Thursday, December 23, 2010

REVIEW: Red Satin & Third Rail by Giselle Renarde

Two quickie reviews today – not so much because of the holidays, but because I’m really under the gun at the office – that I really wanted to share while there was still time to take advantage of Giselle’s wonderful charitable initiative. Purchase either of these titles (or The Little Burlesque House by the Sea, which is coming up on my to-read list) before the end of December, and she’ll donate her royalties to the LGBT Youthline.

Red Satin: This is a wonderfully romantic little story of newly-discovered identities and re-discovered love. Maisie and Regan are best friends who, years ago, enjoyed a night of drunken bliss. Simple enough, except for the fact that it was Maisie’s first (and only) time with a man, and that Regan wants nothing more than to forget she ever was a man.

I think what struck me most about the story was its honesty and its realism. There are no elements of exaggerated fantasy, just the sincere coming together of two friends who are tentatively entering the next stage of their relationship. Regan is frustrated by the whole clothes-shopping experience, while Maisie is understandably self-conscious about validating her own femininity. They squabble like best friends, but there’s a tenderness in their barbs that betrays their love for one another.

There is a very erotic scene of lust in the dressing room near the end, but it smartly doesn’t conclude the story. Instead, Giselle continues on just enough to confirm the consequences of their lust, and to establish the hope of a lasting relationship.

Third Rail: In many respects, this story is the polar opposite of Red Satin. Martin and Kokoro are mature lovers, engaged in an interesting (if illicit affair). Martin is happily married, but while his wife tolerates his crossdressing, she’s not interested in being an active participant. So, when it comes time to indulge as Fiona, it’s Kokoro who fills the role of her submissive lesbian lover.

This is a story liberally sprinkled with eroticism, but deliberately immersed in the monotony of everyday life. It’s almost comic in how the two lovers bounce between lust and life, between the sensual and the mundane, as they enjoy the temporary absence of Martin’s wife.

While this one contains a bit more fantasy than Red Satin, it’s still very much grounded in the consequences of reality. This time, however, Giselle carries the story through the eroticism not to a message of hope, but to one of legimate doubt as to how long this relationship can (or should) survive. Not that it’s a depressing ending – just an honest one.

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