I close my eyes and tell myself it is a single opinion, whatever I am about to read is just one view of my work, and in the long run will be dismissible. In this moment it is the result of a big gamble.
As an indie author-publisher, allocating $500 for a Kirkus Review is a significant decision. They’ve been opining about books for eighty years with a reputation for tough standards but some backlash for abject cruelty at times.
I pay $500 whether I publish their review or not. They get paid for writing it. You can decide to bury the review and that’s fine with them. If you publish the review, you can use it in whole or part to advertise your book. The weight of their name is significant in the publishing world precisely because they have assembled a rich reviewer pool delivering firmly structured 300-word judgments. You throw your book in a proverbial pile and it is handed to you-have-no-idea-who and that’s your shot: no re-do, no preferred reviewer, not even a pick of genre. Take it or leave it. More precisely, pay first and see what you bought later.
- First stand-alone sentence is summary of book.
- Paragraph is plot and content analysis.
- Last stand-alone sentence is ‘tag’, the ‘boom’, the ‘bam’.
I bought the review in late February so it was due back in late April. I didn’t haunt my account waiting for it only because I was busy elsewhere. I finally checked in mid-May and here is what I found.
Dark Prince, Heed Thy Queen Kirkus Reviews May 2015
Prolific eroticist K (Honey B., Sexual Consultant, 2014, etc.) conjures a fictionalized wet dream starring a hyper sexualized woman and the domineering hoodlum who sexually enslaves her.
Though the mysterious, unnamed raconteur of this erotica describes herself as an ordinary woman, she’s really an experienced physician who exudes “a sensation of calm, a sense of security.” She’s swept away by a cocksure, bearded, “dense and dreamy” stranger named Nathan, whose livelihood includes larceny and money counterfeiting. K’s novella, easily read in one heated sitting, glosses over plot in favor of the sexual exploits between the narrator and Nathan as their relationship intensifies to incorporate kink and sadomasochism. Nathan is slowly revealed to be a crestfallen attorney and military serviceman–turned-criminal, but that hardly deters the narrator from pursuing him. Their respective appetites for carnal satisfaction seem infinite; any opportunity for role-playing and sexual adventure is met with agreement, including the addition of Jo, Nathan’s sexy “surrogate,” to their lovemaking. The book consists of short vignettes that ultimately blur into a carnal cacophony of three-ways, safe words, penis rings, and jail bailouts, as the narrator who “wanted a bad boy and got one” swiftly becomes rapt and ultimately enamored by Nathan’s sexual bravado. Readers of graphic erotic fiction will appreciate K’s smooth delivery of unbridled passion coupled with introspective ponderings in which the veil lifts to reveal her protagonist’s true nature. This aspect elevates the narrative from one-note fantasy to an explicitly personal chronicle complete with a surprise ending. Although the ever reliable narrator spends most of her time being bossed around and used like a Fifty Shades sex toy, the story is very much owned and operated by her. “I didn’t want somebody to love,” she unapologetically confesses. “It was more selfish than that, I wanted somebody to enjoy my body with me.”
Thin and unassuming, K’s latest is a titillating and highly provocative tinderbox, conflating taboo themes of hierarchal subservience, gender domination, and eroticized objectification.