Before we launch into a discussion of this rather brilliant novel, I want to say a few things. I owe a lot to Alison; we work together on several anthologies and other projects like her Smut Marathon and I can no way claim an unbiased review. So, I’m just laying that out here – I’m biased. I like Alison. I like her style and her ideas and I like that she’s a genuinely kind and interesting person, which is why I feel confident and happy to endorse her on my blog.
The Delicious Torment is the second installment in a series of books that started last year with Dark Secret Love (which I discussed here). Where the first book follows the vaguely autobiographical heroine Samantha into her first experiences with bdsm, different dominants and sexual partners in an intense journey of self-discovery, The Delicious Torment describes her long-term relationship with Jack, a Dom she committed to at the end of Dark Secret Love.
In terms of my personal reaction, I found it easier to empathize and love Samantha of book one. Her discoveries weren’t exactly like mine, but there was a sense chaos and drive that felt familiar of that time in my own life. In The Delicious Torment we dig deeper into one specific relationship and here, I had to leave a part of me behind, because I did not like Jack (not one bit) and what he and Sam were up to just wasn’t my kink, so to speak.
On the other hand, that allowed me a different kind of enjoyment in the book. I could read it as a novel, not as erotica and I really loved the way Alison set it up, showed us the characters, their flaws and the careful, slow way in which a relationship grows. She is an amazing story-teller and I so appreciate this series for it literary appeal, not just the hot scenes (which it has plenty!).
Jack and Sam moved in together at the end of the first book. He works all day in a high-powered, well-paid profession, while Sam writes at home. And then we meet Alex, Jack’s assistant, who starts to take on tasks that go above and beyond his job – like spanking Sam on Jack’s behest or following her to find out where she goes. This development of trust (and the lack thereof on the part of Jack) is one of the main themes of the novel and I loved the development here, until Sam confronts Jack and they can start to move on. Alex remains however, until Sam finds out how deep his feeling for Jack go and she has to decide whether she is okay with turning their relationship into a triangle.
I loved Alex. Even when he was a little shit, I liked him – or rather is catalytic role in the story. Getting to know him was probably the most emotionally rewarding part of my reading experience and I loved the ending he got (sort of, but we’ll get to that). I also still adore Sam, she’s strong and interesting and I like reading about her.
Jack, though, well… honestly at this point, I’m rooting she and Alex leave him in the next book. He is the kind of domineering person who seems to crave power in every single aspect of his life (which I already find a little icky) but he seems to feel like it’s fine for him to hold back from Sam, have secrets, cheat, not give her all of him etc. but not for her to do so (obviously). I also don’t think he communicates well, he breaks limits they set together and when she has honest issues, he sort of acknowledges them, but then turns back into domineering Jack, turns them around on her in mind games and power play. He sets up a relationship in which Sam cannot honestly talk to him without the threat of punishment looming over everything – and while, yes, a huge part of her wants that punishment, I did feel like there was a rather dark streak through all of this. I especially disliked how, at the end, he forced her to make a really important decision pretty much on the fly and while they were in an intense scene. That doesn’t feel fair, that kind of play really messes with your head for a while and I think honest communication about the relationship has to exist apart from that side of things or it starts to feel abusive — like actually quite a few things he did throughout the book.
So that’s how I felt reading it. The book gave me insight into a world of bdsm I will never personally know, but that is vastly fascinating to read about – even and maybe especially the darker elements of it. And on top of that it was a brilliantly crafted and well-written story. I love the honesty in this series, the lack of frills to dress it up in order to make it more accessible – it is what it is, and I love it!
You can purchase a copy pretty much anywhere where they sell books and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a deeper and more honest, unglossed view into the world of sadomasochism and bdsm in general.