Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Freshman's Curse by J.B. Rogers

Although it starts out as a standard gender-swap revenge tale (only with a female-to-male twist), The Freshman's Curse: The Complete Novel (With Extra Parts) is a rather massive, well-layered story of a romantic threesome and their wider community of kink. J.B. Rogers throws a lot into the story in terms of gender, sexuality, and fetishes, but it all works beautifully.

As it turns out, that revenge aspect is really just the catalyst for the story, although it does have significant bearing on what happens throughout. It is what transforms Jenny/Jimmy into a character we truly care about; it is what propels Sheila into a kinky kind of love; and it is what allows Mia to claim both her identity as well as her own happiness. The three-way relationship between gender-swapped cheerleader, bisexual submissive, and transgender sweetie, is (in a word) glorious. It is honest and sincere, with real emotion tied up with the passion, and just a much romance as eroticism.

On that note, I must say I adore what Rogers has done here with the whole question of gender, gender identity, and gender expression. There is a genuine fluidity to the whole tale that it is hard to talk about without spoiling the story. When it comes to Jimmy and Mia, Jenny and Manuel are never far from their thoughts. There is a lot of crossdressing, reverse crossdressing, and partial gender expression that allows them to better understand one another, and prove that their love goes beyond the state of their bodies. It is a relationship that could become comical in the wrong hands, but here it never strays from being genuinely passionate and respectful.

As for the wider community of kink, Rogers really knows how to explore that defining line between mere bdsm and true dominance/submission. Even when the story is at its most extreme, with rough, public, anonymous, sex, we are never allowed to lose sight of the psychological aspects at work. I don't want to potentially spoil anything, but there is a prolonged scene with Sheila in the second half of the book that is better than most erotic novels as a whole. It is extreme and taboo, with just about every kind of abuse and penetration you can imagine, along with some bondage equipment you probably cannot, but what makes it all work is the emotional and psychological transformation that Sheila undergoes. Powerful stuff.

If you choose to pick up The Complete Novel (With Extra Parts), Rogers has formatted the book with two ways to enjoy it. You can either read the two halves of the novel first, and the three short stories after, or read all five pieces where they fit in the overall narrative. Personally, I recommend the latter option, as those stories (especially the first two) really do have a significant bearing on the novel, and certainly add to the experience.

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