MLR Press, 2008
Genre & Keywords: Gay, M/M , Bdsm, Bondage, switching Dom
Heat level: ¹¹½
I never read one of Claire Thompson’s stories before, Switch is the first. I’d heard some positive things about her work, mainly about the psychological depth of her characters. The protags of Switch, Nathan and Dane, were indeed multilayered characters. Claire Thompson wrote with Switch a strong M/M story, about the struggle of two men for dominance, which involves bondage and extreme sexual pain. I must say, it’s not for the faint of heart. But at the same time Switch is a great love story with a romantic HEA. For me, the emphasis was on the romance and the bdsm stuff was a means to tell the love story.
I like to share my High 5, Low 5 with you. The High Five are five things that have impressed me (with an emphasis on the author’s writing skills), and the Low Five are five things that had me shaking my head, made me wonder or regret.
First the Back Blurb:
Dane Bishop is reigning king in the Austin BDSM underground scene. A chance meeting with a sexy local artist named Nathan Levi turns his world upside down. Imagine his indignant surprise when Nathan, Dom himself, dares to assert he can see beyond Dane's swaggering persona to the untapped submissive streak beneath the leather and chain.
Can Nathan convince Dane of his place at his feet and, more importantly, in his arms? As each struggles to gain and maintain control, the sexual sparks fly. It's only a matter of time before a spark catches and bursts into flame.
• Credible attraction
When Nathan and Dane meet there’s an instant attraction between the two hot guys, which is described very well. As a reader you can feel and understand their feelings of attraction. Especially Dane is a hottie. The air sizzles with their chemistry and it’s really plausible that they can’t stop thinking of each other.
• High anticipation
The author provides us with a slow build up to their sexual and D/s relation. The first 50 pages they haven’t even as much as touched each other. But their conversations are sexually charged from the beginning. Their first actual sexual encounter is also slowly built up. It’s an experiment in which Nathan learns Dane how hard it is to follow an order, which eventually ends in hot sex. The tension is palpable.
• Great struggle
Ms. Thompson gives a good insight in Dane’s struggle, when he’s slowly becoming to learn about his submissive side. His feelings of doubt and arousal are very tangible, because the author let him reflect on them after each love scene. He’s rather adorable in his initial denial, his growing doubts, his anguish, his pleas and his final submission. Dane is the more likeable of the two protags because he has this struggle and he is the one who has to come to terms with his new self image. Not that Nathan is not loveable. He’s a really sweet guy as well, but he doesn’t have to go through this alteration, which make you empathize with him as much.
• Nathan’s readiness
It’s an appeasement that Nathan’s prepared to accept Dane as a lover even when he’s not turning into a submissive. This may even have helped Dane going through with it. I liked this about Nathan and it made Switch for me more about the romance and the HEA than about the bdsm relationship. I really appreciated this little fact. Nathan’s readiness to move to NY for Dane has the same status. It makes him an atypical Dom and a nice and considerate guy.
The love scenes are hot and everything but vanilla. The hotness increases when love, trust and submission become more and more a part of the love scenes. The last scene in the hammock, for example, was so scorching that it almost set the pages on fire. The chemistry is right and Ms. Thompson has a way of telling that makes you feel what her characters feel!
• Use of labels
Despite Nathan’s statement about the terminology, the labels Dom and sub are used a lot. He states when they first meet that he doesn’t think in those qualifications:
"I wouldn't call myself Dom. Or sub for that matter. I don't especially care for labels. I think they tend to limit you. In my experience, it's the rare person who is all one thing or all the other. It's not about dominance or submission per se—it's about connection. It's about who moves you, and in what way." (p. 14-15)
That’s beautiful of course, but why than the need to convince Dane he’s a sub. And the words are used an awful lot.
• Extreme pain
The descriptions of the experienced pain were way too extreme for me. The bondage stuff is easier to withstand, the sexual pain is absolutely not my cup of tea. But I must admit that Ms. Thompson did a great job trying to explain what it meant for Dane. So it became understandable why he gets aroused to the point of ‘flying’, as he calls it. Still, I wouldn’t have minded if the flogging and caning had been omitted.
• Supporting actors
I think that the lack of secondary characters that are significant to the protagonists is always a shortcoming. This is also the case in Switch. One or two good friends or close family members can provide an essential addition to the story and the development of the characters. It’s not a must, but a nice extra.
• Missing more kissing
Nathan and Dane are not exactly the cuddling and kissing type of guys. They only kiss while having sex and then it’s almost every time described as ‘They kissed’ or another dull variation of those words. So sadly, there’re no elaborate kissing scenes with sexy descriptions of tongues and lips doing hot things to other tongues and lips.
When the story ended I was left curious about their lives in New York and how they would proceed with their relationship now they’d agreed on their roles. So I regretted that the story ended at the beginning of a new chapter in their relationship. Maybe Ms. Thompson will write a sequel one day. That would be nice.
So, this were my five highs and lows. I did enjoy Switch quite a lot, because of the excellent writing, the great portraying of the characters and the nice development of the plot. If you’re into reading about the more painful side of bdsm, it probably is a must read for you. But for others it’s also a lovely and hot M/M romance!