Sunday, July 27, 2014

Abigail Barnette/Jenny Trout's THE BOSS

Love it or hate it, the release of the Fifty Shades series brought the erotica genre to the forefront in literature as well as popularized the BDSM subculture. Eventually, I broke down and read the books. Here's what I thought: the story had promise. But there were several things that held it back from being what I would call a really good read. The first being the elephant in the room that everyone (including some fans of the series) mentioned, and that is the less than stellar writing and/or lack of editing. Then there are the characters themselves who I feel had potential to be three dimensional but just weren't fleshed out in a way where they could have really been - for me - relatable. Add to that, there were aspects of the relationship between Christian and Ana that not only had those in the BDSM community less than thrilled, but also those with experience in abusive relationships.
While I don't claim to be a BDSM expert, I do know individuals within the scene, and I know enough to recognize the flaws that present themselves in Fifty Shades. Therefore, I can only hope that those wanting to try BDSM after reading the Fifty Shades trilogy will do some non-fiction research instead of blindly trying to imitate the actions described in the books.

With that said, I also want to raise the point of this particular series and many of its knock offs typically showing a person into BDSM being into it simply because they are damaged and need cured of their 'addiction.' How many of them show a real, honest to goodness, BDSM relationship in a way that is closer to how such relationships actually work?
I discovered author Jenny Trout (aka Abigail Barnette in the erotica world) via the Jenny Reads section on her blog when I was searching critical reviews on Fifty Shades. She obviously had strong opinions on the trilogy and was doing a rather entertaining chapter by chapter recap of the book. Then, she announced in 2012 that she was going to be releasing a serial novel titled, The Boss via her blog, as an experiment of sorts. It was to be a more realistic and sex-positive twist on Fifty Shades. Of course, something like that can be hit or miss and I was definitely intrigued. I'd also come to enjoy her writing, so I followed along, reading each installment of The Boss as it was released. Jenny (Abigail) herself even stated that this is something that could either end on a very positive note or have her falling flat on her face in trying to achieve it.

So for starters, The Boss had no self-loathing, inexperienced heroine, and the billionaire was not some poor, tormented soul who just happened to strike it rich at a very young age. In fact, The Boss features a 24-year-old heroine by the name of Sophie Scaife who is confident, self-assured in most aspects of her life, and sexually experienced.  And the billionaire, Neil Elwood? Well, he isn't a self-made billionaire in his mid to late twenties. Nope. He is a self-made billionaire in his late forties (yep, you read that correctly).
Now I know some may be cringing at that, but you know what? Jenny/Abigail writes it in a way that works and the reader is able to see and understand their attraction. Plus, it is more realistic to be a self-made billionaire in your forties instead of your twenties. Unless the guy is a trust-fund baby who used his inheritance to start a business, and even in that situation, he still wouldn't really be self-made. Not completely, at least.
Neil is also a sexually confident individual, and while Sophie is experienced, she is new to BDSM. Therefore, he takes the time to make sure she educates herself on the subject, presenting her with reliable (non-fiction) books and material instead of just telling her to look it up on Wikipedia (something Christian did with Ana in Fifty Shades that I had a huge issue with). After all, such a relationship takes a great amount of trust between the individuals involved. Unlike what Christian, Neil made sure Sophie properly researched in order to come to an honest assessment of whether or not it was something she would be interested in. There was also no stalking or tracking the other person, and if Neil or Sophie did cross any boundaries (these people are human, after all), it was made sure an understanding was reached of it not occurring again.
Neil also made sure Sophie knew exactly what was going on during their sexual encounters, especially the first ones. He made sure the enjoyment was mutual. He also didn't get upset when she safeworded him (another issue I had with Fifty say that Christian threw a hissy fit when Ana had the audacity to safeword him is a gross understatement).
Now, this doesn't mean that Neil and Sophie didn't have their problems as I already stated above. There is a generational gap, something that does prove an adjustment for both. Jenny does a great job presenting them as flawed human beings who sometimes don't handle their situations in an ideal fashion, but who wants to read about perfect people?

I very much enjoyed reading The Boss and loved it's take on Fifty Shades. While other authors rode the Fifty Shades coattails and used the same formula, Jenny Trout/Abigail Barnette took that and went in another direction. A direction that worked very well.

The Boss series currently has four released installments:
The Boss
The Girlfriend 
The Hookup (a short)
The Bride

2015 is to bring the release of the last two installments, The Ex and The Baby.

I think what I also like about The Boss series, is that it touches on subjects some might consider controversial or taboo for a romance series. And yes, some have been put off by it. But you know what? It calls many "supposed tos" into question, as does her blog. I can always appreciate someone who is able to think critically and call into question what is being pushed, even if I may not necessarily agree with every last thing the person says.

In a way, I can understand why Fifty Shades of Grey and books that follow it's pattern are enjoyed. They are fantasies, and everyone loves a good fantasy. But it should be taken as just that instead of the 'how-to guide' it seems to be turning it into (or already has turned into). If you want a more realistic exploration a BDSM relationship in a fictional setting, check out The Boss.

And one of the best parts about The Boss series is that the first book is available for free in ebook form (the books also come in paperback as well). So what have you got to lose? :)

The Boss on Amazon

The Boss on Smashwords

The Boss on Barnes & Noble NOOK

I will be discussing the series further as the week continues. :)

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