Stacy's Place on Earth
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009:
"Stress Relief" by Diana Hunter -(2009) ebook

Meg Turner needs to relax. Between her job, her mother and the loss of a good Dom, she's all wound up and needs a good flogging to relieve her tensions.

Rand Arthur is a busy man with a company to run. He doesn't need commitments, but when his friend asks him to take Meg on as a new sub, he agrees, knowing there's nothing that relieves stress like flogging a willing back.

But by the end of their first session, both see something in the other neither expected. And neither wants to change the rules of their relationship and risk losing it all.
Since I seem to be so keen on getting out of my comfort zone these days, I saw this book description at Elloras Cave and thought, hey, what the heck, why not see if I can handle a sub/Dom storyline. Now, pain of any kind does absolutely nothing for me, though I do understand how it can totally be arousing for some people. I can also get that it might be rather exciting to be "forced" to feel pleasure when there's absolutely nothing you can do about it. So even though these are fantasies that don't turn me on, most especially the pain factor, I still decided to read something a little different, just to stretch my wings and look beyond to the emotional aspects of these types of relationships. Maybe even try to reach a level of understanding about them.
And there were definitely things to like about this story. First off, I liked Meg a lot. Other than not loving her job, which is the case for a lot of people, I think she was pretty normal and well-adjusted. I found that be such a welcome change. One thing that drives me crazy is when I read the description of a character who likes something different from the usual male/female vanilla sex, they tend to have "issues", like there's something wrong with people who like it spicier and/or riskier in the bedroom. I'm all for adventurous fantasies, and I consider myself fairly normal (boring but normal), so to read about Meg, who comes across as someone I'd be friends with was a big thumbs-up for me.
I also liked Rand. We don't get to find out quite as much about him in the story, but again, another likable, well-adjusted character who takes his role as a Dom very seriously. He believes wholeheartedly in the trust between a Dom and his sub, and went a long way to prove that. There were times he had to do things to "break" his sub that he didn't necessarily feel comfortable with, but believed it was for her own good. That's where things started to get dicey for me, but I'll get to that in a bit. So anyway, we see the more tender side to Rand, that he truly cares about the women he takes under his wing, and that he pushes them to where they need to go, yet at the same time, has great affection for them. Rand comes across as a very caring, dedicated Dom who takes great yet serious pride in his work.
So here we have two people who have decided to enter into a Dom/sub relationship. This is not a decision based solely on attraction or even liking the other person; it has a lot to do with trusting that the other person will take them where they need and/or want to go. Meg has a need to get out her frustrations over her life, and has found that being flogged is a great way to let loose the tension and stress that builds up over time. She's noticed that with her last Dom, the time between sessions is becoming less and less, not satisfying her as fully as they once did. When Jack (aforementioned Dom) has a job offer that will take him out of the country, he tells her he's leaving and ends up giving her Rand's contact information. Meg's wary about starting over with someone completely new, especially when she also considered Jack a close friend, but finds she needs the release only a Dom can give her. Plus Jack has a lot of respect for Rand which reassures Meg, so she does contact Rand, and they both decide to meet and see if this will be an agreeable arrangement between them. Neither one of them is looking for anything permanent, just the enjoyment of a Dom/sub relationship, no strings.
The initial contact goes well, and Rand immediately sets up a "play date" to get better acquainted. Meg is excited when she realizes that Rand is a more dedicated Dom and will take her to places she's never been, and the pleasure she experiences is beyond anything she's known before. She thinks she'll finally be able to find the release she's been looking for. In the end though, they both realize that their arrangement is so much more than they'd ever expected.
My thoughts (with possible spoilers):
So I'm reading these exchanges between Rand and Meg, and they're...interesting. I understand, at least from some of the books I've read, that it's really supposed to be the sub who has all the power. It's not really mentioned in this book, so I'm going completely on presumption here. After all, with Meg being the sub in this relationship, she's been given a safe word and can halt what happens to her at anytime. At one point however, Rand seems hesitant to allow her to use her safeword during a weekend session, as if by taking it away he will get faster, more effective results, but that's not really explored, and for my benefit, I was grateful that it didn't come to that.
Now here is when things start to get uncomfortable for me. As much as I don't find it exciting, I do understand that some people find pain arousing. I understand that one might be turned on by giving complete control to the other person and trust that they will give them the ultimate pleasure, and I can see that a Dom would love being in total control of giving it. I didn't realize that some use this type of exchange to "break" past their barriers and deal with deeper issues. I don't look at sex as being about the cure for outside problems, but maybe I'm looking at these relationships in the completely wrong way. My lack of knowledge in the BDSM world is something that I consider more of a blessing because there are just some things I'd just rather not know. Ignorance can be bliss.
However if there's one thing that I could not, absolutely COULD NOT tolerate about this storyline, it's the scenes of humiliation that were enforced throughout several encounters. Time and time again I found myself walking away from this story because I was so...disgusted. Maybe that's harsh, but it's the reaction I had whenever Meg was forced to do something demeaning. This method was evidently used to help Meg reach her breaking point, yet she never really does. She's a stubborn one. So we have to watch her being treated as an object, a thing, for several passages in the book. At times she's ashamed, disgusted, even angry, but she never breaks. I realize that this story could have been much more extreme than it was - she never actually has intercourse with any other man than Rand, which is a good thing because I probably wouldn't have been able to finish the book if it went to that level - but at the same time, she's "forced" to accept their degrading treatment of her. These other men are there to debase her, to humiliate her, to make her do things like she didn't even matter as a person. THAT is what I totally don't get. It's beyond the fantasy of giving over control and letting someone else be in charge for a change. That I can accept. It's treating her as if she's nothing more than a vessel for others' lust - whether it be in the form of her pain or embarrassment or humiliation - that totally creeps me out. Yet Rand uses these methods to try to force her to break, which would then culminate in building her back up again into a stronger, more resilient person.
As I said earlier, she doesn't break, and even by this point, Rand is sickened by what he's making her do, however he still finds it necessary for her to reach complete fulfillment. And Meg takes it. And takes it. And even when it's over she takes more. As much as I hated what was happening, I couldn't hate Meg. I admired her strength, her stubborn nature, the fact that she didn't give up. But at the sam time, a huge part of me is wondering why the hell is she accepting this? Why would she feel like she has to let these things happen to her? From her reactions, she doesn't even find any of these other men attractive. At least if she did, it would make a crazy kind of sense,
By the end, we discover what she finally needed to learn and accept, however let's just say that if it were me, I would have figured it out way before the book started. It was just so obvious. But evidently that's not how these types of relationships work. It appeared to be more about not just acceptance, but finally doing something about what was bothering her so greatly, and that's what the purpose of Rand's initial role as a Dom to Meg's sub entailed: to peel away the layers and get to the heart of Meg.
So, this book was certainly an eye-opening learning experience for me. Mind you, not one I wish to repeat any time soon. Not that I hold the author responsible for the way I feel because I believe it really gave me a little more insight into what it means to be in a BDSM relationship. And it's not a bad story at all as far as the telling of it, in fact it was well-written and even emotional at times, which is one of the main reasons a book is enjoyable to me. It's just not the type of story I wish to read about again. Am I glad I read it? Well I don't know if "glad" is the right word, but I did find it enlightening and further opened up my mind to what goes on it these types of relationships. I just have no desire to repeat the experience or advance my education in this area, thank you very much.
However there may be those of you out there that feel differently, and if that's the case, then this book might really appeal to you. Whatever floats your boat. And while it didn't float mine, I cannot truly give it a bad review based on that alone.
Personal tastes * out of *****
Overall Rating: **** out of *****

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  1. If Rand is sickened by what he is doing, he should stop shouldn't he? Perhaps Meg is not in the right frame of mind to stop and is in the moment?
    I have to admit I am not all that gung-ho about Dom/Sub stories. Ties me and and spank me or whip me with the cat o nine tails doesn't turn me on, but hey, maybe for some others.

  2. I'm glad you took the chance and read this author. She truly is a wonderful author of this genre. Unlike some others who take a stab at these types of book, I can tell that Diana Hunter knows what she writes.

    You should just not read this genre anymore, though, LOL. It's like not agreeing with same sex relations and then reading a m/m or f/f book.
    Or in this case, not understanding BDSM and then reading it and being uncomfortable.

  3. Kate, I think even though he was rather bothered by what he was doing, he realized that Meg was not ready to stop. He was letting his emotions get too involved at that point. I guess I kinda understood that.

    Seneca, it was definitely going somewhere I'd never gone before, and for that yes, I am glad I took the chance. And I believe the author was coming from a place of, if not experience, then a strong understanding of the lifestyle. But because of my strong feelings on the subject, I don't think I should read any other BDSM books either LOL.

  4. Good for you for reading out of your comfort zone, and what an interesting review! I don't know that much about this whole scene either...maybe I should read the book, too!

  5. I admire you for going so far outside your comfort zone, and even more for your candidness about what worked and didn't work for you about the story.

    I have to admit that D/s stories almost never work for me, so I tend to avoid them, but I'm glad you tried it. And I'm really glad you wrote the review!

  6. CJ, I do think it's good to step outside your "zone" and see what else is out there, so for that reason it was a good experience. It just happens to be a lifestyle I can't for the life of me figure out, but obviously it appeals to some people. If you read it, I'd be interested to know your thoughts.

    Kati, I think you & I have pretty similar thoughts on this topic, yet I admit to being curious about what is so "freeing" about this type of existence. If anything, it strengthened my personal beliefs on what I like/don't like. Not that I had any doubts, but it feels good to know that I'm basing my opinion on fact vs. speculation.

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  8. Apologies - that was me deleting my comment :(

    Hmmmm, very interesting review Stacy! I've been kind of dipping my toe in this sub-genre (I have a couple of Joey W Hill's books on my TBR pile) but....I'm not so sure I would be comfortable with the humiliation..not to say that it doesn't/wouldn't work for others.

  9. Orannia, that's the fine line to walk - it's not my preference but there are those out there that read and/or live the lifestyle. Who am I to judge? Just because I don't understand it doesn't mean it's not rewarding for some people. That's what makes life so interesting.

  10. Just because I don't understand it doesn't mean it's not rewarding for some people.And that's the philosophy I try and adhere too :) And yes, it does make life interesting *grin*

  11. I am so sorry I didn't find this review and all these comments earlier. I hope you don't mind me coming late to the conversation?

    Stacy, I commend you for trying a story outside your comfort zone. Pushing past one's self-determined boundaries is exactly what this story was all about! Meg's (and Rand's) journey was all about getting out the comfort zone and exploring new ideas.

    That said, I wouldn't have recommended this as a first-read in the BDSM genre. It's WAAAY deep into the lifestyle and really does assume the reader has some familiarity with the candy store that BDSM can be. Some people like licorice, some don't. Some like humiliation. Some don't. I would've started you out on something with not such a strong flavor :).

    To that end, let me recommend HOOKED (in print its in the anthology GETTING WHAT SHE WANTS). That story's more about the D/s play than the BDSM. Or CABIN FEVER. That one has BDSM in it, but is much more...relaxed.

    Again, sorry I'm so late chiming in and thank you for such a wonderful review. So refreshing to read an honest reaction! :)


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