by Maya Banks, contemporary (2009)
Heat, $15.00, ISBN 978-0-425-22770-1
Sweet Persuasion is not going to be everyone's kind of book. This isn't just a story about BDSM, it's about a woman completely succumbing to the man's wishes to the point that she is pretty much his sex slave. Of course, this is a consensual relationship - Serena James, our heroine, desires to be treated this way at the start of the story - but if you find such a sexual arrangement icky, you may still want to proceed with caution where this book is concerned.
I am not too fond of such a fantasy myself, but that's because I don't understand it, rather than because I disapprove of such an arrangement. It probably helps that I have read stories of this nature in the past to know enough of such arrangement to leave my personal opinions of such an arrangement at the door. Maya Banks however manages to keep me reading because the interplay between Serena and her master, Damon Roche is hot enough to scorch my fingers as I turn the pages.
The story is pretty simple: Serena fantasizes about being a slave and Damon loves the idea of a woman kneeling before him, at his beck and call. They enter an arrangement to live out their fantasies together for a month, but it isn't long before their emotions intrude and complicate what could have been a straightforward and mutually enjoyable interlude.
Initially when Maya Banks started writing for Berkley's Heat imprint, I was worried that she'd serve watered down versions of her more raunchy early stuff, but Sweet Persuasion has me thinking that I should have been reading this while submerged in ice water in the bath tub or something. Oh my, the sex scenes are hot. From public sex to public lashing to, er, public facial treatment, this book certainly goes a considerable distance in making sure that the reader keeps turning the pages, let's just say. Then again, the author doesn't just resort to unconventional sex scenes to keep the fire going. Even the more quiet moments when those two have "simple" sex are hot.
If there is a weakness in this story, it's the superficial treatment of the characters. Damon remains a question mark by the last page. How on earth did that guy from the previous loosely related book Sweet Surrender turn out to be this guy? I don't really know. What makes him tick? I don't know either. Serena is a more well-drawn character, but her reasons for wanting to break things off with Damon later in the story seem tacked on merely to insert some conflict into the story. Still, the resolution of that issue is very well done, I find, as it has both characters acknowledging their feelings for each other while staying in character as master and servant in their relationship. But at the same time, I enjoy how the author portrays her characters as likable folks outside the bedroom. Serena, refreshingly enough, is a woman with good friends. She's not closeted off from the world with no friends or anyone but the hero to turn to. The author's treatment of her characters in this manner goes a long way in showing how Serena and Damon are likable human beings instead of weird freaks from distant planets that indulge in such a relationship.
Sweet Persuasion features a sexual lifestyle that is not exactly my cup of tea, but because the author can always be relied on to deliver the hot stuff on a good day, I find this an engrossing read nonetheless. Sex sells, but I have to admit, Ms Banks sells that kind of thing far better than most people where I am concerned.
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