Saturday, November 27, 2021

Cruel Idols by Sorcha Black


I almost didn't get this book because the blurb really put me off with its use of the word "alphahole," which made me think that this was going to be one of those edgelord dark romance novels that seem to be in vogue these days. But my friend Namera's review intrigued me. As a writer myself, I really enjoy reading books about writer characters that go in-depth into their processes and motivations, and the idea of a dark sadomasochistic polyamory story revolving around "method writing" for erotic horror novels sounded fascinating.

The premise requires a bit of suspension of disbelief but it isn't totally implausible. Sadie, a destitute aspiring author, finds out that one of her idols, Vandal Stokes, has a summer cottage in her town. She bikes up to his house with a copy of his book, hoping for an autograph. Somehow, she ends up in his house and finds him half-naked and angry. He's convinced that she's a spy who wants to steal his ideas, and she ends up in a weird contract where she's basically his consensual prisoner until the book is finished so she can't spill his secrets.

While imprisoned in his house, Sadie finds out that Vandal has a lover named Zero. Both of them are pansexual and involved in a Dom/sub relationship (Zero is a switch). Part of that involves Zero writing X amount of words every day or being subject to (ahem) sexy punishments. Sadie, a kinkster herself, finds this very appealing and ends up becoming both of their submissive as she begins writing her own twisted messed up horror erotica. The three of them end up in a pretty intense sexual dynamic which would be toxic if it weren't fully consensual. CRUEL IDOLS is dark but weirdly, it's also funny AF and surprisingly tender and I really ended up loving all three of the characters.

I was actually having a really great conversation with one of my friends just the other day about how I wish more dark romances had an emotional component to them that goes behind "me alpha with big dick who wants to bang heroine." It just feels so superficial and empty, like it's all about the sex. Maybe some people are into that, but it's a big turn-off for me. I really need the characters to have some sort of connection. In CRUEL IDOLS, it's about their mutual love of writing and willingness to explore dark places, but also about how all of them are missing a key component of affection in their personal lives that their interactions with each other feeds. It feels very nuturing and when they're not engaging in knife-play or pet play or what have you, they tease and support each other and banter and have fun, so it never feels abusive or too scary, even when things get dark.

So basically, I enjoyed this book. It actually had a similar dynamic to another M/F/M book I read not too long ago, called VICTORIOUS STAR. I liked this book better, though. It had less dub-con, no body modifications, and the writing was much better. I'll definitely be checking out more of her works.

4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars

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