19 November 2014

The Little Red Book by Melinda Barron

 When English professor Charlotte Farley finds a bright red paperback titled Educating Charlotte in a used book store, she has no idea the story told within the pages will soon resemble her own life after she takes a dream job in the mountains of New Mexico. When she meets her new advisor she finds out he is not only an expert in Latino literature but a masterful Dom.

When Felix Cordova finds a little red book in Charlotte’s office, he finds out she’s not only smart and beautiful, but she’s submissive. More research tells him she’s never been properly trained. The only thing for Felix to do is give up his professional interest in Charlotte and turn into a different sort of mentor...one who operates with ropes, belts and whips.
I loved the premise of The Little Red Book and was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately the book just didn’t work for me. I enjoyed Ms. Barron’s writing style and the ease with which the story flows, but I did not like Felix once he and Charlotte embarked on their D/s relationship.

I found it quite interesting that during the lunch at the café when he has Charlotte read a passage from the little red book, he tells her that unlike the Mr. Riddle from the book, he does care that his sub enjoys their activities. Yet throughout most of the book, to me his actions don’t line up with this. There were several times during the book that I felt that rather than pushing her limits, Felix was outright ignoring them and doing whatever pleased him. I was shocked that he took her to the playdate on their second official weekend together and refused to tell her what to expect. As their previous discussion regarding limits was woefully inadequate, I found his treatment of her appalling. His refusal to listen to her concerns about proposed acts and his “you’ll take what I want, how I want, and when I want” attitude esd a major turn-off for me as it reeks of abusive rather than dominant. As did his withholding of forgiveness after a punishment spanking. The point of a punishment spanking is to absolve the sub of guilt and start with a clean slate, yet he only granted forgiveness a couple of times and actually said “perhaps” when she asked for forgiveness after one punishment spanking. And that he gave her instructions that were designed to make her fail and “earn” a punishment just pissed me off.

Equally irritating was that Charlotte believed that if she used her safe word then that not only ended the scene but the relationship. Whether it was true or not is irrelevant because it was how Charlotte felt and it influenced her decisions. That said, if it was true it merely shows how big of an arse Felix was, and if it wasn’t true, then it points at his failure to communicate with his sub. And this points to where my biggest issue lies – his failure to train Charlotte. While it is true that Charlotte had some experience in the lifestyle, Felix determines that she is not as well-trained as he would like, yet does little to train her outside of punishing her when she’s wrong. Granted, there were parts of their arrangement that Charlotte enjoyed, but his refusal to acknowledge or negotiate about new components being added to their relationship were problematic for me. Sadly The Little Red Book is just an okay read for me, thus the 2-star rating. This is one of those books that I recommend you check out for yourself because you may not have the issues with Felix that I did and Ms. Barron’s writing style is enjoyable to read even if the characters are not.
Before I begin I want to stress that a review is the opinion of the reader and NOT an overall judgment of the book for all readers.  This book will be perfect for some readers so please continue this review with an open mind.
I found that I became very frustrated with this story not too far into it.  I went in expecting a BDSM theme story and while there were some aspects to BDSM, for me Felix was NOT a Dom, he was an egoistic, self-centered jerk.  I was intrigued with the story from the synopsis, they were both working in the same profession and he was her mentor.  He found something I her that sparked an interest and he wanted to properly train her regarding her submissive personality. 
As the story began it was clear that we were dealing with two very intelligent people and I was excited to see how this would work out.  Not long after the first chapter I realized that I was not going to be entertained, I was going to be frustrated and angry.  Felix pushed her to satisfy his needs and desires, calling her a play toy, using her as furniture, offering her to others for torture and not holding his agreement to keep her safe at all times. Okay so nothing dangerous actually happened to her, but I didn’t see the protectiveness in Felix that we have come to expect from a Dom.  She had her moments of being a strong woman whom I could admire but once he entered the scene, she became a weak minded woman.  I can’t even say that she was a proper submissive because she would protest and beg for things to not happen or for the pain to stop, yet convinced herself quickly that this was for him, even before he took on the official role of Master.
From the books I have read, the people I have become friends with and talked to whom live the lifestyle, I have gained an understanding about how a BDSM relationship should work.  Felix in my opinion was NOT concerned about Charlotte’s safety or her pleasure.  She ended up pleasing herself under his command more than he did it for her.  There were many times she begged and screamed for the scene to end because of the pain and his common response was, “no you can handle more.”  In defense to the author and the book, Charlotte never used her safe word so I guess this is one of those gray areas left up to each reader’s opinion. 
There was a plot to the book although it was lost on some occasions with the sex scenes.  I can admit that even though most of the play scenes came across to me as a method of torture to Charlotte for not submitting correctly, they were unique and techniques I have not read before in any other book.  I would only suggest this book to those who love their BDSM stories to not only nudge the line, but stand on it and taunt the reader as to what is consensual and what isn’t.  For those who love the traditional BDSM stories, go in with the understanding this might not fit your needs and meet your expectations.  


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