Tour’s Books Blog

June 18, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Sweet Persuasion by Maya Banks (erotic romance)

Once again I find myself confronted with a book that is wonderfully well written that I disliked beyond redemption. I know my personal distaste for certain lifestyles influences this, but I simply cannot get past it. Of all the contemporary romance writers doing erotic stories, Maya Banks seems to be the most talented in creating characters and writing intelligent, highly sensual stories without getting trite or predictable. That said, she also goes places I just do not understand and I find myself so repulsed by certain events that I cannot enjoy the book at all.  Such was the case with Sweet Persuasion.

I have said many times I do not understand or enjoy BDSM. A little goes a long way with me and then I find myself angry at the protagonists. Actually, I was so distressed by one scene that I had trouble sleeping and woke with it praying on my mind. Some would say it speaks well that an author can create characters I felt that deeply about, but I’ve learned it’s because they hit a nerve that’s like a sore tooth I can’t leave alone. Even crappy writers can do this to me.

In Sweet Persuasion Ms Banks tells the story of Serena James, a successful business woman who has an agency that fulfills fantasies for people – and does pro bono work for terminally ill children, rather like a Make a Wish foundation. She and her friends Faith Malone (Sweet Surrender) and Julie Stanford – the salon owner where both women get everything from massages to waxing – start talking about sexual fantasies. Having lived thru Faith’s, the friends want to know why Serena is looking for someone who fulfills sexual fantasies – and what they are. Faith, who hasn’t told her friends everything, puts Serena in touch with Damon Roche, the owner of a sex club and rich entrepreneur. (These kinky ones are always rich, spec ops dangerous or both.)

Serena has lunch with Damon – a very private lunch – and she spends the afternoon writing out her fantasy. Serena wants to be a man’s sex slave sold at auction. OK – I admit Ms Banks nearly lost me with the fantasy. It had to wonder what sane woman would even consider indulging in such fantasy, even one with controls, like safe words, without running the risk of stepping over the line into abuse. That that’s exactly where this ended up going for me – abuse. (Deep breath) Her friends are horrified at the risk she’s putting herself in, but Serena is determined. And Damon is just as determined that Serena will be no man’s slave except his.

I stuck with this story all the way through to page 284 and the crap about a woman being ‘strong enough to submit’. Damn. I have read, nearly verbatim, this same thing again and again from various authors and I still want to spit each time I read it. That and the BS about being a sensual woman who knows what she wants and has the right to demand her lover give her her due. I think it’s all in a psychology book somewhere and every BDSM writer is using the same source material. None say anything remotely original.

Suffice it to say Serena and the story run off the rails. She shows up naked at Damon’s dinner party. He punishes her by allowing a mutual friend to beat her with a belt while he holds her, watching with pride as she accepts her punishment. Since that’s not enough punishment, he then has unpleasant oral sex with her before calmly going to dinner, leaving her sitting on the floor by a chair with nothing to eat or drink. She is sure he will see to her well being. OK – the story is so far past disturbing I had to just skim read because I wanted to punch them all. The man that just had her whipped with a belt and gagged her with his dick will ‘take care of her’?

The next day Serena goes to the office and sits at her desk – yeah, right, she’ll be sitting after that whipping – when her assistant tells her one of her pro bono clients died while on her dream cruise. It seems to be the last straw and she goes back to Damon’s house, falls apart, leaves him and enters a deep depression and decides to sell her business. Faith and Julie come after her and haul her off to a beach house. Their solution is to have Damon come and get things straightened out.  Now why anyone would actually bring together a dear friend and someone who assaulted her is beyond me.  That’s like saying, “My best friend is only happy when high on cocaine, so let’s make sure they have plenty!”  What friend feeds destructive addictions?  The ending is actually quite touching, but I still detested them all.

I’m sorry, I have no doubt that Serena agreed to everything that happened, but this is just way past simple kink. Whipping a person with a belt, consensual or not, is abuse and legally assault, or battery in some states. The biggest problem I have with books like Sweet Persuasion is the soft sell glamorizing of what is an inherently dangerous lifestyle that attracts many people with serious psychological problems. This is not some soft focus version of S&M, this is not healthy, mentally or physically. It went past edgy and into an area where every alarm was going off in my head. I simply cannot identify with the characters or even sympathize with them. Frankly, that whole beating scene made me feel sick, not excited, titillated, aroused, just nauseous, and I ended up despising Damon, Serena and Micha, the mutual friend.

Therein lays the problem. The story is very well composed and written, the characters well developed, the friendship among the women very realistic. Even, to an extent, Serena’s need to be submissive has a kind of logic, but accepting a beating and unpleasant oral sex in a group setting was flat out abhorrent and upsetting for me and spoiled the whole book. Yes, I know this is a story of a woman coming to terms with her own sexual needs, however kinky they might be, but anyone who allows themselves to be whipped with a belt – agrees to it – and feels pride in how she handles it, needs to seek professional help. This path very rarely has anything that remotely resembles a happy ending. Whatever else this book is, it’s not exciting to me, just very distressing.

Julia’s story will no doubt be next and I expect Micha plays the lead there. I think I’ll give it a miss.

My Grade: The book is between a B- (3.7*) and an F (0*) for my enjoyment.

Who would enjoy this book: People who enjoy well written BDSM/sex slave novels in a contemporary setting. The rating is xxx.


  1. I can only handle a little BDSM also and SP was too much for me.

    Book #3 is Nathan and Julia’s story. Book #4 – SWEET TEMPTATION – is Micah’s story.

    Comment by seton — June 18, 2009 @ 3:13 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks Seton! Julia does get Nathan. hummmmmmmmmm

    Comment by toursbooks — June 18, 2009 @ 3:31 pm | Reply

  3. I so agree with everything you said about this book. Wonderful review.

    Comment by Marion — August 17, 2009 @ 1:00 pm | Reply

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