Monday, February 6, 2012

Digital Review: Intimate Exposure

While I certainly understand their popularity in romance and erotica quarters, BDSM stories tend to not be favorites of mine.  They're tricky to write.  The appeal of erotic-anything for me has always been focused on the "heroine's journey."  And if the author doesn't do a credible job of selling me on the power of the submissive role?  Yeah, BDSM stories tend to not be favorites of mine.

However, Portia Da Costa is a huge favorite, which means I'll always try her BDSM stories.  Intimate Exposure, a new novella from Carina Press, works fairly well for me - but it's not one of the author's offerings I'm lovingly going to want to reread someday.

The insurance company where Vicki Renard is a middle manager has just been bought out by the mysterious F.W. Shanley III.  Naturally people are curious about him, and worried about their jobs, but Vicki is more distracted by Red Webster, a photographer that Shanley has sent 'round to gather photos for a new company profile.  Little does Vicki or anybody else know - Red is actually Shanley.  He likes to get the lay of the land at the new companies he acquires, and it's easier to get the inside scoop playing the part of someone else.  Vicki intrigues him no end, and when he discovers she has a copy of The Story of O on her e-reader?  He's more intrigued than ever.  He has to have her, and lucky for him - as much as he annoys her at times - she's just as intrigued.

Admittedly a bit of a stumbling block for me is how Red deduces that Vicki might be up for exploring a BDSM relationship with him.  It's because she's reading The Story of O.  Um, OK - so what if he discovered a suspense novel about a serial killer on her e-reader?  Does that mean Vicki either 1) wants to be a serial killer and/or 2) has desires to be murdered by one?  Yeah, thin.  At least for me.  But then I'm a librarian who has never subscribed to the school of thought that You Are What You Read.

But I'm over-thinking it, and it's a way for our couple to hook up. 

I like that while Vicki is curious about the submissive role, she doesn't dive in head first and totally succumb.  She bristles a bit.  There are times when Red orders her about that she's not completely enthralled.  I also like that she flips the script on him.  "Oh yeah, you want me to do that do you - well how about I do this instead."  Also, nobody writes mental longing quite like Da Costa does.  Her characters really ache for each other when they are apart.  She uses this to excellent effect to ramp up the tension.

Unfortunately the story itself slides a bit for me at the end.  Given that Red isn't being honest with Vicki for the majority of the story (re: who he really is) - I wanted a lot more suffering on his part.  Frankly, I wanted him to grovel.  I wanted Vicki to make him grovel.  And this aspect of the conflict ends much more with a whimper instead of a bang.  I found this unfortunate since it was an opportunity for major emotional angst that fizzles out unexplored.  Still, it's a BDSM story that didn't make my blood pressure spike in an unpleasant way, and Da Costa has a way of writing stories that keep me engaged all the way through to the final sentence.

Final Grade = C+

Sidenote: Da Costa's has created her own sexually charged fictional universe that I just adore.  Popping up in this story?  Yeah, the delectable Mr. Stone and Maria.  It's a treat for fans, but not something so blatant that newbies will be annoyed.  I love that her characters don't exist in a vacuum.


Dr J said...

I read this one as well and found it to be very readable and yet there were, as you pointed out, some areas where I felt the flow of the story really lagged. Possibly just me, but I have read some of her other work and didn't think this was her best by far.

Wendy said...

Dr J: And this one wasn't quite as "playful" as I find a lot of Da Costa's contemporary work. That's what I really tend to love about her brand of erotica and erotic romance. There are those playful moments that remind us that sex shouldn't always be so deadly serious. Plus, I'll be honest, I really wanted Red to suffer for his deception.