Desert Isle Keeper
Can a BDSM f/f romance, written and illustrated by a man be the sweetest, funniest, and most romantic thing you’ve read this year? The answer is a surprising but resounding yes.
Lisa Williams has always had a bondage kink, but she’s limited herself to solo experimentation and writing erotic stories. Her online stories catch the eye of Ally Carter, who has BDSM experience with a man but has never been a Domme a female partner before. Ally invites Lisa to explore her fantasies, and the two find themselves hitting it off on a personal level. The question is – are they Domme/sub? Best friends? Roommates? Or something more? And which of them will have the nerve to ask?
The art in this book is stunning. The character’s faces are wonderfully expressive, and the author, especially by book five, comes up with creative ways to visually bring dialogue and internal processing to life. Video game versions of the characters and Lisa’s fight with a green doppelganger representing her own self-loathing are highlights.
But Sejic does something completely unexpected here, and that is strip the exploitative male gaze from a book that is, visually at least, primarily about two attractive women having sex with each other. Sejic’s tied-up, actively BDSM characters are less pornographically contorted than women in other comics doing something as mundane as going upstairs. The characters do strike poses sometimes, but for themselves and each other, not the reader. Their facial expressions during sex capture personal, internal experience, not vacantly performed lust. (In terms of nudity, the story has female frontal nudity but no explicit genitals, and when men are depicted, penises are not shown.). That being said, while the characters are technically marvelous, there’s a visual sameness – too many perfect-bodied white women and white men with hair that is either naturally red or tinged red by the lighting the author uses for visual effect.
In addition to his ability to illustrate women being sexual in a human, individual way, Sejic also writes Lisa and Ally as realistic, multidimensional women. Even in a BDSM-focused novel, they have lives, friends, hobbies, and jobs outside of their relationship. Lisa has so much internal life it actually becomes excessive, with voice overs that are so many and so tiny that I found them physically painful for my eyes. As an admitted non-expert, this book was the most nuanced and detailed exploration of BDSM and kink I’ve seen, with an important question for Ally and Lisa being “Does being the domme give Ally responsibilities in the rest of their relationship?”
Sunstone is not over – Lisa and Ally’s relationship (with an HEA) is volumes 1-5, and volume 6, released in March, begins an arc about different characters. Volume 5 was one of the most delightful and satisfying things I’ve read in a long time. I devoured it in one evening with a huge soppy grin on my face. I didn’t expect two kinky characters to win me over by being so damn cute, but there we are.
The bottom line is, this story is sexy but also extremely sweet and utterly charming. Give Lisa, Ally, and their author a chance to win you over. You won’t be sorry.