by Lila Dubois, fantasy (2007)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 1-59578-300-8
Lila Dubois' debut fantasy romantic erotica Forbidden is all about a nurturing and tender-hearted Domme who trains five obedient male servants or Zinahs to serve her in bed as well as in the daily defense and maintenance of the Temple. The lady in question is the High Priestess of the Goddess. In the Land Between the Seas, every High Priestess that comes into power will train and be served by five Zinahs. It's tradition or something.
Our current High Priestess, twenty-one year old Cryessa, is served by Tamlohn, Anleeh, Moregon, Sesah, and Rohaj. When these men are not busy serving her in matters of the bedchamber, Tamlohn is the most senior Zinah - the Prima Zinah - and therefore her bodyguard as well as the General of the small army that defend the Temple. I know, how can a man become a bodyguard and still lead an army to war? Then again, how can a man spend the whole night either partying with the High Priestess or wearing a buttplug and still work the next day? I think I'll just imagine that these men are Energizer Shagbunnies or my brain will shut down in protest. Meanwhile, Sesah teaches table manners and proper conduct to the people in the Temple. No, I'm not talking about things like "Bottoms up!" Moregon, supposedly the biggest fellow of them all, is the fellow in charge of agriculture, real agriculture and not some metaphor for anything you may be thinking at the moment, by the way. Rohaj is the military commander while Anleeh is the Amway salesman. No, not really, he's the judge at the Temple. They're like the
Spice Shag Boys, come to think of it.
It's hard to describe the plot of this story since most of it involves training of men into obedient slaves using mostly means applied to the private parts. These scenes aren't hardcore BDSM types though, more like kink that is of the middle ground between vanilla and extreme BDSM that involves pain and torture. Think of the kind of kinky play going on AN Roquelaure's Beauty trilogy. The kink level of Forbidden is similar to those books.
There is a plot, though. The King of the realm is always not happy that the High Priestess is the only vassal of the Goddess and therefore no matter how powerful he can be, he is still dependent on the High Priestess. Just like how every High Priestess gets to play with five Shag Boys, every King since an event called the Dark War is apparently obligated to cause trouble for the Priestess. King Throlock decides to launch open revolt later in this story but then help comes from an unexpected source. But poor Cryessa will soon wonder whether this source is a new ally or a new enemy.
As a character, Cryessa is pretty good as a Domme. She acts like a kind-hearted woman who only has the welfare of the fellow whose Mr Winkie is being tormented at heart even as she orders that Mr Winkie to be, um, disciplined harder. I like the contrast between her High Priestess sweet-and-ethereal demeanor and her ability to order some not-at-all sweet genitorture on some badly misbehaving fellow in the Temple. Throughout it all, she keeps saying she has, of course, only his well-being in her heart and she'll be with him always when he finally breaks down and starts crying like a baby. I think I want to be just like her when I grow up. On the other hand, Cryessa is less impressive as a character outside her role of a Domme. She's a pretty passive High Priestess prone to being overemotional and at the first sign of distress, she lets her big brawny Shag Boys tell her what to do at one point. She loses it completely when her most darling Shag Boy (I'm not telling which one because that will spoil the suspense) gets taken away from her. As a character, Cryessa is pretty wimpy. The Shag Boys on the other hand are so far interchangeable non-entities although I can't decide whether I want to see that big hulking Moregon dominate a woman (or man, if Ms Dubois wants to head into that direction - I'm not picky) or be dominated. Maybe Ms Dubois call pull a Beauty's Laurent on Moregon and let him be dominated as well as be the dominator.
There is a happy ending for all involved, by the way, so don't worry about the story ending with everybody having one last shag before the world explodes or something like that.
What makes Forbidden stand out among the glut of erotic romances out there is that Ms Dubois has a pretty well-drawn premise here that isn't just all about the sex. Well, sex plays a big role in the scheme of things, naturally, but Ms Dubois makes the effort to create a culture for her fantasy setting that explains why all that sex is necessary. Forbidden makes an effort to tell a story as well as titillate the reader. I can't really say that Ms Dubois has succeeded completely since the Shag Boys are so far pretty one-dimensional cardboard penises but she made an effort to nonetheless and I appreciate that.
Despite its shortcomings in terms of characterization, I enjoy myself while reading Forbidden. (I also feel compelled to reread the AN Roquelaure's trilogy again, but that's really a good thing.) It's a pretty good introduction to what seems like an interesting series where there is a story as well as plenty of kinkiness. I especially hope to see more balanced D/s dynamics in future books (just like how it gets really boring when I come across books after books with the male being the dominant partner, I will get bored if it's all Domme all the time as well) and more of the remaining four Shag Boys being developed more as full-fledged characters. For now, all I can say is: bring on the dancing Shag Boys. I can't wait.
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