Monday, May 21, 2018

Both Ends of the Whip by Brenda Murphy (#lesbian #bdsm #romance)

OMG. So. Much. Love.

Both Ends of the Whip is lesbian, polyamorous, power-exchange romance with real characters, legitimate relationship drama, underlying secrets and mysteries, and some exquisite BDSM-themed sex. As much as the cover blurb enticed me, and sounded like it has the potential for an interesting read, I did not expect Brenda Murphy to so thoroughly feed my love along with my lust. This is exquisite.

What I loved most about this were the complexities. Being able to love more than one woman unconditionally. Craving both submission and domination. Wanting to be loved, cherish, owned, and controlled, all at the same time. Needing that bedroom power-exchange, yet also needing some degree of independence and self-control outside the bedroom. The intersection of jealousy and intimacy, being able to watch your lover surrender sexually, yet getting upset over unseen kisses. Craving total, absolute, powerless surrender, even as the use of safewords is respected as a gift for the dominant. Murphy brings fantasy and reality together here, exploring a relationship that makes it work.

Octavia and Bridget are a wonderful couple, even if - perhaps because - they tried my patience so often. There is a lot of emotional baggage there, both in their shared past at Rowan house and in their secret pasts before that. It is not a perfect love, but one that rings true. Their negotiations regarding their situation with Vivian are outstanding, giving us real insight into how you balance physical and emotional needs, and how you cater to a relationship where one woman is a caring, protective submissive, and the other a conflicted, loving switch. Vivian was an enigma for much of the story, but I am so glad Murphy explored her as she did, making her internal doubts and uncertainties such a driving force. She is a natural dominant, still hurting for the loss of her one great love, and as much as she comes to care for these two young women, she struggles with the blurred lines between caring employer and loving dominatrix.

The only place I felt the story stumbled a bit was in reconciling its non-erotic conflicts. A lot is resolved very quickly following the fiery climax, but most of it is done off the page, and only summarized in passing. I was particularly perturbed that the neighbor's rude, arrogant, abusive son (the only significant male character in the book) gets off so easily, and without directly addressing his racial slur against Vivian. This is one of those rare cases where a novel could benefit from a little padding at the end.

Those concerns are minor, however, and did nothing to take away from my love for this. Both Ends of the Whip is a true delight, the perfect story for those of us who crave the collar as much as a cuddle. Just a wonderful read.

Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. She loves tattoos and sideshows and yes, those are her monkeys. When she is not loitering at her local tea shop and writing, she wrangles two kids, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot. She reviews books, blogs about life as a writer with ADHD and publishes photographs on her blog Writing While Distracted.

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