walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_Undercover_, Lauren Dane (kindle) spoilers, NSFW

The usual warnings apply: SPOILERS! And very likely NSFW. Also, this is the second in (at least two) reviews of MMF poly novels. Please see the first in the series for definitions, if you have no idea what these words mean and are curious why I'm doing this:


In addition to being a True Poly Romance (viz happily ever after for the poly group, which is in this case a MMF "V" with a woman at the vertex, but with some sexual activity between the men prior to and throughout the developing triad), this is also a D/S novel. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominance/submission, because I'm not going to explain it here) And it's not a D/S novel in the turn her over his lap and give her a light spanking sense, or tie her down so he can make her come extra hard sense, either. No, this is a D/S novel in which the guys spend a fair amount of time oohing and ahing over how the woman's skin turns such a lovely shade of pink, and when a cat is used on the brown guy, the results are visible through the dark skin and that is part of the fun. This is a novel in which subspace is described repeatedly and lovingly; if you've ever sat around and wondered why the hell anyone would want to do [that], well, this is one well-executed show-don't-tell.

All that aside (and you will never hear me question the appeal of competent flogging, or being tied down, or blindfolded or blah blah bleeping blah), I hate hate hate hate hate did I say hate? Oh, yes I fucking HATE D/S depictions in art where a man is the D and a woman is the S and the woman is HAWT and blonde and long haired and can we just get past this, PLEASE! Also, I hate D/S lifestyle crap, and Dane used a quite nicely developed science fictional multiverse to offer up doozy of a D/S lifestyle: a world with wives and official mistresses and concubines and the mistresses have more freedom but want to be wives anyway and blah blah bleeping blah.

Also, I hate hate hate hate hate using a thrown-together thing to make people fall for each other. Oh, we have to pretend to be having sex with each other oh and it has to be convincing so we're going to actually have to have sex with each other which means, never mind. You get the idea.


Here's what is amazing about this book. Dane did all that (which I disapprove of), but ALSO offered up a neural implant that let the triad have completely concealed communications. So while they are playing at the D/S lifestyle, we have an active, ongoing depiction of everyone in the relationship trying to maintain a relationship of _equals_ -- which is exactly what is supposed to happen in D/S. (The woman character's passive aggressive use of the neural implant aside, and let's not even get into it turns out the men can force their way into her mind bit when they said earlier they couldn't.)

Further, once they are done with the undercover assignment, the woman/vertex/submissive is very emphatic in verbalizing to the man who does not have Past History with her that she doesn't bottom outside the bedroom (the man who does have Past History with her presumably already knows, altho he sure doesn't act like it in spots -- but the storytelling is clear that that's him being an insecure dick).

The ending of the book (going in to bust the Family some of whose members were selling to the Imperialists) was easily the weakest: oh, my, gosh, it's hard to cope with our woman being shot. It's not that I don't believe that reaction (believe me, I _do_ believe that reaction) -- it's that it feels cheap. Especially since she got shot in the same left shoulder that _every_ character who isn't going to die in an action movie or cop show ALWAYS gets shot.

You would be justified in concluding from the above that I didn't enjoy the book; alas, you would be wrong. I did enjoy the book. There were some really neat things about it, notably the use of the neural implant. While I generally disapprove of going back to the well after DTMFA'ing, and I _really_ disapprove of trying to use poly to repair a relationship, it was quite clearly depicted (shown, not just told) that the original D/S couple, while separated for a decade, had never really gotten over each other. Using New Relationship Energy to make a triad out of a failed dyad seems iffy, but Dane tried really hard to make a convincing case based on external demands on the members, and people _wanting_ to try to make that work is extremely believable (a sequel in which the triad had broken up and everyone moved on to other relationships would _also_ be believable).

Finally, Dane deserves some kind of award for creating a V with a woman at the vertex with absolutely zero homophobia. The guys have a pre-existing sexual relationship of convenience (they are switches with defined turn-taking, manual and oral intimacy apparently no anal; one of the guys is primarily verbally dominant, the other more physically dominant and no I DO NOT mean throwing people around I mean non-verbals and that is reflected in the MM relationship as well as with the F) which continues into the triad, and the three discuss together how they feel about pairing off within the context of the triad.

Obviously, if you are a submissive woman with poly inclinations, getting tops who want to share you and who work well together would presumably be Pretty Awesome. Not, alas, that appealing to me.

Okay, if you've read this far, I'll 'fess up to the real reason I'm reading trashy MMF poly novels. I'm trying to screw my courage up to read (not see) _Savages_ by Don Winslow. If the reviews are even remotely accurate, I'm going to find the book an incredible ride and the ending may emotionally wipe me out for days. I'd sorta like to have some comparators so if it turns out to not be that great, I'll have specifics to base my mockery on.
Tags: bisexuality, book review, polyamory, sexuality, sf

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