Whoo, Pleasure House by Scarlet Darkwood is one. wild. ride.
Ok, let’s see if I can do this review justice without too many spoilers.
The book opens with twenty-year-old Rose reminiscing in her cozy bed about a tryst the night before. Her father catches her rosy, er, I mean red handed. It’s a time of heavy religious intolerance, no drinking allowed, etc., and her parents are worried what will happen to the family if word gets out about her wildness. She’s summarily carted off to The House, a place where men and women with behavioral issues are either spectacularly cured or never heard from again.
Turns out The House specializes in helping people explore their sexual desires. The rest of the novel is quite the education for our young heroine. As Rose arrives at The House, she notes a quote from Dante hanging over the door. “Abandon hope, all who enter here.” She asks about it during her intake interview, and is told:
“Rose, the sign means you must abandon all hope of ever quenching the primal desires contained deep inside you. You were born with them—they comprise your most basic nature—and they are part of who you are. We’re all made that way. Our goal here is to help you explore these desires in depth and appreciate their raw beauty. In the end, you’ll know yourself better than anyone.”
What I loved: The style of writing is delightful. Pleasure House is a compendium of kinks. Dominance and submission, voyeurism and exhibitionism, anal, menage, oral, medical play, watersports, sounding, bondage, spanking, male-male, female-female, male-female, gay-straight …Oh my gosh I can’t even list all the variations. However, it isn’t a pornfest. A gentle sense of wonder pervades the story. Rose has found a place that accepts who she is and encourages her to be all that she can be. No one judges what others enjoy.
What I’d have liked to see: more time devoted to exploring each sexual encounter. That probably would have meant fewer sex scenes, but I’d rather savor. Linger. Devour slowly. At times I felt we raced from one sexperience to the next, like Rose’s attendant had a checklist and a schedule to run her through sexual positions.
Speaking of lingering, let me linger on one particular theme that is explored, and that’s golden showers. It’s not my thing, so I was prepared to read past it quickly. However – and it’s a really important however – Ms. Darkwood described the act in respectful, gentle, loving, non-raunchy language.
I’m still not interested in trying for myself, but it didn’t turn me off, and it certainly didn’t offend. Which is, I guess, my point here.
While The House couldn’t exist in reality – it’s more like an experiment in sexual open-mindedness gone spiraling down the rabbit hole – I love the idea of people completely accepting each other, willing to try things, focused on mutual pleasure, and according equal power regardless of gender.
It takes some chutzpah to write so far off the vanilla path. I commend Ms. Darkwood on her level of research, and the respect with which she approaches each scene.
If you’re willing to keep an open mind, I guarantee you’ll find things to enjoy in the Pleasure House. And possibly it will make you question the arbitrary societal rules that dictate what’s accepted and what’s forbidden.
I received a complimentary copy of Pleasure House (The Pleasure House Tales Book 1) in return for an honest review. It’s available from Amazon US and Amazon UK. As of the time of this review, the author has published 5 books in the series, which can be read in any order.