First things first: I thoroughly enjoyed reading Built: Making the Most Muscular Woman. This story was not without flaws, but it still managed to stand head and muscular shoulders above the majority of literature in what is loosely considered to be this particular genre.
I will try to avoid spoilers going forward, but be warned: there are some things that I will talk about that require at least a passing familiarity with the specific subject matter in order to make sense. Hopefully, the oblique references I make will be sufficient for someone considering a purchase to come to a favorable conclusion.
I think it’s important to recognize what sort of book this actually is; Built is a work of adult fiction with erotic overtones. I hesitate to actually classify it as erotic fiction, because the connotation of erotic fiction is that the plot exists simply as a vehicle to move the reader from one sex scene to the next, and Built is so much more than that. There is sex in this story, and the authors do not shy away from it. There is, in fact, quite a bit of explicit sex and quite a bit of that sex is not to my specific tastes, as it focuses on a dominant-submissive relationship that I am often uncomfortable with. Beyond the sex, however, there is a powerful story that merits attention, and that justifies a great deal of the focus on the bedroom relationship.
The story starts slowly and builds speed, with the protagonist first realizing his attraction to strong women, then by turns, realizing that he is particularly aroused by being submissive. A certain amount of the character’s psychology is addressed directly, and more is implied without ever being put into words. When, after several false starts, the character is in a position to actively pursue his dreams. The result of his windfall is, of course, the relationship that defines this story.
There are several important side characters in this story, but all of them pale in importance to the central figures, Drew and Lizzy. This brings me, in fact, to one of my few complaints: some of the minor figures need to have a greater role in order to make them feel more important. This is especially true for Lizzy’s daughter, Tiffany, who feels very much underdeveloped and really only comes into prominence as a source of conflict between Drew and Lizzy. One of the most important conflicts in the story and, arguably, the overall climax, feels a bit forced as a result of Tiffany’s under-developed role.
Despite these weaknesses, the story is still strong and holds together well. It also explores an issue that is rarely explored in this kind of adult fiction: why are dominant-submissive relationships so often portrayed as abusive? To an extent, this is because the author and the main character are both self-diagnosed cratolagniacs. It is difficult to explore the erotic effects of strength acts without resorting to violence and cruelty. Additionally, the backgrounds of the respective protagonists also contribute to this particular dynamic, because Drew has to struggle to get beyond his naturally competitive nature, while Lizzy has to work to find her own voice.
One thing Built particularly excels at is exploring how the roles of the characters evolve outside of the bedroom. Drew and Lizzy both change and mature as the book progresses, and not all the changes are physical; Drew, obviously, changes as he accepts his role as the submissive in their relationship; at the same time, Lizzy changes, as well, becoming more assertive and dominant, eventually demanding control over household decisions not by the strength of her body (although that would certainly be possible for her,) but by the strength of her will and personality.
(reviewed 14 days after purchase)