In the traditional folktale of “Sleeping Beauty,” the spell cast upon the lovely young princess and everyone in her castle can only be broken by the kiss of a Prince.
It is an ancient story, one that originally emerged from and still deeply disturbs the mind’s unconscious. In the first book of the trilogy, Anne Rice, writing as A.N. Roquelaure, retells the Beauty story and probes the unspoken implications of this lush, suggestive tale by exploring its undeniable connection to sexual desire.
Here the Prince awakens Beauty, not with a kiss, but with sexual initiation. His reward for ending the hundred years of enchantment is Beauty’s complete and total enslavement to him.
After stripping her naked he takes her to his kingdom, ruled by his mother Queen Eleanor, where Beauty is trained as a slave and a plaything. The rest of the naked slaves, dozens of them, in the Queen’s castle are princes and princesses sent by their royal parents from the surrounding kingdoms as tributes. In this castle they spend several years learning to become obedient and submissive sexual property, accepting being spanked and forced to have sex with nobles and slaves of both sexes, being publicly displayed and humiliated, and crawling around on their hands and knees like animals until they return to their own lands “being enhanced in wisdom.”
In the castle Beauty meets another slave, Prince Alexi, with whom she copulates passionately. After that he tells her about the long adventurous journey he had in the castle. Alexi previously had been a stubborn prince who fought back all the attempts to break him, until the Queen sent him to the kitchen to have him tortured by crude kitchen servants. Alexi received such a savage and merciless punishment there that he began to lose his senses and, after some particularly humiliating training at the hands of a strong stable boy, Alexi became a totally surrendered slave, playing various sexual games at the Queen’s commands.
“Nonsense. I merely know and accept everything. There is no resistance.”
“But how can it be?”
“Beauty, you must learn it. You must accept and yield, and then you shall see everything is simple.”
The moral of Alexi’s story notwithstanding, Beauty willfully disobeys, and the book closes with her being sentenced to brutal slavery in the neighboring village while her master weeps.
With this book Anne Rice explores the world of erotic yearning and fantasy in a classic that becomes, with her skillful pen, a compelling experience. Readers of Fifty Shades of Grey will indulge in Rice’s deft storytelling and imaginative eroticism, a sure-to-be classic for years to come.
What a far cry from the stories of submission and dominance from that Beyond Shame book!
Even Anne Rice confessed in an interview:
Unfortunately a lot of hackwork pornography is written by those who don’t share the fantasy, and they slip into hideous violence and ugliness, thinking the market wants all that, when the market never really did.
Second, this is shamelessly erotic.
It pulls no punches at being what it is. It’s excessive and it is erotica.
Before these books, a lot of women read what were called “women’s romances” where they had to mark the few “hot pages” in the book.
I said, well, look, try this. Maybe this is what you really want, and you don’t have to mark the hot pages because every page is hot. Every page is about sexual fulfillment. Every page is meant to give you pleasure. There are no boring parts. Yet it’s very “romantic.” And well, I think this worked.
So do I, so do I.
Rating – 4/5. I still think VOX was better though it contained less sex and when I think of a woman’s romance novel, I think Saving Grace (The Bride) by Julie Garwood was a book that needs to be in every bookcase. And there definitely be a lot of eared pages.