Review: Control by Charlotte Stein

The new cover of Control, by Charlotte Stein, is a rare example of a femdom book designed to appeal to a woman and which also does not get hung up on the idea of making her into a pro or head mistress or some such. It’s fun, it’s light and it even has a wee little bit of romance. And a very mundane setting down to the fixtures and baked pasta dish (surprisingly memorable in the way that you remember those little details when you fall in love) and a submissive male lead I could actually see myself wanting to fuck. That, in a world of pornography that goes out of its way to sell male subs as walking creep farms or eunuchs, is a very rewarding achievement in its own right.

The protagonist, an owner/operator of a naughty book store “Wicked Words”, has her choice between Submissive Gabe and Dominant Andy. Meeting both men as potential workers in her shop, she sets about shagging Andy seven ways to Sunday while sexually teasing Gabe non-stop.

Suspend practicalities- Madison, our heroine, lives in a world where this much fucking is normal. It’s porn, so it can be excused with the jerky start when she falls into bed with Andy at first meeting- I imagine if anyone in this universe ordered a pizza it would come with extra sausage.

I will say that Dominant Andy did nothing for me. I generally like my subs with an aggressive, self assured streak, but i he had been the only sales point of the book I would have put it down. As it stands, I got thorough the scenes he was in by skimming or irritably muttering under my breath: “Go away, Andy!” I can’t tell if the writing was not as strong or if it just wasn’t my fetish.

But Gabe was a fun male submissive lead with zingy chemistry. At times it touched on the idea that he was submissive because he was broken, which is not an idea I encourage, but on the balance it also made him a pleasant mix of fragile and tough, in a way that made my overly maternal dominant heart go pitter-pat. I had no trouble believing this half of the triad was bound for steamy fun.

It’s also a good example of femdom outside of femdom tropes- Madison is nobody’s leather wearing Mistress, nobody cracks a whip and the focus here is on D/s in a relatively normal (for porn land!) setting. If only Andy was given a smaller part, no matter how much he’d been assigned to be a sexual catalyst.

Category: Erotic romance
Rating: o~o~o~o (4/5)
How I got it: Bought it!
TL;DR: Bookseller Madison gets a choice between buttoned up sub Gabe and bad boy bossy type Andy. Logically, she  screws both of them until book’s end.

2 thoughts on “Review: Control by Charlotte Stein”

  1. > It’s also a good example of femdom outside of femdom tropes
    > If only Andy was given a smaller part

    Actually, the presence of Andy is a classic femdom book trope, I’m afraid. (And it’s why I quit this book in short order IIRC.) Not “Andy” specifically, but: a more-dominant male to whom the advertised-as-dominant heroine more or less submits. It’s a standard way to undermine an fdom character.

    I’ve read a looot of (supposedly) F/m books, and, as with seemingly all things F/m, the situation is… unspeakably depressing. It’s basically the same situation as porn: it’s a small subgenre to begin with, 92% of what’s available is outright male-gaze wankfodder,* and of what little remains, 98% is prevailing-culture wankfodder in disguise— female dominance is almost always undermined, in predictable ways. Off the top of my head, numbered but in no particular order:

    She’s not really a d-type, she’s only doing because of emotional trauma/fear of vulnerability.
    She’s not really a d-type, she’s only doing it for revenge.
    She’s not really a d-type, she only does it for money. This may be stated explicitly, or it may be implicit, eg: she’s a pro-domme who’s terribly unfulfilled.
    She has a rule against connecting emotionally with subs… and is terribly unfulfilled emotionally.
    She used to be a sub, but had a bad experience with a nightmare dom, so, uh, something something she’s a dom now.
    She’s given a dominant hero, and of course she goes submissive under his domly hand.
    Much is made of her time “training” as a sub; when her old mentor/master is on scene, she naturally reverts to sub mode.
    Surprise, she’s actually a switch. (Note however that she’ll rarely be labeled a switch, and in fact she’s likely to be a fake-fdom pseudo-switch, which is to say, any domming she does is at the behest of her own dom; which is to say, she’s a fucking sub).
    She’s punishment-fucked, there’s a scene with her subbing, or there’s some other tables-turned situation that “puts her in her place.”
    She has to “suit up” in order to do her thing. (This is often explicitly stated.)
    She prefers, or even *requires* rough sex— being tossed around, pinned down, pounded into, hard nipple pinches, etc. (Of course maso-doms do exist, but they’re suspiciously common in this otherwise glaringly non-representative genre.)

    So this ticked boxes 5 and 7 right from the get-go. Which was my cue to exit, because life is just too damn short to read yet another book with an fdom-that-isn’t. The best thing I can say is that at least the blurb didn’t lie about it for once. (The “fdom in the blurb, fsub in the words” switcheroo is incredibly common.)

    *eg: sissification, contemptuous ice cold bitchmistresses, cuckolding, female supremacy, castration, incest, evil horny bosses/babysitters/daughter’s friends/random women who inexplicably want to spank some sadsack before cruelly sucking his surprisingly large cock (or cruelly mocking his laughably small cock!), etc, etc.


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