My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
Lustbound is a debut erotic fantasy novella by Natasha Storm. This novella has a premise of fantasy that I found intriguing to say the least. I also liked Natasha’s writing style, which was flowing and smooth.
In the story, we find that Christine was living in a place called the Compound. Her existence, as it was in there, was of a receptor for men’s lust, to marry and bear children. I can’t comment on the Compound in a critical way since that side of Christine’s life wasn’t explored much. All I got is that it was very much male dominated and women had NO say whatsoever in anything. They didn’t have a life outside of the Compound. When the story starts, in the dead of the night, some women come to take some of the younger girls and women away to a place called Eve’s Grotto. They used magic to have their way. But how can it be? Eve’s Grotto is supposed to be a myth! Or, at least that was what was told. But a very confused Christine accompanies them in the hopes of a better life.
In Eve’s Grotto, Christine experiences a totally opposite existence of what she was living in the Compound. She already knew that women are in charge but she’s no less baffled by the goings on here. As the story progresses, the author gives us narratives and views of Eve’s Grotto, sometimes through Christine’s eyes as she was being prepared (and trained) to live in this society...
I found Christine’s reactions/POVs to the place were absolutely connecting with mine. Men service women in every way in this place. There is no concept of marriage in Eve’s Grotto and no forced pregnancy. Not only women reign here, but they use magic to subjugate men with the excuse to ‘subdue their natural tendency for violence’. The way things are, apparently, men are happy to live like that. There is also this illusion that these men get to choose their ways of life, only later we learn that the reality differs vastly from what’s underneath. The whole place would give you a fantasy of perfect autonomy for women; they get to choose their Pets to keep and as many as they want. Sex is for enjoyment only. Using magic to take care of the more dirty and unwanted aspects of life. I mean, a perfect living, right? Even though this society has its hierarchy and power struggle, its women who win the day, literally!
But my own thought was that this place was no less extreme and unbalanced than the Compound itself.
Some relatively plain looking men work as laborers but the ones very attractive are chosen as Pets. There are two types of Pets, manor Pet and kept Pet. But whatever their chores were, there was no denying that these men were glorified servants, their living degrading. Nothing better than an object to be used. Not that they can feel or say anything about their fate since most of their natural feelings are restrained through magical collars and handcuffs.
We meet a manor Pet, Valentine, who’s a ladies’ man, being really beautiful and very good in what he does (and I don’t only mean sex). But being a manor Pet also means that he has to conduct his affairs secretly, since manor Pets are forced to live celibate before some mistress takes them as kept Pet in a ceremony held twice a year. But Valentine can’t ignore when commands come through his collar even though he knows that if caught, it’s him who’d bear the brunt for breaking the rule.
Christine’s fights with her inner-self were completely valid IMO. The expectations, the ways of living and commanding men, her struggle to take everything in and of learning to use magic not only to perform the basic commands but also, to stay safe. Then, she meets Valentine and things become even more complex for her...
I personally don’t like to read about the hero’s sexcapades with OWs but I saw how Valentine’s couldn’t be ignored since it helps you to get an idea of the sort evil that this place holds, namely Valentine’s current lover, a very powerful woman, Lady Yvette. This woman is prone to temper tantrums and yes, plays really dirty to have her way because she’s not used to being denied. I felt very bad for Valentine. He thought sex was fun and all that (sneaking around, taking chances with danger etc.) with a woman like Yvette. But, as he meets Christine and is totally taken with her, somehow, Valentine begins to feel a little anger and desperation for being so thoroughly controlled by magic. He begins to feel the difference, though magic channeled through his collar would subdue him whenever he tried. But he at least understood the difference between the kind of sex he had with Yvette and the kind he later has with Christine because of Christine’s innocent thoughts and ways. Valentine finally understood a little of what freedom means, something he’d never known being with a woman jaded in the ways of Eve’s Grotto.
But these kinds of thoughts can only mean trouble... to know exactly what kind, I have to wait for the next installment. *sigh*
Lustbound is merely the beginning of Christine and Valentine’s journey together. I feel a lot more coming in the future installments because the end implies that troubles are already brewing. Can’t wait to read the next in the series!
This copy of Lustbound was provided to me by the author herself in exchange of an honest review. I’d like to thank her for it.