Book Review: 10 Shades of Seduction

10 Shades of SeductionSo I’m a big Alison Tyler fan. She pretty much rocks my world. When she tweeted about having copies of 10 Shades of Seduction available for anyone who wanted to write a review, my response was essentially, “Gimme.”

For those who want to avoid spoilers, maybe tune out now and just go order the book. It’s worth it. Scout’s honor.

Tyler has two novellas in this gigantic anthology from Harlequin (is this the first Harlequin title I’ve reviewed? I think so!). In case you couldn’t guess from the title, the theme is BDSM erotica romance. Now I read a surprising amount of BDSM erotic romance for someone who doesn’t actually like BDSM erotic romance, and that’s usually all Alison Tyler’s fault. She’s just so fucking good at writing it, at manipulating its predictable tropes into something clever and gorgeous.

‘Giving In’ is full of said tropes on the surface: Ellis, a young and somewhat BDSM-inexperienced woman, is seduced into the rich, dark lifestyle of an older man, Stefan. Except this ain’t no Ana Steele/Christian Grey situation—Ellis is a sex writer, and she’s just been needing the right man to turn those plotlines into her reality. What Stefan wants is a woman who can put his poly, kinky lifestyle into words. Match made in heaven, and sex writers everywhere swoon imagining the wealthy partner who will provide inspiration and a sweet pad in Europe. Sure it’s a little fluffy, but it’s fun and smarter than it sounds.

Meanwhile, ‘Tied Up and Twisted’ delivers the emotional meat I want. Hadley McCarthy, badass journalist and Dominant, is discovering her inner Submissive. She needs a partner who can truly match her desires, definitely not her former sub Guy who will not take the hint that things are truly over. Guy’s boss, however…

I loved the nuance of sexual identity and desire these characters play with, and the range of relationships depicted. Hadley can go to a BDSM club and play a sexually satisfying scene with Dean, another dom, but she craves emotional challenge and exchange with a real partner. Being increasingly submissive does not make her any less of a badass bitch, nor does it invalidate her previous dominant inclinations (insert monologue about the relationship of feminism and BDSM relationships, the importance of recognizing sexual fluidity). And Reed Frost, the object of Hadley’s affections, can be a dom without actively participating in the scene. BDSM erotic romance doesn’t have to be all rich, polished bachelors sweeping up inexperienced lovers as subs. ‘Tied Up and Twisted’ rejects entirely the tropes ‘Giving In’ playfully indulges in.

So here’s a shocking newsflash: Alison Tyler is an awesome writer and I love her stories. ‘Giving In’ and ‘Tied Up and Twisted’ are clever, engaging novellas that Tyler fans new and old will relish. Pick up your copy here.

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Ella Dawson is a sex and culture critic and a digital strategist. She drinks too much Diet Coke.

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