in Rio by Delphine Dryden but didn’t love Theories of Attraction. I liked ToA, but something about their relationship felt off for me – not the D/s part – the hero’s poor social skills read like Asperger’s to me and something about that just bugged me and felt off. Plus, there wasn’t any spanking (iirc) and Dryden writes hot spanking scenes, imo, and I missed that. This one sounds like more my speed.
@cleo: I didn’t love ToA. The dynamic was too hard for me to relate to. This book felt much more, um, approachable to me.
You’ve convinced me. I tore through The Theory of Attraction in a matter of hours, but I was hesitant to pre-order The Seduction Hypothesis when I saw it didn’t feature the same characters, because I loved the dynamic between Camilla and Ivan (doesn’t Ivan seem a lot like Sheldon from BBT?) I’m kind of worn out on the whole BDSM in erotic romance, but I’ll give this one a shot :)
OMG, yes please. I’m so sold. I haven’t read the first one, but I will because I have trouble jumping into a series at the mid-point.
Lately I’ve not been picking up the erotic romances because I was simply bored, but I do remember enjoying Dryden’s When in Rio and I love geeks as heroes so I’m going to get both of these. Imagine my joy the other night when someone posted on Facebook that The Avengers was Magic Mike for nerd girls. I certainly enjoyed Avengers more than Magic Mike lol.
@Zoe York: This works as a stand-alone. @Cindy: I haven’t read When in Rio. Will check it out.
Glad that Dryden switched back to third-person narrative. I wasn’t sure about getting this one, but I’ll probably try it now. I found Theory of Attraction rather flat and I think the author’s not-so-great use of first-person narrative was the main reason. If your heroine is the narrator, she really shouldn’t remain a cipher, especially if you have such a warm and charming writing style, like Dryden does.
@cleo: “I think I’m mainly a spanker with pretensions anyway.” Best line from When in Rio.
If you haven’t read Tell Me No Lies, you might want to give it a try. It’s one of my favorites by Dryden, along with When in Rio and Snow Job.
Great review! This sounds like it’s a book that will hit a lot of my trope buttons. I’m preordering.
Oh! It’s nice to hear that ToA was her first, first-person POV book. I enjoyed and liked ToA, but didn’t love it so it didn’t push me to devour her backlist. But hearing that she goes back to 3rd-person POV in this one ensures that I’ll definitely give it a shot. And I’m probably going to grab When in Rio too…
@Angela: When in Rio is also in first person, but I liked it a lot better than ToA.
@Lynn S.: thanks for the rec. I’ve wanted to try her backlist but couldn’t figure out where to start.
I’m reading this right now. I love a lot of things you mentioned but I have to admit to not being a fan of the POV switches.
@cleo: Yeesh, I had forgotten that When in Rio is in first person and this after pulling a quote from it. When first person works, it’s my favorite form of narration, and I’m glad to be reminded that Dryden can write a strong first-person narrative. Not sure I’m exactly glad to be reminded that my brain doesn’t always work as well as it should, but it’s probably good for me—kind of like brussel sprouts.
Fabulous review, Dabney. The first sentence made me laugh out loud. I’m definitely reading this. It reminds me of “Bimbos of the Death Sun” by Sharyn McCrumb, but with kinky sex. Like Ben says, that’s a feature not a bug.