Home > Books > Book Review: Dark Secret Love: A Story of Submission by Alison Tyler

Book Review: Dark Secret Love: A Story of Submission by Alison Tyler

2013-09-03 20.40.26Ooo, what’s that?

I am not a big erotica reader. I often say that I just don’t really like to read erotica, but the fact of the matter is, I’m just saying that to be nice. To be honest, I think most of it sucks.

Okay, okay. Some of it that I think sucks doesn’t suck for other people because it’s written by and for people who have sex like they do. Thing is, I don’t have sex like most people. I don’t really interact with people, and particularly my lovers, in the same way most people interact with each other. I never really have. So I often have a hard time relating to the characters, and throughout the entire story, plausible though it might be, I’m sitting there thinking, “This would never happen in my world.” Including some BDSM books.

Reading Dark Secret Love: A Story of Submission was a much different experience. Keep reading to find out why.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Prologue: Behind Blue Eyes
  • Chapter 1: Extracurricular Activities
  • Chapter 2: My Mistake
  • Chapter 3: Heart of Glass
  • Chapter 4: How I Became a Meat Eater
  • Chapter 5: Changing to Chanel
  • Chapter 6: Black Coffee in Bed
  • Chapter 7: Goodbye and Good Luck
  • Chapter 8: She’s Come Undone
  • Chapter 9: Fix You
  • Chapter 10: Black and Blue
  • Chapter 11: Reprieve
  • Chapter 12: The Beginning
  • Chapter 13: Precious
  • Chapter 14: The Arrangement
  • Chapter 15: The Offer
  • Chapter 16: The Garage
  • Chapter 17: Sunset Over Sunset
  • Chapter 18: Alone
  • Chapter 19: Need
  • Chapter 20: Secrets
  • Chapter 21: Consummation
  • Chapter 22: Over the Knee
  • Chapter 23: A No-Win Situation
  • Chapter 24: Show Me
  • Chapter 25: Three-AM Wake-Up Call
  • Chapter 26: Spank Me, Jack
  • Chapter 27: Small World
  • Chapter 28: Everybody Knows
  • Chapter 29: The Kiss
  • Chapter: 30: A Day of Firsts
  • Chapter 31: Love is the Drug
  • Chapter 32: Safe
  • Chapter 33: Shine On, You Crazy Diamond
  • Chapter 34: Cherry Red
  • About the Author
  • An excerpt from The Delicious Torment (an upcoming book)

What’s it about?

It’s about a woman’s life, relationships, and emotions as she explores herself and her sexuality.

How is it?

Rayne’s Rating:
Pros: Cons:
realistic characters
realistic BDSM scenes
hot sex scenes
I could relate completely to the story
was like talking to an old friend
a few non-distracting typos

Here’s what other people are going to say (you’ll find my response to this in the next section):

– The emotions and situations are “cliché”.
– Consent is barely acknowledged.
– There is little negotiation…men say, Samantha does.
– Jack’s kinda stalkerish, and maybe a little abusive. Hello, Christian Grey?

Here’s what I think:

This is what I said about it on Twitter:

And this is what I said about it in a post about fear:

The entire time I read it, it was like light bulbs were going off in my mind and in my pussy, and my jaw was on the floor. I was so wet that Master could smell me, and I couldn’t stop licking my lips. I couldn’t help but smirk at the parts that sounded exactly like Master and me, and feel pride when Samantha would grasp little lessons along the way, just like I have in my journey. And when I was finished, I wanted to start reading all over again, because closing the book left me longing for the conversation I was just having with a kindred spirit about BDSM.

Reading this book was like reading my blog…only the parts I haven’t written. The parts I keep for me because if you practice BDSM the way M and I do, your head will totally falled off! So sayeth the Grand Poobah of BDSM. Whoever the fuck he is. And why’s it gotta be a he?!

We keep a lot of duct tape around just in case, but as you can see from the pictures I post, I still have my head.


The author does a wonderful job of explaining the emotions I went through in the beginning of our relationship. There was a lot of shame surrounding my sexuality. I thought it made me bad. That I deserved “punishment” because I was twisted, even though it would never change anything because that punishment was a reward.

This is something a lot of submissives go through. Not everyone has sexually open or sexually accepting parents to teach them that sex is natural, and okay, and that it’s okay to explore your sexuality. In fact, many people come up in households where all that is considered shameful, and bad, and not to be talked about. And this is often viewed in literature as a BDSM “cliché” or “stereotype”, when in reality, it’s just one of the many life experiences some of us actually have.

In the book, there’s no outright asking for consent, and very little mention of precautions you’re “supposed to” take when engaging in BDSM situations. For example, there are no contracts, and negotiations are rarely expressly discussed, except when Samantha strikes a deal with her roommate to help her get her book finished by deadline. At least, not in the sense that you hear about around the kinky blogosphere, where every detail of every scene is hashed over before the scene takes place. But it’s obvious Samantha’s into it all, even when she’s ashamed of her sexuality.

I guess you’d call this “implied consent”, which is something a lot of people take issue with. And in some cases, I’d agree, but this book is a memoir, of sorts, and I’d rather the author tell it like it is. And anyway, who says you need a long drawn out discussion about consent (especially in a story) when it’s obvious everyone involved is into it?

For that matter, I’d say the lack of negotiation and consent discussions are precisely the point; Samantha’s kink, so to speak. And isn’t that her right as an autonomous person?

The no negotiation issue, for me, is a non-issue. The author shows that Samantha has no real reservations when she’s not sure about something. She speaks up at least twice when she doesn’t feel ready to do something her dom asks. While she is afraid of the punishment she’ll receive for balking, she isn’t really afraid, because for her, that punishment is part and parcel to the whole BDSM gig.

And then there’s Jack. Oh…Jack. Jack is M with a different career, and a whole lot more money. Only M wouldn’t have let me go to New York by myself in the first place. And we live three hours away. There’s a difference between abuse and a partner who is simply possessive. Jack (and M) is simply possessive. Plus, the way I read it, Jack already had the NYC trip set up. He just let Samantha think she was going alone.

The games he plays…the unwinnable situations…

When we got together, M made me fuck a man I had no desire to fuck. I begged and pleaded with him not to make me. I still couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of it not being cheating because he told me to do it. I expected him to renig on the deal.

He told me I was disappointing him. That the man, by now, had to know I didn’t want to fuck him because we shared a very thin wall with him, and I was being loud. He promised to whip me for it. So I went. He is the master, after all. I gave him permission to do this.

And then, when I came back, he made me get myself off while I told him exactly what happened. When it was over, he told me I was a disgusting whore for how turned on I was, and punished me for enjoying it. And I realized this man was going to put me in positions that were unwinnable.

I was too turned on to be upset about my predicament. And then I begged him to keep me despite my whorishness, and expressed my shame.

M laughed. He laughed! And told me that I was his favorite kind of whore and if I ever tried to leave he’d find me and bring me back. Not in the “I’ll beat you up and force you to stay with me” way, but in the “I know you’re scared of who you are, but I will not let you run from that or me” way. And I knew I was home.

That’s what this book is like, for me. It was like, “OMG, someone gets it. I’m not alone.” That’s a pretty big deal. I mean, this is me we’re talking about.

Where’d ya get it?

Cleis Press sent me this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

From their site: Cleis Press, the largest independent queer publishing company in the United States, celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2005. Among many lesbian, feminist, and gay presses that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s, Cleis is one of the only presses that is still run by its founders. Felice Newman and Frédérique Delacoste founded Cleis Press in 1980, and have worked together as co-publishers ever since. Author Regina Marler caught up with them over coffee in San Francisco.

“The beauty of Cleis is that we’re not cynical. We get excited about projects, really passionate. And over the 25 years we’ve been in business, there are no moments when we wanted to give it up. Never. Even when we were cleaning houses to support ourselves.” – Frédérique Delacoste

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  1. September 20th, 2013 at 11:15 | #1

    I fucking loved this book! I am filled with glee that her story is being so well received by those I respect in the lifestyle, because it really spoke to me. Thanks for such a detailed honest review. Alison is my absolute favorite author and I read a shit ton of erotic fiction.

  2. September 21st, 2013 at 10:32 | #2

    @ Karen Blue I’m pretty smitten with her, now, too. I’ve got a huge backlog of books I picked up back in the day to read, plus a couple Cleis just sent me because they’re awesome, but once they’re done, I’m gonna start going through her list. I’ve added a bunch to my Goodreads profile so I don’t forget! Lol.

  3. AndroAngel (Remi)
    September 21st, 2013 at 22:27 | #3

    What you describe is frankly terrifying to me, mostly because I fall much closer to Dominant than submissive on the spectrum and I can’t imagine giving up that much control. I can’t imagine playing unwinnable games with someone. I can, however, see how it’s a seductive and sexy thing that can be wonderful for people who are not me. I can enjoy the fantasy of it, playing pretend, much more than I would enjoy submitting that fully for real. Degrees and milage, I suppose. I think I’d really enjoy this book, even if it speaks to me in a different way. I’ll have to check it out when I get the chance.

  4. September 22nd, 2013 at 09:39 | #4

    @ AndroAngel (Remi) Remi! How HAVE you been? It’s been a while.

    Different strokes for different folks for sure. Though the book is told from Samantha’s point of view, I think doms might enjoy it, too. When you do check it out, please let me know what you thought.

    Keep in touch, eh? You always were one of my favorites. 🙂

  5. AndroAngel (Remi)
    September 22nd, 2013 at 13:40 | #5

    @ Rayne Millaray
    I’ve been well, I finally found a doctor to sterilize me and I’m enjoying life. I’ll keep in touch, sometimes I forget that simply following your blog doesn’t count. I’ve got a super-long reading list, so it might take a bit, but I’ll let you know what I thought when I read it.

  1. September 23rd, 2013 at 16:44 | #1
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