Photo credit: http://www.netgalley.com
First off, I have to warn you that this book is not for everyone. It tells the (seemingly true) story of Jenny Nordbak, a young woman looking to explore her kinky side. Jenny gets a job in an LA Dungeon working as a “switch” – someone who either acts as a dominatrix or a submissive for paying clients in order to fulfil their wildest fantasies. Although there is no penetration and no exchange of bodily fluids the scenarios that Mistress Scarlett (Jenny’s alter ego) acts out are still pretty extreme. This is not a novel for the easily offended.
There will be an obvious comparison between this book and Fifty Shades of Grey. Having read both, the major differences are:
1. The Scarlett Letters features scenarios where both individuals involved are fulfilling their fantasies
2. The Scarlett Letters contains fully consensual sexual scenes
3. The Scarlett Letters is realistic
4. The Scarlett Letters shows how the submissive participant is actually in control
5. The Scarlett Letters is about a woman exploring her sexuality on her own terms, laying down her own ground rules and having fun
6. The Scarlett Letters is about an entire community of people
7. The Scarlett Letters is about trust, honesty, caring for others, communication and respect
8. Both books feature a kinky relationship between the main character and a man who takes advantage of her but in the Scarlett Letters this is minimal, addressed by the main character and results in an amicable break up.
I found the stories that Mistress Scarlett had were absolutely fascinating. Some of the fetishes in the book were just bizzare but what came across was the genuine willingness from everyone working at the Dungeon not to judge and to work as hard as they possibly could to act out the fantasies of the clients. Mistress Scarlett also mentioned that she had played with an A list celebrity with a Prince Albert piercing but didn’t divulge any more information. I’d love to know who it was! I learnt so much about the role of a dominant, including how much effort is needed and how hugely intuitive they need to be in order to ascertain whether the client is enjoying what they’re doing to them – even though they may be screaming in pain and telling them to stop, or providing no feedback whatsoever.
I really enjoyed finding out how Jenny became Mistress Scarlett and laughed out loud at some of the mistakes that she made along the way. It was really interesting to see how she grew as a person and how becoming Mistress Scarlett gave her far more confidence – as well as some excellent techniques for dealing with rude, annoying co-workers in her “vanilla” job! It was also really heartwarming to read about Jenny’s family difficulties and see how her new found confidence allowed her to deal with some terrible family circumstances. I really believe that having the Mistress Scarlett alter ego helped Jenny to confront her father and have a really honest conversation with him, which will hopefully be the start of mending the rift between them.
It’s very easy make assumptions about people who work in these types of professions so it was great to see some of those stereotypes being shattered – Jenny is a professional who wasn’t desperate for cash, didn’t have issues with drugs or alcohol and really enjoyed her work. Personally, I found it amazing that she fitted working at the Dungeon around her day job and (almost always) kept the two worlds entirely separate.
If you’re interested in the fetish scene or just enjoy reading about other people’s bizzare sex lives I’d definitely recommend this book. It was really refreshing to read a kinky novel that was also about female empowerment and had a really positive outcome. The writing was great and the subject matter endlessly fascinating. As long as you’re not easily grossed out (and you’re old enough to read an explicit book) then you should give it a go!
Please note that I read this book for free via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks, Netgalley!