I received a copy of J. A. Rock‘s The Subs Club from Netgalley.
Description from Goodreads:
A year ago, my best friend Hal died at the hands of an incompetent “dom.” So I started the Subs Club, a private blog where submissives can review doms and call out the douche bags.
A perfect example of the kind of arrogant asshole I mean? The Disciplinarian. He has a pornstache. He loves meat, stoicism, America, and real discipline. And he thinks subs exist to serve him.
But . . . not everything about him is awful. His Davy Crockett act just seems like a cover for his fear of intimacy, and part of me wants to show him it’s okay to get close to people. And, I mean, sue me, but I have fantasized about real discipline. Not role-play, but like, Dave, you’re gonna be thirty in four years and you still work in a mall; get your ass in gear or I’ll spank it.
Not that I’d ever trust anyone with that kind of control.
I’m gonna redefine “battle of wills” for the Disciplinarian. Or I’m gonna bone him. It’s hard to say.
Sorry, this is a little bit of a discombobulated review, but I can’t decide how to rate this book. In some ways I really liked it (it was funny and witty and subversive) but in others it fell flat for me. And I’m not certain how much of that is the book and how much is that a lot of it just isn’t my kink. I get the pain aspect and thought some of it was hot, though it surpassed my comfort margins. But I can’t blame the book for that; it’s a subjective complaint. As is the fact that I don’t really care for the discipline kink.
[Slight spoiler] But I think the book also felt a little heavy on the BDSM safety lectures and negotiations. This was problematic for me because I kind of thought it was a bit of a ripple in the plot. David started The Subs Club to keep subs safe, instead of going to the existing panel discussions, because the people who come to the discussions were the same-old, same-old and the people who were problematic don’t come. But the happy conclusion to this was that he got to lead a regular panel discussion. OK, yeah, there was the new reporting path created too, but I have a hard time thinking the owners of the club hadn’t been open to that to start with. So, it seemed like an unfortunate concession in the end, which it may have been, but it still left me less than satisfied. But again, am I just being overly critical because that aspect of the book didn’t grab me enough to stop over-thinking it? I don’t know.
Having said that, outside of David’s ‘this is how it should work’ mental mastication (which, though heavy, was much less didactic than a lot of such books), I enjoyed Dave’s insistence on his right to safe words, hard limits and to be treated as a person with agency even as a submissive. Really, in some ways this is what the book is about. How to maintain the passion and spontaneity and danger while also remaining safe, especially when your confidence has been shaken.
I’ve seen a number of reviews refer to David (Pornstash-David) as Ron Swanson. I’ve never even seen the show, but I’ve seen enough memes to get the picture and I couldn’t help but picture him that way. It worked and I liked him a lot. I thought he and sub-David were funny together. I enjoyed the side characters and look forward to reading their books in the future. I loved sub-David’s inner monologue and, though I’m not at all familiar with real life BDSM, I liked that mistakes were made, mold existed, toys had to be sterilized, negotiations happened, etc., etc., etc. I liked that this felt like less of a fantasy BDSM book than most. Though, that’s just as likely to be the effect of a talented writer that can hide the fantasy element of the story as anything else.