1001 Erotic Nights, Part I: Slave Girl
I picked up Slave Girl, set in the Roman Empire, as part of my ongoing quest to try new settings. The setting was adequately developed, mixing authentic Roman elements with some supernatural Celtic fantasy. The characters were acceptable but not great, and the writing is technically sound. The problem, though, was really in the erotica element. You know the euphemism “Whatever floats your boat?” Well, these sex scenes were to my boat like the iceberg was to the Titanic , and the last thing you want from erotica is a cold, sinking feeling.
Nimia, slave to Sygarius, is a virgin being trained as a sex slave. (Yeah, I know. She also magically has an internal hymen.) More interestingly, Sygarius is the ruler of a Roman province in Gaul and in political negotiations with barbarian ruler Childeric and his son Clovis, who are actual historical figures (Clovis will go on to unify the Franks and set the area on the path to becoming France). Everybody wants Nimia; Nimia wants Clovis; Nimia gets Clovis, then Sygarius takes Nimia. We’re also introduced to the mystery of Nimia’s background. She doesn’t know her people, but Clovis tells her that he’s seen her tattoos before on a wizard named Maerlin. It seems that she’s from a race that gains supernatural powers from sex.
As a whole, Nimia’s character is too centered on sex. I know we’re in an erotic novel, but people can have sex and lust, and still have other personality elements. For instance, Nimia’s attitude towards her own enslavement is almost entirely grounded in sex. Sygarius is her “living god, [her] source of all pleasure and pain, food and shelter, kindness and the threat of rejection.” Six elements bind her to her master, four of which are sexual, and given equal weight to food. When Nimia rebels against Sygarius by taking Clovis as a lover, it’s at least part in protest of her slavery.“For too long, the will of another had built my hungers and denied them satisfaction.” Mostly, however, she’s just really horny. She also uses the word “cunny” a lot, which I found really silly.
Now, everybody’s different as far as their erotica preferences go, but there are some things I’m going to flat-out say don’t belong anywhere near sex scenes. One is children, and the other is animals. While Slave Girl doesn’t actually cross those lines, it teeters so far over the edge of them that my sense of narrative tension mostly came from anxiety.
In one scene, in the antechamber to an orgy, is “a naked boy, no more than ten,” reciting a poem about Bacchus. Yes, he stays out of the orgy. Yes, naked child poetry recitations are probably part of real Roman history. Yes, I still feel absolutely disgusting having typed that, and no, I was not able to salvage any sort of mood for the subsequent scene.
The author has multiple weird flirtations with bestiality imagery. Again, not actual sex with actual animals, but it’s still weird and jarring. In one scene, a woman uses the head of a swan statue as a dildo while Sygarius ruminates on the legend of Leda and the swan. In another, there’s a bull symbolizing Bacchus, and Nimia wonders if it’s going to have sex with her. We find out a little later that it’s two men in a costume, but that moment before we learned was profoundly icky.
Sygarius, Clovis, and Childeric are interesting enough that I wished this had been a historical romance with political/dynastic elements instead of erotica. That would also have freed up page count for more character development for Nimia, with more emphasis on her mind and less on her libido. The book costs $1.99 but only introduces us to Nimia’s story; there are two more installments already available. I’m intrigued by the model that lets you buy a book in segments, but I’m not going to test it out on this particular story.