Mina Button's blog

kink and feminism and stuff…formerly known as Absinthe Cocktail.

I am so into The Boss

I have mentioned before, I think, how much I really really like The Boss by Abigail Barnette.  If you know me in meatspace, I have probably told you extensively in person how much I like this book, and ennumerated the reasons why I think it’s so good.  I’ve wanted to blog about it for a while (and its sequel, The Girlfriend), but I’ve been putting it off for ages.

I’ve been trying really hard to figure out how I can do this without comparing The Boss endlessly to Fifty Shades of Grey.  Partly because I’m just really tired of talking about Fifty Shades, and partly because I just feel like The Boss deserves better.  But it’s hard.  Especially since I’m reasonably sure that part of the reason The Boss exists is to highlight how terrible Fifty Shades is.  But I’m going to try…

So The Boss.  Twenty-something New Yorker Sophie Scaife arrives at her job at a top fashion magazine to discover that the magazine has been bought out and her awful, demanding boss has been replacedby the older man Sophie had an amazing one-night-stand with years before, who it turns out is Neil Elwood, a well-known media mogul.  They talk through the awkward, and agree to have a no-strings-attached sex arrangement.  He moves her to a different department within the magazine, because it would be wildly inappropriate for him to be having any sort of sexual relationship with his assistant.

Through talking about what they both like in bed, Neil admits he’s into BDSM and Sophie admits she wants to explore D/s with him in the bedroom.  They play sexy games, where he does things like making her edge while masturbating and send her home with no panties.  Every time they play, he reminds her what their safewords are before they start, or before things get more intense.  He frequently checks in to make sure she’s okay.  Also, he lends her his iPad which has a bunch of useful instructional kink guides loaded on it for her to read.

Basically, they both agree to pursue a sexy, consensual D/s relationship because it’s something they’re both interested in and find hot.

I’m so into the realism here.  There are definitely elements that make things more glamorous than most people’s real lives, like Neil’s huge, gorgeous apartment on Central Park, but the characters are still believable as actual people.  Sophie and her roommate, Holly, have believable quirks and inside jokes.  They wear goofy pyjamas, smoke weed, and eat cheap Chinese food.  Neil is likable, for all that he’s a multi-billionaire and kind of a control freak sometimes.  Also, he’s middle aged.  He sings off-key in the shower.  And he and Sophie argue about his control freakery.  She’s submissive to him during sexy times, but there’s no full-time power exchange and they hang out and act like friends most of the rest of the time.  And while Neil’s money is there, sometimes hanging over him and Sophie like a huge, awkward cloud of different-ness, it’s completely reasonable that a middle-aged dude who owns a publishing empire would have an absurd amount of money, and the book shows him doing actual work.

There are obstacles, like Neil’s adult daughter, and finally Sophie has to make some very serious choices about her work/relationship boundaries (major downside of trying to ethically fuck your boss).  And of course, feelings develop, the way feelings sometimes do in NSA arrangements.  But again, the conflicts and problems are real things people might actually face in a relationship.  It’s refreshing.

Also, I love that this book finally breaks this thing where in straight-up erotica everyone is bisexual and in erotic romance no one is.  Queer people exist!  Queer people of color, even!  I will be writing way more about this if/when I get around to writing a post about the sequel, The Girlfriend, because way more awesome queer stuff happens there, but still!  There are multiple people who are not straight in this book, and while one of them is a snarky gay man who works for a fashion magazine, he’s also written as a real person and not a cardboard cut-out.

I feel like the world of kinky literary porn really needed this book.  For so long, we’ve had these grand fantastic novels with secret societies and 24/7 slaves, going all the way back to The Story of O.  Don’t get me wrong, I love that shit.  I’m utterly obsessed with Laura Antoniou’s Marketplace series.  But there is so definitely a place for a novel where two people engage in hot, well-negotiated, consensual BDSM, and maybe fall in love, and nobody actually gets sold at auction or freaks out about how “damaged” they are.  Things are so grounded in the real world that there are even specific sex toys described within the book.

I really, really, really like The Boss.  I like it so much that I bought its sequel immediately upon finishing it.  If you would also like to read The Boss, it’s available for free in a few places, which you can find by looking at this site here.

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