One of the things I wanted to review more of this year is erotica. With the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, it's something that's getting more attention, both negative and positive. It would be too easy to dismiss the lot of it as dumb porn for women, not deserving of criticism, but when we do that the critics of genre fiction win. So here we have Sweet Surrender, from the popular and prolific author Maya Banks.
This review is 18 and over, folks. Please click to read at your own discretion.
As the book opens, we are immediately introduced to Faith, who wants a strong dominate man in her life. She wants a guy who will make decisions about life in general and also take control of her sexually--and she's remarkably self-aware of her psychology. Gray, a detective, is a dominant man who desires a soft, feminine submissive as his lady. When his quest to find his partner's killer puts him in Faith's path, he feels attraction. He avoids her attentions, though, because he believes she's just a silly girl playing games, and what he wants is far more serious.
Maya Banks writes sexual chemistry well. The tension between them is palpable from the first time they meet, and resolves in a long session of marathon sex in a beach house (while the whole murderer on the loose plot is ignored for 50+ pages). How kinky is it, you ask? By normal romance standards, fairly kinky, but in terms of BDSM erotica it's nothing shocking. There's light bondage, spanking, anal, and a slightly awkward threesome. It's hot stuff, mostly, but not shocking.
I do have to address the threesome, though. Not because threesomes bother me, but because of it's less than perfectly safe nature. Now, the reason that I pick on this is that the hero and heroine have a conversation about birth control and having both been tested prior to the consummation of their relationship. They make a big deal of it. But then, enter the second guy. He is made to wear a condom, so okay. Cool. But then he takes it off and is allowed to...finish on/in our heroine. It kind of killed the sexiness for me, because I was thinking Wait! Has he been tested? If he has, the heroine doesn't know that for sure! Why is she letting this happen? Eww....So, yeah, I really could have done without that.
As for the romantic chemistry, well, that's something that Banks is less awesome at, unfortunately. I believed absolutely that Gray and Faith are sexually compatible, and I enjoyed his determination to take care of her (bathing her, cooking for her, etc.) However, I didn't necessarily see them as having compatibility in terms of friendship and trust, which are pretty important factors when you're hoping to make it long term. My opinion wasn't improved by the Big Mis conflict late in the book.
Overall, there is better erotica out there, and there is worse. It's sexy, which is important in this genre, but it's lapse in sexual intelligence was a bit damaging. Nevertheless, I would be willing to read more of this series. 3 stars.