Story Rating: 3 out of 5 paddles
Sting Factor (kink): 3 out of 5
Mistress Ruby Sin is a high-priced professional dominatrix with a sad past and a grudge against the rich media baron who abused her years ago when she was a runaway prostitute.
Matt is a regular guy, a college psychology professor, who finds himself drawn to the woman under the persona.
They have to navigate a rocky newborn relationship while Matt deals with his rusty preconceived notions about Ruby and her profession and her past, and while Ruby deals with her history, and eventually seeks revenge.
Plot-wise, this is a good book, and the writing is solid. There’s not much BDSM content, and what is there remains focused on fem-sub activities. Anyone reading it for sexy fem-dom scenes should look elsewhere. There aren’t any here.
I liked Ruby as a character pretty well. She’s strong, she’s determined, she’s actually quite reasonable once you get past the hard exterior, but she’s no pushover, and she’s not always a nice person. Matt was a little bland, and I would have appreciated getting to know some more interesting aspects of his character, but the connection between them felt real and unfolded quite naturally. I really liked that element.
Sadly, the story overall plays into stereotypes of dominant women I find unpleasant (that they are all secretly submissive, that they are driven by anger, that pro dommes despise the slaves who pay them) and feeds the image of the dominant woman as a latex-clad stone-cold bitch whose connection to their subs is not sexual. My experience has never lined up with that image. It’s a sexy image, but when it’s the only one people write about, that’s a problem.
I think I would have been able to pardon a lot of the flaws I found here if Ruby had actually enjoyed her work, and if the author had depicted the very few fem-dom elements with any detail or with any affection. As it is, the only sexualized and sexy D/s element is some light fem-sub bondage. There is no fem-dom, sexy or not, between the main characters. The actual fem-dom part is scraped off to the side of the plate, as though completely indigestible. I found this upsetting and misleading, and unfair to both the reader and the characters, since every synopsis of the book I’ve found plays very heavily on the implied development of a fem-dom D/s relationship between the main characters.
It’s a shame to create a good character like Ruby with strong instincts and a great deal of charisma and not allow her to do her thing on-screen. A shame to write a woman like that who does not enjoy her work. And a terrible shame to end the book on a “the fem-dom stops here” note.
People have different roles with different people, and I accept that her relationship with Matt was different than her other relationships. She felt different around him, he brings out something different in her, but it bothered me in light of the fact that her enjoyment of female-dominant activities is largely absent. She never had that the reader knows of a submissive partner with whom she enjoyed taking the reins; it makes her eventual submission feel like a “she was submissive all along” thing. The stereotype that the dominant part of a woman’s identity is nothing more than a facade, or a character that they play sometimes and nothing more, is both widespread and really, really upsetting to me, and a lot of other dominant women.
It also upset me a lot that, from the very first page, this book is full of some pretty ugly body-shaming, and it’s of the kind that doesn’t appear to come from the viewpoint character’s mind. It came across as the writer’s bias, and it completely turned me off. It’s not just one or two instances which would be unpleasant but pardonable, it is pervasive. I advise every writer to be aware that their audience is comprised of people of all sizes, a good number of whom are struggling with serious body image issues. There is absolutely no need whatsoever to play into negative stereotypes. It causes nothing but harm, and it will drive readers away. If this was the first book I’d read by this author, I would not have read any more for that reason alone. That is unfortunate, because Sirene is talented at the character stuff, which is one of the hardest parts of writing, and it would be a shame if something like this kept her from getting the attention she deserves.
Reviewed by Amanda