Available: Kindle, Audible, Paperback
Author Page: Golden Angel
How did I get this? I bought it.
Contents: Modern Femdom Romance, Hooking up with the Boss, Kink Club, Stand Alone In Series
Did I like It? It’s ok.
I feel bad when I don’t like something, because there’s so few F/m works targeted at women. Tempting the Domme isn’t bad, per say, but there’s a few things I just couldn’t get past. In the first place the setting, a pair of BDSM clubs called the Stronghold and the Marquis, had traditions taken from the worst kind of trying to justify itself BDSM-as-a-culture. Next, the male lead repeatedly ignore the ostensible Domme’s “stop doing that”. Finally there’s too many characters, and I didn’t need to know about a catalogue of their goings on, nor do I think anything of note really happened to any of the side characters worth dedicating so much time to them.
Uhgh, the author, who seems to normally nail out perfectly serviceable M/f romances, doesn’t deserve my fussiness. Maybe this would work for someone else? She clearly is familiar with how BDSM actually works, and her sex scenes pass the possible and chemistry present test. But, I don’t think making the heroine that resistant to the situation is doing the book any favours and ultimately that swayed my away from liking it.
The premise is a “He’s the Boss So It’s A Bad Idea”, which isn’t the worst way to stop a simple, modern relationship transaction from resolving in chapter one. However there’s so much additional accidental showing of how the sub, Luke, has the Domme, Olivia, at a disadvantage. She manages the Marquis, he has part ownership. He’s forever walking into her office to deliver gifts, calling her a pet name she tells him to never call her, etc. The text reminds us repeatedly it’s ok because Olivia secretly likes it and her attraction to him (and lack of hard no) is consent.
This isn’t like, weird Gor style all women want to be taken hard nonsense. But the book very much does not believe reluctance is a reason to stop. And more than just owning part of her work place, those squintillion characters (all heroes of their own books) who make up the social network, including the other owners Olivia is under, are gung ho about mashing the pair together even though she is clearly wildly uncomfortable.
Coercion takes different forms, and I empathized with Olivia identifying that the whole scenario put her in a huge risk if it didn’t work out.
So it isn’t just her singular employer, it’s her other employers, their significant others and her colleagues all finding Luke’s aggressive pursuit of her not only exciting, but a great deal of text is dedicated to everyone caring very much about her personal life. I don’t feel the author realized how much this actually undermined Olivia. I was more scared for her here, where the people were the center of her world were more concerned about a HEA for Luke than how unhappy it made her, than I was for the later Narrative Peril.
For all 25% of the text is dedicated to talking about the safe, protective nature of the club’s teaching and practices, it seemed to be protesting too much.
As for things that we didn’t need, there were also pages of X likes Y but Y likes Z level explanations of social dynamics I can’t figure out why, as a person reading one book in a series, we care about. Between the new characters in the sub class and the regular cast from other books, it honestly became hard to keep track of who was what. Unfortunately Olivia’s perspective didn’t really seem like she liked anyone much either, which as a domme reading about a domme navigating an almost entirely M/f world ended up contributing to the deep sense of not belonging.
There’s a few touches I did like: Olivia’s anxious disguised as aloof domme ego, and sense of self in relation to that. The unusual inclusion of Luke still smarting from a breakup where he was called boring, was interesting. Additionally the author really hit her stride with the exploration of his in scene submissive mindset- it is more realistic than a lot of works write for men. Additionally, Luke being pushy gets a bit better once the will they/won’t they ice gets broken.
I can see where the norms of the genre were working against the intent of the story.
Romance isn’t, by tradition, about situations that the reader might want to actually be in themselves. High drama courtship that would make you mace the lead in real life can also be read with trope goggles on. However, I still think his boundary crossing might have been helped by restructuring him as less of a pigtail pulling tease. Or at least holding off on that until they had an established dynamic. Or it might have helped to discuss the expectations of male courtship to sweep her off her feet versus his role as her boss in text.
As far as serving tropes for tension: There’s a few points where Olivia has real problems due to external drama and peril provided by the narrative, and that lets the characters be put in close enough contact to bond, outside of work. This, ironically, flows a lot less creepy. Still, “were it not for a crazy stalker I wouldn’t tolerate you trying to help” still isn’t setting a comfortable coercion free bed in which the characters could romp.
The peril is also where the author showed some of her strengths and more distinction in the other characters.
For example, I had to giggle at all the Alpha Doms falling all over themselves to try to be useful in a manly way. There was good stuff in the ego push/pull of how very little most people are actually the masterful or timidly enticing sex stereotypes we fantasize about. A side bit about one of the more manly tops enjoying being spooned as a source of shame for him suggests the author, herself, isn’t unaware of the difference between what kinky people aspire to be, and who they are.
Which brings me to the third “nope”. Woven throughout the story was the means by which the club culture initiated new kinky people to being in the group. As per the narrative they had switched from everyone being required to do an “initiation scene” to taking a group class, sorted by category.
In the world of the Stronghold, more binary switches or role fluid people really aren’t a thing. BDSM transcends sexual pleasure and is to be done casually with anyone as a part of the learning process. All dominants must experience “everything” they want to do to subs.
I quote Silver directly:
I wonder if anyone has ever written a book where before someone can sub, they have to dom. “Oh, you want to be spanked? Well, here’s your paddle. Have to pass the standards.“
There really isn’t the idea in the culture of the club that being a submissive can be a personal thing. Meanwhile doms are elevated outside of their relationship dynamics, even encouraged to leer and intimidate the new sub class for mutual titillation. The subs are supposed to wear revealing outfits that distinguish them from the doms, and are perpetually referred to by anyone as “subbie”. Although there is no protocol of obedience, adding in amplified gender roles for most of the side characters really built up the atmosphere of an environment where subs were cherished but not really exisiting in a position as equals outside of their consent. The situation isn’t far from how people act in real life, but it really isn’t a healthy one.
Tempting the Domme is very close to confronting the gendered part of the problem effectively
The problem of universal sub disempowerment is not the author’s fault. Fantasies, and from thence, the kink scenes that tried to recreate them, are forever coming up with scenarios where the power imbalance is real. From putting uneven prestige on being a top and mentor, to creating an artificially one size fits all concept of the helpless sub being ‘protected’, power dynamics nobody needs or signed up for creep in. BDSM also often tries to recreate a sort of hyper-gender role dynamic across the D/s lines instead, and that’s in the book as well, but the author handles that a lot better.
In real life, even our concepts of “Top” and “Bottom”, coopted from queerness, drag in ridiculous ideas about the inherently submissive nature of penetration. The author does a really good job of touching on this and the male protagonist’s struggle with self acceptance. But, as an idealized premise there’s a huge amount of infantilization, and a pretty pernicious problem.
With power oriented along gendered lines for most practical levers in the larger culture. BDSM often stumbles over making M/f heterosexuality, if heterosexuality did drag. But humans don’t actually do binary as well as we like to act we do.
I had a post I did a while back “Queen Hatshepsut’s Strapon“, where I unpacked the problems with centering power on giving a domme a phallus (rather than her having one because she wanted one). Here, the core complexity is softness versus gender roles.
So as a character, excepting the lack of respect he shows for Olivia’s comforts (even when he seems to clearly understand they are there and how line crossing his behavior is), the sub, Luke is an interesting study into where gender and BDSM stereotypes break down in trying to support the lived experience of the people involved.
Credit where credit due, I also appreciated Olivia’s distrust on Luke’s constence, and a certain additional pressure on her side of not feeling unattractive as much as being very used to even men who are into it deciding they just couldn’t handle being like that.
It’s why I, as a reader, feel bad about the fact that I didn’t like it. When there’s very little on the market that’s serving a need, it puts too much pressure on the stuff that does, and for a get-what-you-pay-for kindle ready, well, it’s just ok?