Review of Whip, Stir, and Serve

Whip, Stir, and Serve by Caitlyn Frost and Henry Drake. 2018.

5 stars

whip stir and serveI loved this book so much, I hugged it to my chest when I was done reading. It’s not surprising, really. When I heard about it, I joked that it must have been written as a present just for me because it has so many elements that I adore all wrapped together. So. There will be gushing. At length.

This is a contemporary romance with a demi-girl MC. The first contemporary romance I’ve read with a demi-girl MC, and the only romance I’ve read with a demi-girl MC who is a POV character. And it’s ownvoices for this; one of the authors identifies as enby and demi-girl. (The other romance I’ve read with a demigirl MC is Ana Mardoll’s Survival Rout, by the way, which is also ownvoices for that.) I really liked the incidental rep here. Maggie’s gender is named on the page, she tells her love interest that she’s a demi-girl, as part of a longer thing she is telling him that centers her competence at fixing things. It’s there, it’s clear, and then they continue talking about fixing things. For this story, this kind of representation really worked for me, and it was nice to read a book where enby identity isn’t made a big deal of, especially an erotic romance. (Note: some folks put a hyphen in demigirl and some do not; I followed the author while discussing both books.)

The MC in this book is autistic, and this representation shines. It’s complex and nuanced and resonated so much with my own autistic experience. It’s ownvoices for this, both of the authors are autistic, and the joy of it is in the details, all these small moments, alongside the bigger ones. Maggie has a panic attack and a meltdown, and it felt so real, and takes up all the space in the narrative it needs to feel actually realistic to me, in this way that I don’t think I’ve ever read before. You see how she manages, and how the love interest supports her in managing, without deciding he knows what’s best or rescuing her. It made me fall for Liam, the way he supports her to do what she needs to do, and how she gets to be angry that she could use some support, how he fumbles around a bit with it and she gets to be mad at him for that too. He doesn’t need to be perfect, I loved that he wasn’t perfect and didn’t automatically know what the right thing to do was, but still earnestly both wanted to support and treated her like the expert on what to do, respected her autonomy.

Maggie also has anxiety, and has a panic attack, as I mentioned. (This is also ownvoices rep, and is named clearly on the page.) The anxiety rep felt realistic. The panic attack rang true for me, resonated with my own experience of panic attacks. I appreciated that Liam had a pretty good handle on the anxiety, because his brother has anxiety, and fumbled more with understanding the autism aspect of Maggie’s experience, both in that moment and otherwise. I liked the nuance of that a lot. Maggie is bisexual, which is also ownvoices. The rep here is incidental, and comes through in references to crushes and partners in the past; the word isn’t used, but has been explicitly used by one of the authors when describing the book.

The romance arc is lovely, and satisfying. It’s short, and takes place in the space of a day, so we aren’t talking HEA, but the pace of it really worked for me, there were some gorgeous moments that made me swoon, and the long-term crush aspect and going through some challenging stuff together plot made it feel like a solid HFN to me. Would I love a sequel? Oh my yes. But did it end in a place where I felt hopeful and solid about their future as a couple? Definitely.

This book is told from Maggie’s POV and really centers her, and that worked for me. We don’t get to know Liam particularly well, except through how he treats Maggie. I liked that, liked that the disabled MC is centered, that her love interest is swoony because of how he treats her, how he acts around her. And wow was he swoony to me. I was rooting for him so hard, I really wanted him to get her and be good to her and respect her and attend to her and have compatible desires. I loved how much he was clearly into her, and the way that shone through even as she took a really long time to get that. He was considerate, and careful, and respectful, and sweet, and gone for her, and really wanted to be good to her. He helped her bake cinnamon rolls! And he cared about that because she cared about it, really honored her wishes and desires, all of them. Loved that he was an awesome baker, and this felt like a foodie romance, in a lot of ways. (I have a soft spot for foodie romances!) I fell hard for Liam as a hero, and it’s rare for me to fall for allocishet heroes.

He’s described as “soft”, by the way. Not his personality, but his body. I liked that, liked the way that was presented in the story. It gave me the impression that he was a bit chubby, and there are so few chubby and fat heroes in romance. I appreciated that moment in the story, as a fat reader, that she found naked him attractive and also wasn’t fetishizing his chubbiness.

Part of my joy in this story was the kink. I adored the kink in this book so much. It felt realistic, and it resonated with my own kink experience. The dominant hero is dominant only in scene, where it’s negotiated and consented to, which was such a lovely thing to read, because it’s so damn rare in BDSM romance. He is clearly and gorgeously dominant in a way I really enjoyed as a reader…and he respects Maggie’s autonomy, honors her competence, does not act dominant in arenas where she did not consent. He is in no way “naturally” dominant all the time or an alpha hero; the D/s takes place in a specific sphere. It was such a breath of fresh air, and a relief to read this, as a dominant who rarely sees dominants depicted in a way where I can recognize aspects of myself.

I loved the negotiation style, the way it was incremental and clear, and how much consent deeply mattered to them both. I haven’t seen much of this kind of negotiation in kink romance (which often seems to follow a particular script), and it felt like it fit these characters in this moment. It leaned very verbal, and I got why the dominant pushed for that, especially with a stranger in a first encounter. It made the heat level rise, to push her to name what she wanted, ask for what she wanted, be specific. I definitely was into the hotness of that. And, it was a place where I got a bit worried at first, because I just wasn’t sure she had the capacity to be that verbal and continue to be that verbal as they went along. Some autistic folks would not have had that capacity, and I was worried for her, especially in the moment when he pushed her to talk during the spanking. What was cool about it was that the sensory experience of the spanking made it more possible for her to talk and communicate clearly. I liked that it worked that way, could see how it might despite that not being my own autistic experience.

It was good to read that, to have that represented, and from Maggie’s POV. She wasn’t nervous or frustrated about being pushed to be verbal when it might not be possible, she was turned on by saying things that she often didn’t feel like she could say, and felt like she had all the time she needed to make words, and found that the pain helped her make words. It meant a lot to read that kind of experience, to know that what might feel like an impossible task to me felt really good and like all the room she needed was there, like she was supported in doing what was being asked of her.

In addition to the clear attention to consent and the negotiation, the kink in this book also had these wonderful moments that made it feel deeply real and respectful and whole and made my feet flutter and my mouth grin as I read. The submissive safewords, and it’s okay. Both the dominant and the submissive get (and clearly need) aftercare. Both the dominant and the submissive need (and get) reassurance from each other. Both the dominant and the submissive character show substantial competence and vulnerability in the story both before the scene and during it. The dominant takes on too much responsibility for things, and the submissive calls him on it. Maggie says: “You have to let me keep you safe, too,” and goes on to insist that he is a person and gets to have needs and desires. (That moment had me exclaiming “Yes!” very loudly. And now, that I’m writing about it, I’m all verklempt. Because yeah. Dominants aren’t dildos, as Maggie says. We aren’t just there to service the submissive and meet their needs. Dominants get to have needs and be kept safe too, and that is so rarely acknowledged.) I loved all of these things; they are rare in BDSM romance and deeply needed.

I also want to say that the kink in this book was really fucking hot. This book contains seriously intensely hot descriptions of D/s, of pain play, of rough sex, of humiliation, ones that felt visceral and real. I loved that so much about it, because it was so satisfying as a kinky erotic romance, as well as on representation levels. To be frank, it’s rare for any erotic romance to center disabled MCs, and to be told from their POV, and to not be fetishizing or full of ableism (internalized and external). This felt like a book that put autistic readers first, that was written for us. I loved that. What I loved even more is that it was so damn hot on top of that, that it honored the way we need erotic fiction, as disabled readers.

I loved how deeply Maggie’s experience of the kink in the story was clearly intertwined with her being autistic. This was just everywhere, from how communication happened to the way she processed pain and other sensations, from her aftercare needs to the way her experience of bondage is described. It feels like deeply autistic kink fiction, and that is rare, especially in BDSM romance. I need this kind of kink fiction so much, as an autistic kinky person. I am so glad this book exists in the world, and that I got to read it. It truly was a gift, in the deepest sense of the word.

Representation

  • Autistic bisexual demi-girl MC with anxiety.
  • Chubby man love interest.
  • Autistic bisexual non-binary demi-girl author with anxiety.
  • Autistic man author.

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

MC has a panic attack & meltdown. References to ableism from strangers and family. MC is autistic and goes nonverbal.

Sex on the page, including oral sex and PIV. Consensual BDSM, including pain play (OTK spanking and beating with belt), rough sex, bondage, D/s, light humiliation (including consensual use of the slur slut), edge play, cathartic play.

Disclosures

  • Source of the book: I bought this book myself.
  • I am friends with one of the authors and have done sensitivity reading for her.

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18 thoughts on “Review of Whip, Stir, and Serve

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