Belated review: O Come All Ye Kinky anthology

O Come All Ye Kinky

A BDSM holiday anthology edited by Sarah Frantz

Disclosure:  review copy provided by Dr. Frantz.

© 2012 Riptide Publishing

I’ve started and then deleted this post over and over in the last couple of weeks — nothing intelligent wants to come from my fingertips.  But the longer I go without posting, the less likely it is that I’ll post anything at all.  So here, in brief, are my thoughts on each of the stories.

Tree Topper, by Jane Davitt

Martin’s new to the scene, and his sub Stan has recently stopped taking him seriously. Their tree has floggers, clamps, and cuffs underneath it, but will they ever be used? Frustrated and confused, Martin knows it will take more than a star to guide him on his way to becoming the Dom Stan needs—but their path to happiness might be shorter than he thinks.

A sweet story about a new Dom who feels like he’s failing at his first D/s relationship.  The conflict here was all about lack of communication, which can be a delicate trope to employ without making the MCs either TSTL or unsympathetic, but it worked here.  I really liked that the MCs of this story TALKED to each other in the end about what was going on (or not) in their relationship in order to solve their problem. (B)

 ’Twas the Night, by Ava March

Percival Owen yearns for the nights when he can kneel before his lover, even though no self-respecting gentleman willingly submits to another. Michael wants his first Christmas with Percy to be perfect, but is frustrated by Percy’s inability to ask for what he wants. The gift Michael offers Percy—and that Percy offers in return—is the best Percy could ever hope to receive: his will to submit.

Historical m/m set in the English Regency or thereabout is hit or miss for me, because the HEA often can feel forced to fit modern expectations about gay relationships that were generally not acceptable or standard at the time, but the setting works here.  In this story, a new sub is struggling with his desires as wicked, and Christmas spent with his lover, being forced to articulate what he wants, helps him come to terms with them.  The HFN is tender but also notes the social and legal risk of their relationship. (B)

Fireworks, by Katie Porter

Rachel’s job is taking her to Tokyo, which means leaving behind her lover and submissive, Emma. When she summons Emma for one last hurrah on New Year’s Eve, Emma answers, hoping desperately to be able to break through her ma’am’s emotional barriers and find the spark of love among the glittering fireworks.

Personal quirk:  I hate the word “helluva”.  In dialogue, I can let it slide, much the way “gonna” gets a pass.  Early use of it in this short story distracted me, and didn’t entirely suit the voice of the narrator using it (IMO).  I appreciated the f/f entry in the primarily m/m anthology, but didn’t love this story, mostly because the conflict felt weak, hinging on the personality and background of one MC who hadn’t been developed enough. (C+)

Candy Caning, by L.A. Witt

Nate is dreading the annual Christmas visit with his family, during which they will ignore or insult his partner and Dominant. Stephen tries hard to take Nate’s mind off the trip with the promise—and threat—of a three-foot-long candy cane. It’s a race to see if Nate’s resolve or the candy cane will shatter first.

There are things you put up with because you love your partner, and usually those things involve unpleasant holidays and/or family members; in this case, it’s both all at once, since Nate’s mother denigrates Stephen publicly during their holiday get-togethers.  Even anticipating it is causing tension between the two in the run up to the holiday.  While I was concerned about the potential use of the candy cane (so brittle and easily broken, even the large ones), I liked the teasing and anticipation, followed by the mushy relationshipy exchange that follows the play. (B)

Submissive Angel, by Joey W. Hill

After Robert found Ange bleeding in an alley, he employed the man in his vintage toy store as an act of charity. However, this Christmas, the eccentric young dancer will offer his thanks—and himself—to teach a brokenhearted Master how to open himself to love again.

My favorite story in the anthology, Submissive Angel reads like a holiday fairytale come to life.  In fact, I wondered if there was going to be a supernatural story behind Ange’s appearance at first.  Beautifully emotional and erotic. (A)

Open Return, by Elyan Smith

Fifteen years ago, Zach left the small Midwestern town he grew up in, confused and scared and determined to figure out who he was. Now transformed, he’s drawn back by the memory and promise of the dominant couple he left behind. Laura and Scott are still together, and as the year draws to a close, they explore old feelings and new ones as they discover they’ve all been waiting for Zach to come home.

This was an ambitious story involving a triad and a returning transgender MC that never really gelled for me.  Perhaps it was the isolation and angst of the narrator?  I liked the base plot but it didn’t really fit into the confines of a short story. (C)

Ring Out the Old and In the New, by Alexa Snow

Recovering from a mugging on the London Underground, Evan has barely left the house in weeks. His partner and Dom, Russell, finally manages to drag him outside on Christmas Eve, but it’s the surprise that Russell has waiting for him back home that helps Evan get past his trauma and remember what’s important: being on his knees for the man he loves.

The narrator in this story left me alternately sympathetic toward and frustrated by his almost-agoraphobia and ostrich-like behavior in the wake of his violent mugging.  The interaction with his partner is by turns aggravated, tender, and extremely hot.  Yet in the end I feel ambivalent about this story:  I liked the couple working through the aftermath, but wonder about the lack of professional mental health care. (Yes, yes, I know it’s fiction.  But fiction seems to gloss over so many serious problems, including mental health issues, with “love cures everything” even when that is manifestly not the case.)  (B-)

His Very Last Chance, by Kim Dare

Drew screwed up. So when his master, Kingsley, summons him on New Year’s Eve, he knows he deserves the punishment in store for him. Everything changed for Kingsley when he overheard Drew running his mouth to his friends on Boxing Day. Now, there’s only one way he can possibly ring in the New Year: starting over fresh, either with an ending or a new beginning.

The beginning of this story confused me: the narrator is expecting to be given his walking papers by his dom, in addition to being punished for oversharing in public, but I wasn’t clear why that drastic an end to their relationship is anticipated.  The expectation creates drama for Drew but feels overdone when Kingsley’s POV is provided, like a trumped up Big Mis.  Still, the story was well paced and I liked the relationship dynamic otherwise.  (B)

 

The stories are not linked in any way other than the involvement of BDSM in each story, which is probably for the best IMO — it is hard to have multiple authors with very different voices and styles write individual stories with common characters or settings.  Overall, I enjoyed this anthology and would be interested in reading other work by the new-to-me authors or revisiting the authors I haven’t tried lately.

Formatting and editing:  I have heard good things about Riptide’s editorial process, and if this book is an exemplar I’ll be looking to read more from them.  There were no highlighted passages with notes about punctuation abuse, homophone misuse, or run-on sentences…which is sadly uncommon in my ebook reading.  Very pleased.

Recommended.

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