This fall I had the great fortune to visit with the publishers at Fantastic Fiction Publishing. When I mentioned to the primary editor that I had just finished the book I had been reading and was looking for something new to read, she recommended Elizabeth Schechter’s Counsel of the Wicked . “I don’t like erotica” I said, thinking back on the sappy romance novels I had started occasionally and always left unfinished. “Trust me, you’ll like this one” she said. Knowing her to be a woman of integrity and good taste, I took her at her word and purchased a copy.
Turns out, it’s not that I don’t like erotica, it’s that I don’t like badly written drivel with thin plot lines padded by pages of awkward sex. Even the sex scenes in Laurel Hamilton’s Anita Blake vampire hunter series left me cold, and I quickly found myself skimming over the sex scenes that seemed initially steamy and quickly became repetitive (and used the word spill far too often) to get back to the much more interesting vampire hunting and shape shifting.
Far from needing to blur past self-conscious or redundant sex scenes, Schechter’s gem is so well written that the sex scenes are not only interesting to read, but integral to the plot. Mercifully devoid of the kind of florid Harlequin romance language that hobbles so many other erotic novels, Counsel of the Wicked has complex and well-developed characters who do all sorts of interesting things, one of which happens to be interesting sex as well. Each sex scene flows perfectly with the twists of the plot, always fitting in quite realistically with the characters’ other actions. One of the main characters appears to be asexual, a true novelty for romance novels.
Luckily for me and other readers of smart and sexy fiction, this is just book one in the Rebel Mage series. I look forward to reading the second book in the series, Haven’s Fall, to find out what happens to the band of intrepid travelers.
If you have read any of my books, I would really appreciate it if you would review them.
Review at Amazon https://www.amazon.com/When-Someone-Love-Polyamorous-Understanding/dp/0996460187
Review at Goodreads
Review at Amazon
Review at Goodreads
Review at Amazon
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In Polyqueer: Gender, Race, and Polyamory, Dr. Mimi Schippers examines the racialized and gendered backdrop against which heterosexuality and monogamy play out in contemporary US culture. Focusing on multiplistic configurations of one woman with two men, Schippers provides a polyqueer reading of E.Lynn Harris’s Invisible Life and the film The Other Man. Going beyond the individual focus common in much discussion of polyamory, Polyqueer examines the potential collective impacts of non-monogamies. Schippers asks how hetero-masculinity – embodied in The Monogamous Couple – shapes institutional relationships. By exposing them as socially constructed, Polyqueer demonstrates that these hegemonic relationships are far from inevitable. Best of all, Schippers explores counter-narratives that cross racial and gendered boundaries, disturbing mononormativity and offering the potential for a reorientation of hierarchical institutions.
Women in Relationships with Bisexual Men: Bi Men By Women is yet another triumph for Dr. Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli. In her ongoing quest to examine the borderlands between/around dichotomous positions, Pallotta-Chiarolli has produced a sophisticated discussion of the intersections of sexuality, gender, race, ethnicity, class, and social institutions like healthcare and religion. Defying the misrepresentation and erasure of bisexuality that is all too common in most research, Women in Relationships with Bisexual Men provides a lavish view of the multifarious ways in which bisexuality expresses in relationship, and is impacted by social hierarchies. Refreshingly approachable for a work so rich with complex ideas, Women in Relationships with Bisexual Men is a must-read for anyone interested in sexuality, intersectionality, sex and gender minority families, and theory.
I recently read Mark Michaels and Patricia Johnson’s new book Designer Relationships and loved it! A deceptively modest little book, it is short enough to read in one long sitting or several shorter ones. Do not be fooled by the demure length, however, because Michales and Johnson pack some huge ideas in to this pint-sized readers’ treat.
Designer Relationships is such fun to read in part because what it contains, and in part because of what it does not. Written in a very direct and approachable tone, the book is filled with information and straightforward explanations of complex ideas. I mean big, big ideas about love, freedom, happiness, and personal fulfillment. While I was reading I had to stop every once in a while to reflect on my own thoughts about what they had written — the mark of a truly interesting book, in my opinion.
Missing from Designer Relationships is the holier-than-thou attitude all too common in some other books on polyamory or alternative lifestyles. This refreshing omission means that Johnson and Michaels discuss the details of the various relationship options they identify, without privileging one over the other. Their main point is that people have choice in how to structure their relationships, and thoughtfully negotiating a consensual relationship that truly works well for those people involved means that one size does not have to fit all.
If you are looking for a thoughtful and informative discussion of the various ways in which people can structure their relationships, without blame, shame, or judgement, then Designer Relationships is the book for you.
Some of you have probably already read Jacqueline Koyanagi’s wonderful science fiction adventure Ascension, because it was published in 2013. Those of you who enjoy sci fi and have not yet had a chance to read this excellent book are in for a treat. A blend of a closely-knit crew on semi-legal runs throughout the universe reminiscent of Firefly and a sentient ship similar to Moya in Farscape, the plot of Ascension has a few twists that will surprise and delight even the most jaded reader who has seen/read it all. Ascension chronicles the adventures of Alana Quick as she stows away on the ship Tangled Axion in the hopes of not only saving her sister from unknown villains, but also of seeing the universe. Of course Alana is discovered and skirts the edge of annihilation by expulsion into deep space to eventually become part of the crew. Alana’s relationship with her sister is complex and compelling, a rare treat to see women’s non-sexual relationships with each other treated with such tenderness and depth.
Of potentially specific interest to readers of this blog, Koyanagi’s skillful depiction of polyamorous relationships blends in to the plot so well that it does not stand out as an artificial addition but as an integral part of the characters’ lives. After reading a raft of sci fi novels that focus extensively on sex scenes — sometimes at the expense of a decent plot — it was refreshing to read Koyanagi’s descriptions of the passion Alana feels for her wayward captain, the alluring and dangerous Tev, without such a detailed description of their sexual interactions that nothing is left to the imagination. Koyanagi’s plot is quite strong enough to stand on its own, and it keeps readers engaged without having to resort to gratuitous sex.
Not only do I highly recommend this excellent read to anyone who enjoys science fiction about badass queer women and their mostly human male lover/companion, I hope that you join me in encouraging Koyanagi to write more about the Tangled Axion crew. While the complex characters would make for a great series, it does not appear that Koyanagi has written any more about this fascinating crew. Please join me in purchasing Koyanagi’s existing book Ascension and lobbying her to write some more.
Have you ever felt that you don’t fit in, that somehow you are out of step with those around you? Franklin Veaux not only understands, but takes a fresh perspective on creating an authentic life in his poignant memoir The Game Changer, coming this fall from Thorntree Press and available for pre-order here. Forging his own path since he was a teenager, Veaux charts his journey from a misunderstood proto-geek to kinkster-extraordinaire in this entertaining and educational account of disruptive love. Along the way, he explains the fatal flaw in many polyamorous relationships – hierarchies of power and esteem that end up eroding love rather than protecting the “core” couple.
In a remarkably candid tale, Veaux charts the trajectory of his attempts to establish equitable polyamorous relationships and explains the difficulties of sustaining a primary/secondary hierarchy while attempting to explore emotionally intimate relationships among more than two people. His detailed description of the emotional terrain of consensual non-monogamy exposes the joy and despair that can accompany loving outside of conventional boxes. Veaux does not spare himself from his own scorching gaze, and ruthlessly details the mistakes he made while figuring out how to be non-monogamous.
Reading The Game Changer was so thought provoking that it felt like having a deep and roving conversation with a very witty person about what it means to be truly authentic — only without the pressure to be clever yourself because half of it is happening inside your own head. This is a great read for anyone who has questioned the status quo or wondered what intriguing adventures wait on the road less traveled. Daring souls will appreciate Veaux’s frank wit and searing self-critique in this fascinating memoir of unruly love.