by January Rowe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Management Skills / 978-1-426-89130-4
Carina Press has recently gotten me interested in erotic literature, if only because I find the concept of the genre somewhat fascinating. I've read some domination/submission literature before, but I always found it too fake and frustrating to really enjoy the concept - if you look at something like Saalih's "Harem Girl", no one ever has to use (or even gets to have) safe words because the Dom is always magically aware of the Sub's needs, desires, and limits, and it's just pure fantasy and my mind disconnects from the unreal characters after awhile.
I'm pleased and surprised at how relatively realistic "Management Skills" is. Author Rowe is clearly of the mindset that the Dom portion of the relationship carries a significant burden of responsibility to constantly be aware of the Sub's actual (not perceived) needs, and to engage the Sub in dialogue and "re-negotiation" as necessary to ensure that they're actually happy and not just submissively pretending to be. This is, in fact, probably the most realistically successful Dom/Sub relationship I've seen in literature - both members are publicly strong, respected figures and they care enough about each other to really engage in dialogue and discuss their needs and desires as the relationship evolves.
As such, the "management skills" implied in the title is all about being a good Dom who takes proper care of their Sub. At least half of the novel revolves around discussions and internal monologues about this subject, as the Dom here struggles to deal with his controlling nature - he starts with good intentions of wanting to increase his Sub's pleasure, but then starts to spiral into a need for control that would actually do nothing to increase her pleasure and would end in her being very unhappy with the relationship. His Sub has to decide whether to leave the relationship or speak to him frankly and honestly about her real needs and how to mesh them with his own.
I do like this as a very frank and realistic discussion about light Dom/Sub play, and I think as a "manual" for role playing in the real world, outside of the fantasy bounds of erotica literature, that this novella has a lot to offer, but I'm not sure that erotica fans will be blown away by the actual content. There's actually not a whole lot of sex here, and it's heavily framed by long discussions and internal worries about the relationship and where it's heading. The story ends on a happy, positive note, but very abruptly and with very little warning.
I think, if you're looking for a more "realistic" approach to Dom/Sub relationships, this book is a good, positive piece that is definitely worth a look, but if you're just looking for a hot read, there are probably faster-paced novellas available.
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through NetGalley.
~ Ana Mardoll
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