NOTE: The following reviews first appeared on Amazon in June of 2012. Thought they might be fun to revisit just in time for Valentine's Day 2013. Enjoy! TAS
Andre SanThomas is a talented writer with a decided gift for descriptive prose.
She is rapidly establishing herself as one of the brightest new voices in erotic
"crossover" fiction; combining elements from different--often seemingly
disparate--genres to create new and interesting sensual fantasy worlds. Her
excellent Realm of Janos series cleverly hybridizes High Fantasy and classic
tales of bondage and submission. This title, Pursuit is the second entry in
her contemporary Sensual Submissions series, an artful mélange of erotic romance
and BDSM epic.
By all appearances, Garrett Wilkins is one of those
romance-story demigods; older, magnetically attractive, über-wealthy and
hyper-confident; a guy who always gets exactly what he wants, no questions
asked. He sets his jaundiced eye on Botany, a struggling young college student,
aimless, diffident, lovely, if vaguely rough around the edges. Garrett quickly
insinuates himself into Botany's life, surprising and upsetting her with a
dazzling gift--the sort of extravagant high-end bling she doesn't feel right
accepting. Here, she tries returning it to her admirer, only to be
"Try it now. Let me just see it on you. Isn't that fair? I went
to quite a bit of trouble to get it, don't I at least get to see if it's as
perfect as I imagined?"
She was wavering. He pressed the button and the box
opened in front of her. He picked it up delicately by the chain, holding it
before her. "Try it for me Botany. Let me see if it measures up to your beauty
He stood and came around her. Just like last night, she didn't
protest, didn't pull away. He scooped her hair from the back of her neck,
pushing it to the side. He draped the necklace against her throat, letting the
fine stones rest against her sweater. He leaned close, his breath touching her
skin. He brushed his fingers over the nape of her neck then secured the clasp.
His touch lingered on her, teasing her before he whispered in her
"You're a masterpiece, Botany. Don't ever forget it. I won't forget it.
Obviously, there's much to like and enjoy in this writing.
SanThomas has an eye for the intimate, and the best parts of Pursuit are in
its discrete episodes; individual scenes, interesting vignettes that feel like
embryonic short stories; visits to a sex-toy shop, a bizarrely bespoke jewelry
store, and a piercing salon; a wrestling match between two "subbies;" truly
tantalizing. But beyond these lucid flashes of atmospheric brilliance, nothing
really animates the narrative as a whole. It is as if a composer set out to
write a full-length symphony with themes better suited to small-scale chamber
music; a painter with far too broad a canvas and not enough variety in her
palette to cover it convincingly. In fact, we are led to wonder if this aspiring
novel might have worked better as a series of loosely interconnected short
stories. As it is, there are some serious problems with structure, pacing, and
The novel adheres too rigidly to genre conventions, often at the expense of tension. Much of Pursuit is choreographed like a
mainstream Romance; the girl playing coy; the guy trying to keep her off
balance; it is the familiar ritual mating dance reduced to fossilized formula.
Romance requires love; but here, love seems to come out of left field, almost as
an afterthought, the heroine "talking herself into it" some four-fifths of the
way into the book, and even then not wholly believable in the context of these
The characters themselves are robotic and one
dimensional, shallow constructs; their roles rigidly defined by genre
archetype-casting; their psychologies superficial and largely unexplored.
Garrett is a selfish a-hole; but even a-holes have some self-doubt from time to
time; some inner conflict; some redeeming contradiction and paradox to lend
depth and interest. (If not, what we have is a sociopath to whom no
self-respecting woman would ever willingly submit. Just because you play at
BDSM, doesn't mean you're sick or perverted!) And if Garrett always gets
everything he wants, using his wealth to overcome any and all obstacles while
Botany's submission is inevitable; where's the story?
Botany is too weak
a character to be an effective foil for Garrett; she is often too passive; too
easily dominated; too willing to go along with whatever her "master" demands,
even when he is overtly sadistic and uncaring beyond the definition of their
game. In retrospect, the seduction is too easy, too pat; drained of drama.
Where's the uncertainty that makes the tale worth telling--that compels readers
to keep turning pages? Where's the conflict--the pursuit?
And where are
these characters' backstories? We are told little of Garrett's past beyond a few
of his own disparaging references to an ex-trophy wife and a disappointing
daughter. In fact, forty per cent of the way into the book, we know more about
his servant's home life and backgrounds than we do of his. (The weirdly casual,
almost incestuous relationship he has with the servants tends to strain
credulity. How did such a relationship develop?) What, beyond his fabulous
wealth, formed his rather banal, predictable tastes? If Botany has dreams, we
don't learn about them until near the end of the story, and by then, they seem
to have appeared spontaneously out of nowhere, glued on like craft-store
glitter. What is her "ruling passion" (as James N. Frey would call it); her
central motivation; the thing she truly wants? For far too long, we simply don't
know--and that's a problem.
This story could have benefitted from more
overt action beyond the bedroom and the dungeon. There were several intriguing
missed opportunities for dramatic story-telling. If Garrett is portrayed as such
a controlling jerk, why isn't he also jealous? I kept wishing for a good fist
fight to break out over some misunderstanding about who is and isn't allowed to
touch or talk to Botany; but the green-eyed monster never reared its head--not
In sum; not a terrible or bad book; but it could have been
considerably better. Andre SanThomas clearly has the talent to do something
better--even brilliant, and I sincerely hope she will with her next offering.
With Driven, Andre SanThomas has given her fans an interesting new world to
explore, populated with realistic, recognizably modern characters. Another
clever mash-up of genres; this one melds contemporary romance with BDSM epic,
and does it quite successfully for the most part.
SanThomas' language is,
as always, lovely and evocative, a considerable cut above the dismal norm of so
much recent erotic writing. Here's a good example, taken from her first
Honestly, he didn't think such things were real. Greg assured
him they were though and now here was the proof. The house was a mansion
secluded with security gates and gorgeous landscaping, trickled over the
hillside with spectacular views. It rose two stories in the front with a huge
picture window perfectly situated to take advantage of (the) beauty of nature.
Instead, tonight at least, the naked beauty of nature was on the other side,
held in a web of hemp and illuminated by the spotlights hidden in the
The two well-drawn main characters are likeable and sexy,
engaging and believable. Cerena is a magnificent creature, imbued with beauty,
verve and humor; a willing submissive, but never a pushover. She embodies the
spirit of the ancient Greek hetaera, the Japanese geisha, and the Gorian slave
girl, all in one delightfully vivacious package. For Cerena, the thrill of
bondage and submission is the comfort of unconditional belonging, the certainty
that transcends pain.
Alec, Cerena's lover and a first-time "master," is
portrayed with just the right amount of self-doubt and uncertainty. He is the
kind of sensitive, romantically-inclined male many women claim to look for in a
relationship; and he must overcome his doubts; his reticence; his initial
reluctance to inflict "loving pain" on the woman he adores, even as she begs him
So what happens to these people--apart from their having a lot of
fantastic, mind-blowing sex, that is? A good novelist gets her characters into
trouble early and often. Throw a villain into the mix, and we have the makings
of an intriguing dramatic plot. The first inkling of conflict comes at exactly the right moment in the
story. The villain, Cerena's loutish ex-master, Hal, wants her back. His
off-stage machinations cast a shadow between the two lovers, and haunts them
throughout the story.
Unfortunately, the villain is more talked about
than seen; we are told a great deal about what a lousy excuse for a human being
Hal is, but seldom shown how in terms of real action. This almost feels like
gossiping behind someone's back--a guilty pleasure, to be sure, but lacking the
more satisfying adrenaline rush of direct confrontation. The author's consistent
use of a third-person-limited point of view works well when alternating between
the two main characters--avoiding the common pitfall of "head hopping"--but
does, in fact, limit our understanding of the other characters. We never get
into Hal's head, and that could be incredibly interesting or unbelievably scary
and probably both. Instead, we miss out on a great deal of potential
Readers might also benefit from more backstory in order to
understand the events and motivations leading up to the climax of the novel.
Again, we are "told" that Cerena's family disapproves of her lifestyle, but
there's not enough detail or substance in these oblique references to make what
happens seem wholly plausible in the end. Characters have a tendency to pop up
as needed, whack-a-mole-like out of nowhere; but it would have been so much more
suspenseful to have seen them coming from at least a little ways off. Far too
many interesting things seem to occur out of sight, ultimately related to the
reader as hearsay, and explained after the fact.
Still, all things
considered, this is a fine effort and well worth a look. As with all her
previous titles, Andre SanThomas' Driven is cleverly imagined and deftly
written, helping to fill a new and growing niche in contemporary erotic fiction.
Her fans will not be disappointed, and this might very probably gain her a few
new ones as well.