by Laura Bacchi, contemporary (2006)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.75, ISBN 1-59578-294-X
Laura Bacchi's Topping Tora is supposed to be a romantic erotica that is a little bit more graphic than usual. It revolves around BDSM practices in a club. The thing is, though, the story soon morphs into a cautionary tale involving a psychotic Dominant fellow out to inflict all kinds of nasty things on helpless submissives (including our heroine) so I don't know what to think.
I'm not really into the whole BDSM thing when it comes to my choice of erotic reading material because in real life, I'm the kind of person who will scream at a prick of my finger. But I have in the past managed to enjoy some well-written BDSM eroticas regardless of my real-life squeamishness about pain sometimes making me cringe and go "Ouch!" whenever I come across certain scenes. (Strangely enough, I kinda like it if in the story it's the woman who's the dominant partner, heh.)
I nearly manage to get into the whole fantasy here, only, as I've mentioned, I end up feeling confused by the message the story seems to be sending out to me.
Our heroine Tora Wolff wants to be dominated and a friend advises her to take a walk down the wild side at Club Xotica, an exclusive club catering to BDSM fun. Tora's a familiar heroine of these kinds of stories: she's a micromanager in her job so her greatest sexual fantasy is to relinquish all control to a dominant partner. Unfortunately, her joyride hits a snag of sorts when she bumps into her business rival Jovan Creel in Club Xotica. Jovan is conveniently a dominant partner. Alas, just when these two are starting to enjoy playing gag-and-spankies with each other, a nutcase dominant weirdo has to come in and spoil the fun.
I hate to say this since I'm not exactly the most qualified person to judge someone's performance as a Dom, but I find Jovan a bit of a wimp. He's constantly getting all angst-ridden about love and failing Tora that I can't help but to wonder whether this is one submissive waiting for a Domme to show up and teach that little boy to stop whining and be a man for once with her whips and dildos. Sure, he plays the role of a Dom here but that seems like because Ms Bacchi is pandering to the formula of the genre that the man has to be on top. Jovan doesn't seem to be a natural Dom. Or maybe I am just channeling my own frustration at Jovan's ineptness and emo-crock baggages by wishing that someone would really punish that fellow and make him beg for Mommy to spank him harder.
Tora is a pretty convincing sub, but what frustrates me is how the person that comes off as the efficient Dom in this story is portrayed as a sadistic nutjob while Jovan in all his faux-Dom wimpiness is portrayed as the "romantic" Dom hero in this story. The whole scenario comes together to portray a pretty negative depiction of BDSM since the more hardcore play in this story are carried out without consensual non-consensuality and portrayed in a manner to shock rather than intrigue the reader. Therefore only the milder acts of BDSM such as that carried out by Jovan come off as "good".
At the end of the day, I have mixed feelings about Topping Tora. Jovan is pretty incompetent as a romance hero and he's a wimp for a Dom. But Tora is a more well-written character and she's actually much more intriguing as a sub for the villainous Dom. Ultimately, the fact that the designated Dom hero comes off like a closeted sub begging for a good CBT (please don't ask me what the three letters stand for) causes Topping Tora to miss the bullseye considerably.
Oh, and for a story published under the Molten Silver line, there is a pretty so-so scene with Tora and another woman, Pearl, and Jovan also screws Pearl in this story, but where are the edgeplay stuff? Maybe I've just somehow read the most extreme BDSM erotica in the past without realizing it but when I see that this book is marketed as something that will push the envelope when it comes to kink, it's disappointing that most of the edgiest sensation play, tease and denial, and even genitorture scenes are associated with whackjobs into slavery and prostitution. Chalk this one up as too vanilla for me. And yes, I'm not into the BDSM scene in real life or in fiction, so if I find it too tame and even unconvincing, this tells you just how much this book really works for me!
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