Exit to Eden has a picture of a Dominatrix on the cover and the blurb says it's all about dominance and submission at a private island kink club playground for the wealthy and powerful.
It's written by Anne Rice. One of my all time favourite authors. I read the Vampire Chronicles as an impressionable, already slightly pervy youth and it's possible there would be no Oz Bigdownunder if it weren't for the malign and wonderful influence of those homo-erotic, sensuous, kinky vampires.
Actually, I take it back. The Vampires are not to blame. Long before the Vampire Chronicles came along, I was into Masters of the Universe. I was always destined to be this way with He-Man as a male role model. What could possibly be less straight and vanilla than a buff dude with a mullet, rocking a bearskin mankini and flirting outrageously with his nemesis, Skeletor, resplendent in a leather hero harness and proud owner of a castle with all the Desade trimmings.
So I wanted to love this book. It's about BDSM, bisexuality, forbidden lust, mystery, elegance, loss of innocence and people paying to satisfy their most secret desires. And it's written by Anne Rice! It has to be awesome.
Out of 321 pages. Only about 150 are spent at Eden, the private island BDSM club. That part of the book is ok. But then, for some reason, the second half of the book has no kink at all apart from one scene where the star crossed lovers slather each others naked bodies in butter and lick it off. Butter. Seriously. I hope they left a tip for housekeeping.
Act 2 is just a romance between two people who used to be kinky but then fell in love at first sight despite knowing almost nothing about each other. At the exact second they get romantic, they both immediately lose all interest in BDSM.
The main characters are Lisa, co-owner of Eden and uber mega super Dominatrix extraordinaire and Elliot, a bisexual millionaire playboy thrill seeker with a masochistic streak.
I liked most of Lisa's scenes from the first half of the book.
What goes on behind the scenes of something like Eden and what kind of person is able to thrive and excel in such a place is fascinating and fun to read.
But why does she have to be consumed by some gnawing Catholic guilt about it all? Does the world really need another sex worker character who's insecure and uptight about sex work just begging to be rescued by some knight in shining armour? Couldn't we have a Pro Domme character who actually loves being a Pro Domme?
I get that there has to be a character arc and sex worker needs to be rescued, gets rescued, lives happily ever after is an easy and obvious character arc, but I was just disappointed.
So they fall in love, turn their backs on Eden and run off to New Orleans where they galivant around in chauffeur driven limousines shacking up in 5 star hotels and behaving like crass, self indulgent, bland, vanilla honeymooners. At one point they guzzle down a lobster at some fancy restaurant and enjoy it so much they immediately order another lobster. They drink beer for breakfast. Elliot reads poetry out loud and even reads excerpts from "On the Road" whilst their limousine driver idles in front of whatever luxury hotel they're in, with no apparent sense of irony.
The novel's treatment of BDSM is superficial and occasionally problematic.
Key aspects of BDSM culture, such as consent, safety, and emotional connection, are either glossed over or misrepresented. Couldn't Rice have shown this book to someone who's actually kinky before publishing it? Surely anyone who's actually into BDSM could have told her the portrayal of kink as a symptom of psychological damage or as incompatible with genuine love is a disservice to the BDSM community and perpetuates harmful misconceptions.
Only in the last few pages they remember she used to be some amazing domme goddess. This comes up when Elliot has proposed they meet each other's father's and get married in a church. Gag. And assures her that he's fine with her career and doesn't want to stand in the way if she wants to carry on being the ultra mega domme. So he's going to "let" her continue with her career? In the same breath he's talking about their vows of fidelity so I guess she'll be "allowed" to manage the kink resort but won't be allowed to get kinky or sexy with anyone except for her husband? Please.
The characters had potential and the kink scenes at Eden were fun. The rest was awful.
Exit to Eden could have been a classic if it were written in reverse. ie Elliot and Lisa are already married at the start of the novel. They're both former kinksters who have lost their kinky way. They think they need more romance in their lives so they go to New Orleans on a second honeymoon. This brings them closer and they realise what they were really missing in their lives was BDSM. So they move back to Eden where Lisa used to reign as Goddess supreme. They work their way up through the ranks of kinkiness at Eden until Lisa takes her rightful place once more as supreme Kinkstress with help from her devoted husband and slave Elliot. See? Character Arcs. Without any sex workers needing to get rescued. Could have been awesome.
The moment when Lisa falls completely head over heels with Elliot is when she's gazing longingly at a photo of him in a turtleneck. I pictured him as Sterling Archer from then on.
In the first kinky scene in the book, Elliot attempts to tap out saying "I can't do it" but they haven't discussed any limits or boundaries or established consent or agreed safewords so they just power on blithely regardless.
Lisa used to be a Professional Submissive. The idea that Pro Subs are beginners who might graduate to become Pro Dommes may not resonate with some of the incredibly talented Pro Subs of my acquaintance.
Elliot gets a lot of attention from the trainers at the club. These scenes are great but aren't the trainers and the slaves the employees of Eden? Shouldn't their priority be entertaining the paying guests? We don't see much of that so it's a strange business model.
The first sex scene with Elliot and Lisa involves her sucking his armpits and then pegging him. There's no mention of consent. Again. Also no mention of him douching and no mention of lube.
Likewise, there's a scene where Elliot and another slave are made to wrestle. The winner of the wrestling gets to sodomise the loser.
Again, no mention of consent, douching or lube.
There is some mention of Elliot's limits and boundaries. He has phobias regarding blindfolds and public humiliation. So guess what happens to him. This is not usually how I would approach negotiating a scene with a sub. When they tell me what they explicitly don't want to do, that would not be my go to for their first session with me.
Lisa spends about 10 pages digging around in Elliot's luggage culminating in her sniffing one of his turtlenecks. I mean, the man must look amazing in a skivvy.
He should join the Wiggles.
Elliot declares his love for Lisa by signing a copy of his own book for her. Cringe.
Lisa and Elliot have a deep and meaningful talk about the place of Eden in this world. They conclude that man has a natural inclination to go to war and to rape and that BDSM clubs provide an outlet and thus save the world from war and rape. Facepalm dot jpg.
Apparently Exit to Eden was made into a movie. It's a buddy cop comedy and the film is even worse than the book.
Please don't read this book or watch the movie. Read the Vampire Chronicles instead and I promise you'll get a much better sense of Anne Rice's talents. If you want to read something kinky and sexy, check out the Erotic Fiction category on Elust.