Monday, December 6, 2010

Team Anything Goes: The Garden by Winterstale


Team Anything Goes Pick is...
Title: The Garden
Author: Winterstale
Chapters: 5
Words: 49,237
Reviews: 78
Summary: AH/OOC DomEmmett! Realizing something is missing in her world, Kate turns her scholar's mind to the issue at hand. Emmett has lost his way; his love life's a shambles, but his professional life thrives. Their path lies before them but can they follow it?

Honorary member of Team Anything Goes: HMonster4 - I need to disclose 2 things upfront – Winterstale is a friend (us Emmett girls stick together, you know), and I don’t typically do BDSM stories.

It would be easy to chalk up me reading this story to the presence of Emmett in all his dimpled glory. I’m not going to lie – there is merit to that. Winterstale has created a fascinating, compelling character here, but no, in this case, he’s just the icing on the cake.
How to begin to sum up The Garden and do it justice. I don’t live in the lifestyle, nor do I know boo about it. It doesn’t matter. We see the BDSM world through Kate Oksanen’s eyes. An college professor, content and maybe a bit complacent, she is introduced to The Garden by a friend of a friend, and is admitted to the ultra-exclusive enclave on a trial basis. In her first meeting (the first chapter), we are teased by a host of characters who, over the following five chapters, will come to play a larger and larger part.

And of course, front and center, is a lovely, tall man with gorgeous dimples and a certain j’nais se quios.

Let me pause for a minute here and smile. Man does Winterstale create a lovely Emmett.

I could wax rhapsodic about this story all day long. The prose, the dialogue, it’s all very honest and very real. The relationships and backstories that exist are so deep and so well thought out that it’s easy to feel like you know these characters. Don’t see BDSM and think PwP - not even close. This story is lush and sensual and ripe with antici-----pation that would make Dr. Frankenfurter proud.

Most importantly, for a neophyte like me, it baby steps me into the lifestyle and the scenes, which are explained in great detail, including rules, logic and painstaking care. We are five chapters in, and the connection that exists between Kate and Emmett is so palpable, so rich that it literally jumps off the screen at you. This isn’t a quickie in the backseat of a car between two sixteen year olds – it’s a long slow sensuous dance between two very intelligent, mature adults trying to find their way in the world.

Oh yeah, and it will melt your screen.

Smart and sexy, this fic has it all. A top ten Rosalie (which for me is saying something) and a situation where I 100% believe their friendship as well as the romantic connection between Emmett and Kate. For a Rosalie/Emmett shipper, that’s the biggest compliment I can give.

Speaking of Rosalie – don’t miss the outtake – The Request, where you get Kate, Em, Rose and…Cedric (no, not the Cedric you think…and I dare say you’ll NEVER hear that name and think the same way!)

Chele - This story is like my little corner of fanfic heaven. It has an intelligent, willful female lead-Kate,a multifaceted, highly seductive love interest-Emmett, a hefty dose of kink, and the possibility of lasting, real love. In short, perfection.

It’s no secret that I’m an Emmett lover. I adore that man’s quiet strength in any intelligent incantation. I’m also a bit of a hardcore perv, so it should come as no surprise that when I came upon The Garden, which features Emmett as articulate, intense, and vulnerable with a tendency toward Domination, I was on it like a snake on a warm rock.

The Garden is just the right mix of narrative exposition and action/dialog. When I say action, I mean so real it’s like I’m there personal interactions and masterfully described scenes of the adult nature. The UST-laden slow build pace is both perfect, and has me begging for Emmett and Kate to touch, kiss, fight, anything eachother, which is in itself, perfect. Being able to first appreciate the richness of the characters will only heighten the power of their intimate experiences when they come to pass. (Also, I have the benefit of having read The Request and Through the Garden Gate which I revisit whenever I think I might explode from the sexual tension.)

Winterstale doesn’t mess around when it comes to characterizations. She builds layer upon vibrant layer until you can feel the person jumping off the page at you, spanking your ass, or snuggling up with you under the covers. The Garden really showcases her skills, breathing life into this non-canon pairing until the reader completely believes it.

Kate is mature and driven, though obviously has some natural trepidation about getting involved in the BDSM scene. She powers through it, however, determined to do what’s necessary to satisfy this pull she feels to submit. It really says something when a female lead can choose to explore her submissive inclinations without sacrificing her emotional strength. It certainly speaks to me. It is exactly this maturity and drive which is mirrored in Emmett, and makes me believe their intensity and compatibility.

There are no walk-on or throw-away roles. Every character exists to contribute to the richness of the scene and story as a whole. Rose, Emmett’s best friend, is amazingly well-done, and her interactions and conversations with Emmett or Kate easily expose as much, or more, about who they are than you glean from being in their heads.
“'re very obviously one of those 'scratch my belly, keep me fed and comfortable and tell me no lies' guys, even if you can be a bastard with that huge flogger of yours. As a professional observer of the pussy, not to mention an owner of one, let me give you a piece of advice, dude. There are women who know that's who you are and will run all over you with it because you're too damn gentlemanly to call that shit the first time, even with your ethics and shrink bullshit. Then, there are women who naturally want to be like that for you, even if they've just - what is it you say - uh... 'slayed a dragon'... some shit like that, and you need to find one of those girls. Hopefully she'll have a nice rack and let you pink up her ass. Anyway, choose door number two."

Oh, yeah. I may have more than a tiny crush on Rose, too.

Though it’s only five chapters in, because of the succinct and vivid storytelling, it feels like so much more. Each time I finish reading a chapter I’m left, panting, swooning and thinking, so much thinking. I simply could not ask for more than what I get from this beautifully crafted tale, and I’ll never stop begging for more, even if speaking out of turn earns me a punishment.

Jen - Chele started mentioning The Garden as soon as we Pervs started working together on PPSS 2.0 . I knew I had to read it based on her excitement, but I couldn't until we decided it would be our next TAG rec. Hey, how could my husband complain about me being on the computer when I had homework to do?

I fell in love with The Garden from the first chapter, and it's all I can do to hold myself back from clutching Winterstale's leg and begging her for more more more. So often fanfic (hell, even canon) reads like a fairy-tale, and sometimes that's just what you're in the mood for. When you're not, though, Winterstale's tale of a woman exploring her sexuality is a breath of fresh air in the forest of high school friends/college lovers/married happily ever after type fics. I absolutely love Kate. She's a grown, experienced, intelligent woman who is trying to come to terms with a part of herself that she's tried to ignore for so long. She knows, yet almost keeps it secret from herself, that she is turned on by imagining herself submitting to a man. She's seen these images as degrading and also struggles with how wanting to submit could possibly make sense for a college professor who sees herself as a feminist.

"I've worn out every damn feminist theory I know, and I feel like I've abandoned everything I believed about my needs. Jas, I can't wonder any more. It's been eating at me for so long, and I just need to know if that's what I really want. It feels right, and it's scaring the hell out of me."

Although she hadn't planned to ask anyone for help figuring things out until she did some of her own research, her friend and fuck-buddy Jasper discovers her reading material. He knows someone who is a part of the lifestyle and offers to see if his friend might be able to introduce Kate into the local community. Through his friend, Kate is invited to a private BDSM club, The Garden, to see if they would consider her eligible for membership. I fell in love with this Jasper and found myself a little sad at the thought that he and Kate would no longer be sleeping with each other. Luckily, Jasper appears in later chapters.

Kate meets Emmett at the club, where he is a Dungeon Master. Kate is instantly attracted to him, and you get the sense that Emmett is interested in her as well, only he seems to hold back. Bits and pieces of Emmett's past give us some insight into why he didn't immediately act on his attraction to Kate. Emmett quickly becomes the center of Kate's fantasies; she can hardly keep her mind off of him. She continues to find out more about the lifestyle by going to a munch or watching other scenes, as well as more about herself by doing assignments given to her by a Sophie, the 'mother sub' of The Garden.

I should say a few words about Winterstale's Rose. Rose is a Domme and Emmett's best friend. There are many faces of Rose. She's fabulous and fascinating, and even more, she sees that Kate could be good for Em. As intelligent and self-assured as Kate is, she needs Rose to take her under her wing.

While Kate and Em haven't had many long or deep conversations, their palpable attraction does not ring false, or rushed. These are Kate's inner thoughts as she watched Em in a scene at a party.

Em-M. Dr. Dom. Emmett. What else could I say when faced seeing him carrying a rather sturdy looking flogger, shirtless and displaying a tattoo that swirled across his ribcage, dipping... beckoning really... over his hipbone and finally descended into the waistband of his... leather pants? Oh, God... agony.

I crossed my legs reflexively, earning a throaty chuckle from Rose.

At the end of the scene, Emmett catches Kate's eye.

In that moment, even if it took years to come to fruition, I was bound to Emmett McCarty.


Em and Kate haven't so much as shared a kiss, yet the pressure is building and building. The tension that Winterstale has created is just delicious; as much as I want to see what happens when they do get together, the tease is so very enjoyable. So hurry up and read chapters 1-5 before 6 is posted—it's sure to have Emmett and Kate's first kisses and spanks.

Jeanne - I will be honest about something that may surprise some and possibly offend some, but I think it must be said. I have never considered BDSM fan fic (Twilight and stuff from other fandoms) to be a fair representation of the incredibly diverse BDSM lifestyle. This is not meant to be a slight against the many talented authors and fabulous fan fics, many of which I love dearly. It’s just a truth that the driving motivation in most BDSM fic is the sex.

In most fan fiction, BDSM sex is, ironically enough is fetishized, and objectified to the point that it’s often little more than a means to an end. It’s a tool or step that the characters use to get off and their by allowing the reader to (safely) experience a new form of sexuality without having to deal with doing it in real life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for this, because I feel it gives a lot women a sense of sexual freedom and satisfaction that have never felt before. I am also in support of any positive representations of the BDSM lifestyle, since it is so often misrepresented and maligned by the mainstream culture.

With that being said, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that I was utterly floored by the care and consideration that Winterstale put into The Garden. In this story we are introduced to the mysterious world of BDSM sex, through Kate’s eyes. A strong, educated and very self confidant woman, Kate is thrown for a loop by the discovery of her own desires to be sexually submissive. When a close friend leads her to the secretive club known only as The Garden, she meets the man who seems to effortlessly embody the man of her fantasies. Emmett is a seasoned Dominant with a past full of heartache and struggles, who is equally bowled over when he meets wide-eyed “babysub” Kate. They both feel a strong connection to each other, but there is a great deal standing between them.

Winterstale takes the time to introduce us to both the Dominant and submissive sides of the very complicated sexuality that is BDSM. She allows us to take the journeys with these characters, feeling their pain and fears born of cultural conditioning. Kate is the perfect choice for a modern submissive woman. Intelligent, self proclaimed feminist Kate is consumed with guilt at her presumed weakness for desiring to be a sexually submissive woman. A common concern for many educated modern women that wrongly believe that their natural sexual desires debase them as human beings. I am so happy for Kate that she has a loving supportive friend in Jasper, her TA and former lover, who leads her to the loving arms of The Garden.

Emmett, oh dear god, Emmett. He is the PERFECT choice to represent the very soul of what it means to be a Loving Dominant. His traditional, rural upbringing taught him, as it does many men, that violence against women is a dark sinful act. Through Emmett’s POV Winterstale shows the very real emotional struggle a Dominant can go through as he/she comes to terms with their sexual identity. His struggle is so poignant that at times it brought me to tears. Winterstale is a master of utilizing the multiple POVs to show us the many complex aspects of the BDSM lifestyle and how different people, from Carlisle, Jane, and even Edward, express themselves within it.

Even as we go through the complex journey with Kate and Emmett we are ourselves seduced with the tangible sexual atmosphere. The aching, teasing build of sexual tension between Kate and Emmett left me feeling feverish. Not to mention the BDSM scenes within the story, both real and fantasy.

The realism that Winterstale gives the first full blown scene that we and Kate see is so well done, and packed with sexual and emotion tension. I held my breath as I read the scene, and was even more turned on than I’ve ever been by reading explicit sex. I read, and watch a great deal of mainstream BDSM pornography. This scene, where Emmett is using a flogger on a bound woman left me wet, trembly and aching for more.

Whether you’re an old school lover of BDSM or a complete newbie, I highly recommend reading The Garden. While it is a fantastic representation of the BDSM lifestyle, it is also a heartfelt story of two people finding a connection and hopefully love.

Teal - Chele introduced me to this story when it was just a wee single chapter, and I may have suffered a major brainscramble at the time. Emmett? Yes fucking please. Emmett with Kate? This is such a happy place in my brain. Canon Kate is spunky, mischievous, blonde, sexy, and powerful, and she scores herself a very hot piece of ass at the end of Breaking Dawn; what’s not to love about her? So the pairing was the hook, but the story itself dug its claws into me and wouldn’t let go.

While I’m a pretty big fic whore, I tend to tread lightly into BDSM stories. There are quite a few out there that I enjoy, but it’s not my kink or my go-to genre of choice. Nothing wrong with that; we all have our own preferences. What gets me about The Garden, though, is how intellectual it is, along with its characters, and how that impacts the reading experience. Where many BDSM stories flop because it’s all floggers, handcuffs, and “Yes, Master,” Winterstale has created a story that is about far more than shameless smut and fetishes. It’s an intriguing study of a woman ensconced in academia who comes to a shocking realization of what she craves in her life and sexuality and her journey through the discovery of parts of herself she never knew. Kate is a beautiful and captivating character to follow, and her prominent intelligence combines fluidly with her desire to learn how to be something so different than what years of study had programmed her to be.

Then there’s Emmett. So sexy and alluring without even trying, and Winterstale takes that and expands upon it to make him more complicated and lovable than I thought possible. While he plays the role of Dominant, there is such a delicate fragility within him thanks to a damaging past relationship. While he initially pushes back the connection he feels to Kate, it’s clear that everyone around him sees him for who he is and does what is in their power to nudge him in the right direction. While Emmett’s characterization still holds some whispers of “Dom who needs the right sub to open his heart,” The Garden, is far beyond any BDSM romance you’ve read.

This story is most certainly an intellectual journey. It’s also sexy as fuck, even in the parts that aren’t describing sexual encounters. The characters are all well placed, appropriately developed, and all around on point. Winterstale has a talent for character development that sets a steady pace for the entire story and will keep you glued to your computer until you’ve read it all. Best of all, we’re still early in this tale, so you know there is much to come. (Double entendre most certainly applies . . .)

If you would like to read more about the BDSM lifestyle Check out the following Blog and Books:

Mistress Matisse is a professional Dominatrix, blogger and columnist. You can find her personal blog here. She also has an on going column for the Seattle-based newspaper The Stranger called The Control Tower.

The Loving Dominant (which is mentioned in The Garden) is a wonderful resource for Dominants and even submissives to understand the nature of their complex relationships.

SM 101 is a no-nonse guide to the BDSM sex and culture. It's answers a lot of basic questions and is an excellent resource for curious new comers.


winterstale24 said...

This is one of the best surprises I've had! Thank you SO much for your thoughtful reviews. I'm really at a loss for words and as some of you may know that is a minor miracle. I don't shut up easily! lol Not to be too precious, but getting validation for my writing means a lot to me. Big huge, slobbery, and humble hugs to you ladies.


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Bouncy72 said...

Sounds so well written. Thanks for the review ladies.
Thanks for the story Winterstale24 :)