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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

'Willing Victim' by Cara McKenna

From the BLURB:

For the past couple years Laurel's been coasting, hiding in the backseat while her life drifts off course. Then one summer afternoon a tall, built bruiser named Flynn strides in and steers her straight into an infatuation she never saw coming.

Flynn introduces Laurel to things she's never imagined-to the violent but exciting realm of the underground boxing circuit, to rough sex and even rougher role-playing, and to an attraction she craves even as it intimidates her. As Flynn invites her deeper into his world and his life, Laurel has to make a choice-let fear keep her holed up where it's safe, or take a chance and fight for the man who makes her feel more alive than she'd dreamed possible.

Laurel doesn’t know what to expect when she asks out the big, muscle man she bumps into on the street one day. It’s certainly not a warning that he’s not her type of guy. Or an invitation to an underground event that’s reminiscent of ‘Fight Club’. And Laurel certainly didn’t expect the level of the big man’s kink. Because Flynn likes to dominate – not just tie me up, tie me down either – Flynn likes to simulate rape and aggression on his willing bed mates.

Laurel is at once horrified, intrigued and turned on. She’s also got a burning desire to get to the heart of Flynn’s kink, and maybe make the big man fall in love with her.

I read ‘Willing Victim’ because I adored Cara McKenna’s stand-alone novel, ‘The Reluctant Nude’ (written under her pseudonym, Meg Maguire).

I went into ‘Willing Victim’ a little hesitant. Because at the beginning of the novel there is a warning that had me a wee bit spooked; Reader Advisory: Although all sex acts are 100-percent consensual, Willing Victim contains role-playing scenarios that may upset some readers who are sensitive about rape, even in a simulated capacity.’

I went into this novel suitably prepared to be disgusted and have my feminism insulted. But surprisingly (or not so surprisingly, since ‘The Reluctant Nude’ was spectacular) this novel looks at extreme-BDSM and general fetish in a very earnest and revealing way, with utter sensitivity and intelligence.

I will say that the simulated rape isn’t as in-your-face as I expected. It’s mostly to do with the fact that Flynn is aware of how strange (and potentially criminal) the whole situation could be. So he’s very explicit and open with his lovers, about what’s allowed and where to draw the line. He asks Laurel, repeatedly, to say she wants this and there is a safe-word involved. Having read EXTREME kink in the form of Kitty Thomas’s ‘Comfort Food’ – I have to say that ‘Willing Victim’ is at the tamer end of the spectrum. That’s not to say the sex scenes are boring or lacking in any way – they are incredibly sensual, and brutishly hot. I think it’s more the fact that the book is about simulated rape and simulated violence, whereas ‘Comfort Food’ was the real-deal and all the more disturbing for it (while still equally brilliant).

I think the simulation was also somewhat less grotesque for Flynn and Laurel’s genuine heat and connection. These two were great – I loved that outside of the bedroom they played with one another, laughed and joked and were quite at ease. But when the clothes came off, the heat turned up. These two genuinely clicked and that attraction came across and made the whole ‘fake-rape’ thing just another aspect of their bedroom antics. I think Laurel summed up her and Flynn’s relationship best;
You are some fucked-up kind of magical, she thought.
McKenna also stayed true to her intelligent sensuality, which I encountered in ‘The Reluctant Nude’. McKenna (/Mguire) doesn’t just write sex or kink for the sake of shock. There’s actually back-story and explanation. It makes her erotica intelligent and all the more fulfilling. I was particularly impressed when Flynn articulated what Laurel (and I) was secretly thinking;
“You think I'm some sort of sex maniac, don’t you?” he asked, defensiveness sharpening his voice.
“No.”
“You think I don’t know how to date? You think the kind of sex I like is like some condition? Like a fucking dialysis machine I have to drag around behind me, making everything into a big fucking hassle?”
If I have any complaints about the book, it’s that it was too short. I feel like there could have been a real story about how Flynn and Laurel decided to ‘go steady’ – it would have been interesting to read how Flynn coped with being a boyfriend. But if my only complaint is that the book was too short, that’s pretty impressive.

Cara McKenna writes sensual and serious erotica for the thinking woman. Her characters are intelligent, complex and compelling. Her kinky situations never favour shock over story and it makes her erotica all the more fascinating and sexy.

4/5

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