Opening with a cover that features rope bondage, and the party following the collaring ceremony of two of lead character Vivianne’s friends, it is immediately clear that Desire: Stories of Longing by K.L. Joy is not straight-forward (pardon the pun) erotica.
The short novel follows new Domme Vivianne as her life in the BDSM scene evolves and blossoms. Under the guidance of close friend Victor and his “wench” Kate, Vivianne learns how to navigate relationships between her own “girls,” proper punishment, and her own dark past. Professionally, Vivianne’s life is also changing. What started as a small side project making corsets has turned into a booming career — and a chance to explore more of the kink scene.
In the first story, or chapter, we meet Vivianne and see glimpses of her world. We also meet her “slut,” Rhiannon, a dedicated sub who often struggles with jealousy. For a reader who is only mildly acquainted with BDSM and kink culture, I found Vivianne’s story relatively easy to understand if not particularly erotic. As author Joy and Vivianne are both Australians, there were a few times when vocabulary tripped me up — something a quick google search took care of, and shouldn’t frighten off any curious reader.
History and details often feel sketchy or glossed over — though this could be because Desire is a sequel. Having not read the first installment (Catalyst: Stories of Awakening), I cannot address continuity or character building, but only what appears within this single volume.
Often, Joy falls back on BDSM tropes to provide characters with the illusion of having fleshed out personalities. At times, we get glimpses of their lives before, but mostly these are only hints that are applied to a dramatic moment and then dropped never to appear again. Many of Joy’s characters live and work in BDSM-adjacent industries (Jaime is the owner and facilitator of a BDSM training lodge, Victor sponsors fledgling businesses and is generally very rich, and Vivianne herself begins to make a living from her corset and costume-making) though for a few characters there is no mention of life outside of sub or dom-space — how does Rhiannon spend her time or energy when not submitting to the whims and desires of her Ma’am, for example?
Because I don’t bring outside knowledge of BDSM culture to my reading of Desire, I frequently found myself stumbling over the doms and dommes referring to their female subs by pejorative terms. I also found the writing of Lola (a character who comes into play about half-way through the novel) to be racist and full of lazy characterization. Her primary identifiers are a taste for bright colors, and salsa music, a great dancer’s body, and her exaggerated written accent. I would be following the story eagerly, only to cringe at the obvious eroticism of Lola’s “foreign-ness.”
Perhaps my problem with the second book in K.L. Joy’s Stories Of… series is that it wasn’t written for me. Those who enjoy BDSM-flavored erotica should consider the series — though far from perfect or truly well-written — as a tertiary addition to their collection.