At Her Feet by Rebekah Weatherspoon can be read on two levels: at the surface, it’s a straightforward and detailed depiction of a specific type of D/s roleplay relationship, from meeting to long-term commitment, but on another level, it’s a story about trust. To some degree even vanilla relationships go through the trust, vulnerability, and opening-yourself-up-to-your-partner issues that are explored rather literally in D/s. Sometimes the trust issues caused by former partners who withheld affection leads to overcautiousness that by itself becomes a problem in a new, healthier relationship.
Suzanne’s story reads like a detailed, well-written travelogue into age-play D/s. Pilar explains right off the bat in her internet ad that she doesn’t want anything to do with incest play or diapers (so readers squicked by that can read safely!) but other than that, she’s ready to take care of a “little girl” — in other words, a grown woman whose sexual identity includes stuff like wearing Hello Kitty underwear and watching PG movies curled up on the sofa with one arm around her girlfriend and the other around a stuffed animal. I have very little experience with real-life kink but to me, from this book anyway, it seems like this form of D/s is a type that’s extremely heavily weighted on the aftercare, with way more cuddles than spanking. (There were spanking scenes, though, if that’s your thing don’t worry!)
I enjoyed the forays into Suzanne’s work life, too, cracking up at Weatherspoon’s made-up clients that were transparently based on real corporations (Bee’s Candy, 21 And Up) and enjoying the snarky banter she shares with her also-gay best friend. I like the fact that though the book had many and varied sex scenes, there was also a lot of emotional growth and plot. I prefer a book where the sex doesn’t overtake the plot but emerges as a natural consequence of it.
I also appreciated that when a trans lesbian was one of the guests at an all-girl play party towards the end of the book, the one naysayer in the room is dealt with swiftly and then the scene continues positively for the character. (Actually, about that: I think that was a really smart move as a writer, continuing for several pages of positive interaction between Gloria–I think that was her name?–and the other girls, after the initial sting, because one thing that makes me sad as a reader is when something bad happens and there isn’t enough fluff afterwards to take the bad taste out of my mouth for what the character went through. I appreciate, for example, the fact that there are several chapters of “and then Aragorn was crowned king, and Éowyn married Faramir” in Tolkien after the Ring is destroyed, because dammit, readers need aftercare, too 😛 ) Disclaimer that I am cis and please don’t take my word on any of this bit.
I’ve read Weatherspoon’s Treasure as well, which was also good — this one was just more personally resonant because I’m more similar to this heroine than the protagonist of Treasure. I’m an overachiever who wants to be cuddled, and like Suzanne I’ve had to learn in my relationship that I need to believe my spouse when they talk about the way they’re feeling, to trust them and not rewrite reality in my mind based on what I think is going on.
By the way, white writers who have trouble figuring out how to introduce a character’s race gracefully should take a lesson from Weatherspoon–check out the way she seamlessly integrates discussion of the main character’s Korean dad, Jamaican mom, and what features that actually gives her, and also the love interest’s Mexican heritage. I’ve said this before but if you’re a white writer who doesn’t understand how to write characters of color, you should be reading authors of color. (I mean, you should anyway, but I’m bringing this up because I’m involved with the Writing With Color blog and we get this specific question a lot.)