Let me begin by saying that writing a novel is a terrific achievement. I know, having written one ~ and only one. My hat is off to anyone who can complete a novel.
That said, here is my honest opinion of Finless, an erotic drama by Davee Jones, which I finished reading this morning.
Characters: Author Davee does a nice job with clearly defined main characters Sarah, Nathaniel and Lily. They’re well-drawn through the character triangle — dialogue, action, description. They come complete with well-thought-out back-stories.
Here’s Sarah’s description, first as a skinny teen-ager:
A wallflower-skinny, awkward, quiet, plain looks, Sarah emerged anonymously. She developed the reputation as one of the friendliest, most dependable girls in the school. A former boyfriend once said, “one of the three straightest girls in the class.”
And later, after college, as a young architect:
Long flowing hair the color of warm caramel, liquid sage green eyes, full natural breasts with black cherry colored nipples, athletic legs, and a taut shapely derriere that captured every eye as she walked by. A real classic beauty, the type thought beautiful by men and women. Women, intimidated by her natural beauty, enjoyed her company because of her genuine friendly charm. Men felt Sarah was approachable and, in turn, conquerable, by her innocent sexiness and pleasing warmth.
Cold, masterful, self-involved Nathaniel and patient, submissive Lily get the same sharp, focused treatment.
The book’s narration comes from Sarah’s eventual confidant, Isaac. His narration of events begins in the prologue, though Isaac doesn’t emerge as a player until later in the novel. Perhaps because Isaac is telling the story, he’s the only character who has no back story.
Isaac is otherwise clearly rendered, however. Good job with the characters.
Plot: We follow Sarah into “The Lifestyle,” a frankly fascinating account of the s/M (sado-masochism) community. Veteran “master” Nathaniel, a supervisor where Sarah works, targets the emotionally damaged Sarah for initiation into “The Lifestyle,” while simultaneously keeping long-distance relationship Lily dangling and needy.
Nathaniel tries to keep things loveless and unemotional, and strictly focused on the fulfillment of primal needs and desires. People being what they are, this stance turns out to be unsustainable.
Setting: The setting is urban, though the cities aren’t defined. Somehow I got the impression that Lily lives in San Francisco, and Nathaniel and Sarah in New York or Chicago, but going back through the book, I couldn’t find anything to confirm. Most of the action takes place in offices, hotels, apartments, with just enough description to set scenes.
Sarah’s apartment, for instance:
Her simple, yet stylish home relaxed her. The walls contained earthy tones with rich accents. She delighted in her luck to have found a corner apartment to allow for more windows. Sheer curtains allowed light to come in from every available source. Sarah believed in the healing power of sunlight and often sat by the window to read or daydream on her cozy overstuffed chair.
Davee takes extra care with the “dungeon” — the s/M playroom Nathaniel set up in Lily’s basement. Here’s a glimpse:
A small fireplace adorned one wall. Various types of fire pokers, tender implements, and branding irons waited in the steel stand next to it. Nathaniel had never branded Lily, this would leave a permanent mark on her body. He was not inclined to make anything permanent with her unless he changed his mind about his intentions. These items simply resided there as the “promise ring” symbol of what could possibly be.
In front of the opposite wall a “T” shaped rack loomed, built from wooden timbers with chains and cuffs dangling precariously from the top. Next to the rack an assortment of cat o nine tails, floggers, crops, and leather completed the ambience. He could chain Lily from front or back and inflict cracking and whooshing strokes to her breasts or buttocks with ease, changing instruments flawlessly.
A pillory, old-fashioned school desk, barber’s chair, and armoire scattered in deliberate positions around the room.
What I thought could’ve been done better: Like many indie books, including my own, there are some grammar errors, most easily fixable.
An example is the incorrect punctuation of compound sentences:
He finished his shot in three drinks, he wanted to feel the numbing effect of the warmth as quickly as possible.
The two independent clauses should be joined by a semi-colon, or a comma plus the conjunction “and.” Cutting the compound sentence in two would be better yet.
I noted a few instances of “wrong word,” as in
Sarah had no idea how she could bring someone to understand the deeper level it brought her to, especially if they were not ingratiated into The Lifestyle.
“Ingratiated” is the wrong word — it means to try to curry favor through flattery or pleasing actions. The word should be “indoctrinated,” which means to have been taught the fundamentals or viewpoints of a particular school of thought or action.
I also found passages like the following a touch wordy:
He implied of things to come when he expressed to Sarah the need to enjoy the upcoming weekend, because, she would not have many days to herself for a long time beginning the upcoming Monday.
An editor might revise it as:
He hinted at things to come by telling Sarah to enjoy the weekend. Starting Monday, she wouldn’t get many days to herself for a long time.
These are just tweaks and fine points. But attention to tweaks and fine points can make an already good read even better.
There was a clarity issue in the beginning of the book as Davee describes an act of violence against teen-aged Sarah — but information about who is perpetrating it and why appears to be missing.
Another clarity issue, but one that didn’t bother me too much — The book begins with Isaac as the narrator, but later shifts into omniscient point-of-view when Isaac enters the narrative.
What I thought was good: I’ve already mentioned the characters. Davee wrote them clearly and convincingly, and I was interested to see where their tortured paths would lead them.
Here’s description of Nathaniel, which I found compelling:
Enamored with sex and the power it gave him, Nathaniel’s insatiable primal appetite almost ruled him. He loved every type of sex and engaged as often as he could whether it be with a partner or alone. Nathaniel was not generally attracted to men, his sexuality had always been focused on women. However, he never ruled any partner out. His fantasies included both genders, a variety of ethnicities, and varied character types as part of his mental spank bank of stimulation.
I must admit — I got a good chuckle from the phrase “mental spank bank of stimulation.”
I thought Davee did a good job too in explaining the s/M background:
Often, an s/M relationship begins because of the impairments people experience in their lifetimes. Occasionally, the Master represents more damage than the submissive. Therefore, the Master relies on obedience as a replacement for reciprocal respect or acceptance. Sometimes The Lifestyle draws people because the feeling of ownership replaces love, seemingly removing vulnerability. Participants gain recognition not through emotions, but through loyalty. Giving or following orders comforts players, especially when the strains of mainstream life become too much for one to psychologically handle.
I also appreciated the fact that while Davee’s subject is lurid and sensational, her story never sinks to coarseness or vulgarity. Even so, she manages to “show not tell” where it counts, to help readers experience what the characters experience:
Nathaniel tied a black eye mask around her head, assuring a limited sense of vision. His evil, yet creative, mind never failed to delight Sarah with creative ways to torture her. She began to feel pricks against her skin, similar to lightly pulling out hairs. She deemed the sensation slightly unpleasant, and struck her skin so…electrically…that was it! Gradually, Nathaniel increased the dial of intensity and she felt a hot shocking sensation against her belly, her breasts, her chest…it was amazing.
Nathaniel whispered in her ear, “Let me introduce you to the violent wand.”
That, my friend, is a good sentence.
Overall: Despite a few grammar and wordiness issues, Davee has crafted a fascinating character-driven journey into a realm with which I’m pretty sure most people aren’t familiar. She does it with class and clarity, and with compassion for her characters — even when they are unsympathetic.
At heart, strange, exotic and lurid though it is, Finless is a story about redemption, reaffirmation, and most of all love.
Good job Davee!
And for a sexy superheroine paranormal sci fi romantic adventure thriller, check out my own novel American Goddesses ~ thanks for visiting Honest Indie!