He's On Top - bdsm toy by Cleis Press Inc. - review by Petite Valentine

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Sorry, this goes to the bottom of my reading list

I hoped this would be a collection accessible to those not into BDSM (i.e. me!) but I found myself unaroused by most of the content. There are a few gems nestled within, but I don't know if I can justify to others shelling out the cash when I dislike so many of the stories.
Variety of authors
Women in most stories come across as doormats
Cover is garish
Rating by reviewer:
extremely useful review
Seventeen stories and I'm left deflated. I wanted to be excited, I really did, but page after page the only word echoing in my mind was next. To sum up this read in one word: disappointing.

A lot of disappointment despite the variety: seventeen stories, no two by the same author. The writers are, in order of appearance: N.T. Morely, Lisabet Sarai, Debra Hyde, Gwen Masters, Donna George Storey, M. Christian, Mackenzie Cross, Lee Ash, Shanna Germain, Andrea Dale, Matt Conklin, Jason Rubis, Amanda Earl, Mike Kimera, Teresa Noelle Roberts, Rachel Kramer Bussel, and Thomas S. Roche.

(Please note, N.T. Morely's "Not Until Dawn," Gwen Masters "Confession," Lisabet Sarai's "Incurable Romantic," and Thomas S. Roche's "Schoolgirl and Angel" are previously published.)

Starting at the beginning, "Not Until Dawn" was like a broken record with the male repeating the same words over and over. I suppose it was meant to be sexy. In my head I followed each utterance of, "Not until dawn," with "STFU." I then failed to find the romance in "Incurable Romantic," where the male leaves his slave tied to the bed while he secretly has a one night stand. If I were to write a sequel I would title it, "The Gelding," catch my drift?

I'm not a fan of whippings, so "Seizing Monica" was not my cup of tea. "Confessions" is one of the more interesting stories, but it suffers for being short-format. There are a lot of conflicting emotions and the ending is confusing. Is Max dominating Clarice or getting revenge? Motivation matters and his was unclear to me.

Next came "Yes," which can be separated into three parts. The first two, their meeting and an exciting encounter in the kitchen are fantastic, but the third part, where he orders her to have sex with his friend seems sudden and misplaced. The sections are separated by less than an inch of white space on the page, but in my mind I imagined the author removing pages of character development. It seems an abrupt jump and I find myself wishing this one could have been a novella.

"In Control" and "A Good Reference" followed and to be honest, they're not my type of scene so although I read them, I was not aroused and I didn't care what happened in the end.

On the other hand, "Boardroom Etiquette" is the fun I was hoping for all along. I've read enough to know I like stories with dominant males, but I realized as I read Lee Ash's work what I was missing in this collection are scrappy submissives. The ones that have a bit of make me in their attitude. After all, is he really the master if every thing is handed to him and goes his way? I prefer stories where the men are challenged (mentally, not just physically) and prove they're worthy of submission.

Now having come to this realization, the next story in the collection involves none of the above. I don't believe the female is scrappy, nor do I consider the man particularly strong mentally or physically. However, "The Sun is an Ordinary Star" is one of the sweetest, touching, most romantic short stories I've read in a long time. It is about how intimacy changes after the specter of cancer - the sensitivity and honesty with which it's written is marvelous. While I personally did not find it arousing, it is a great read and I'm glad Bussel included it.

Unfortunately, none of the stories that followed were able to hold a candle to those two. Despite wanting to enjoy them, I found myself thinking next! in the middle of each one (pretty sad considering they're short stories). I could go through my laundry list of why each turned me off, but why repeat myself ad nauseam? It comes down to something very simple: I don't think I'm the audience for this book. I applaud Rachel Kramer Bussel for trying to make it accessible, but if you're not into this type of play, there's not enough character development to draw you into the stories.

He's On Top is likely headed for the paperback swap, however I would like to give credit to Ms. Bussel for an excellent editing job and her commitment to avoiding stories featuring misogynistic dominants. Physically, the book is printed on quality paper (not that tissue paper most mass-market paperbacks are printed on) and the fonts and spacing are kind to the eyes. The squatting woman in the g-string and under-bust corset on the cover is NOT subtle - I would have used the back cover close-up of the corset instead - but I've seen far worse.

I didn't connect with He's On Top, but I would be willing to try another collection edited by Ms. Bussel
It feels so wretchedly ungrateful to post a bad review since the Naked Reader Book Club gifted this book to me, but I cannot tell a lie: I really don't care for it. I've never thought of myself as thoroughly vanilla, but now I wonder since I enjoyed so few of the stories.
Follow-up commentary
I think I like this book even less than the first time I read it. Since it was still sitting on my bookshelf — it has not been exiled to the used bookstore yet — I decided to skim through it, and came to the realization that not even the two stories I singled out for praise in my original review could hold my attention. They were good to read once, but not worth a re-read, and the rest of the book is just as disagreeable as I remember. I didn't connect with it the first time because I thought most of the women were insipid. Having skimmed through it again, my opinion is unchanged.
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My He's On Top tags
  • Who / How / What
    [ ? ]
    Who might this product be best for? How is it best used? What are the best circumstances or situations for using this product?
    • Anyone
    • Bdsm
  • Where
    [ ? ]
    Where / what types of places can this product be used?
    • Anywhere
  • Features
    [ ? ]
    What kind of features does this product offer?
    • Travel friendly
  • General
    [ ? ]
    Other tags that are useful and descriptive for this product.
    • Book
This review was edited by
  • Shellz31 Shellz31
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Do you like this review?
  • Shellz31
    Another great job

    I like the "The Gelding" line .... hehehe.
    I'm not a big reader so I won't be worrying about getting this one.
  • Linga
    Great review! It's a shame the women aren't a bit stronger, I like ones where the woman is strong but still submits.
  • Dusk
    I'm a huge BDSM fan and it still doesn't sound like I would have connected with many of the stories based on your description. It's too bad, really. I like sub women with a bit of "make me" too.
  • Petite Valentine
    You may want to read Please, Sir also edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel. I thought the females in that collection had more of a backbone. One or two stories were too extreme for me — I even skipped one knowing I wouldn't like the play the couple engaged in — but overall I thought it was a better read.
  • Ivy Wilde
    "I prefer stories where the men are challenged (mentally, not just physically) and prove they're worthy of submission." I think you and I share a similar taste in stories. I just got my first book of erotic fiction. I haven't read it yet because I'm in the middle of another book, but I am now a little worried about whether I'll like it. We'll see...
  • ijako9
    Thanks for the review
  • darkkitty
    Nice review!
  • RomanticGoth
    Thanks for the great review. It doesn't sound like one I'd like, either. I'll try your suggestion: Please, Sir.
  • ghent529
    Thanks for the review sorry you didn't like it
  • Nora29714
    sorry you didn't enjoy it. thanks for sharing with us
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