Love it or hate it, the release of the Fifty Shades series brought the erotica genre to the forefront in literature as well as popularize the BDSM subculture. Eventually I broke down and read the Fifty Shades series. Aside from being underwhelmed by the writing, I will say that those in the BDSM community were right to be alarmed and disgusted with the depiction of their culture. While I don't claim to be a BDSM expert, I do know some within the scene and I know enough of it to recognize the flaws that presented themselves in 50 Shades and can only hope that those wanting to try BDSM after reading the 50 Shades trilogy will do actual non-fiction research instead of just trying to imitate the actions depicted in the books.
With that said, I also want to raise this point: just how many erotica romance novels are currently being written that actually show BDSM in a positive light instead of being the result of someone into it because they are 'so horribly damaged and need to be cured of it?' And how many of them actually show a real, honest to goodness, BDSM relationship in a way that is closer to how such relationships actually work? Not too long ago, I discovered author Jenny Trout (aka Abigail Barnette) through her blog. She obviously had some very strong opinions on the 50 Shades trilogy and had been doing a rather entertaining chapter by chapter recap of the book. Then, she announced at sometime last year that she was going to be releasing a new novel titled, The Boss as a free serial novel via her blog, saying that it was to be a more realistic and sex-positive twist on 50 Shades and other novels like it released during and after the craze. Of course, something like that can be hit or miss and I was definitely intrigued. I'd also come to enjoy her writing, so I followed along, reading each installment of The Boss as it was released.
The author herself even stated that this is something that could either end on a very positive note or have her falling flat on her face in trying to achieve it. In this story, there was no self-loathing, mousy, inexperienced heroine and the billionaire was not some poor, tormented soul who just happened to strike it rich at a very young age. In fact, The Boss features a 24-year-old heroine by the name of Sophie Scaife who is confident, self-assured, and sexually experienced. And the billionaire, Neil Elwood? Well, he isn't a self-made billionaire in his mid-late twenties. He is a self-made billionaire in his late forties (yep, you read that correctly). Now I know some may be cringing at that thought, but you know what? Jenny/Abigail writes it in a way to where it works and their attraction to one another is understandable. Plus, it is more realistic for someone to be a self-made billionaire in their forties instead of their twenties.
Neil is also a sexually confident individual and while Sophie is new to BDSM, he takes the time to make sure that she educates herself on the subject and presents her with reliable books and material on the subject (instead of just telling her to look it up on Wikipedia...that was something I had an issue with when I read 50 Shades) so that Sophie could properly do her research and really assess if that would be something she was interested in. Neil also made sure that Sophie knew what was going on during their sexual encounters and that the enjoyment was mutual and he didn't get upset when she 'safe-worded' him (another issue I had with 50 Shades).
Now, this doesn't mean that Neil and Sophie don't have their problems. They are from two different generations which is something that is an adjustment for both of them. They are written as flawed human beings who sometimes don't handle their situations in an ideal fashion, but who wants to read about perfect characters?
I very much enjoyed reading The Boss and I loved it's take on 50 Shades. While other authors try to ride on the coattails and write stories of the same formula, Jenny/Abigail took that formula and went in another direction. A direction that worked very well.
In closing, I will say that I understand why people enjoyed 50 Shades of Grey and the books that follow it's pattern. It's a fantasy and everyone loves a good fantasy. But it should be taken as just that instead of the 'how-to guide' that many seem to be turning it into. If you want a more realistic look into a BDSM relationship, check out The Boss.
(review of free book)