I hadn’t read a new Black Lace title since the early 1990’s and if Leonie Martel’s latest offering in the imprint is representative of the current writing, I am pleased to be able to report that Black Lace is evolving in a most exciting way. The Private Undoing of a Public Servant delivers far more than either its cover promise – Erotic Fiction for Women by Women – or its genre – romance/adult fiction – would suggest. I know many men who would love it and it would make an excellent addition to the bookshelves of both the experienced dominant, as well as a how-to manual for those new to the concepts of domination and submission.
The classic Trevor Watson photography on the front cover made my heart sing: a foot laced into a Gibson shoe and a tantalising leg encased in a fully-fashioned seamed nylon stocking, superimposed on the Houses of Parliament. Well, I knew exactly what I hoped I was getting. And I wasn’t disappointed.
Leonie Martel’s story is populated by a cast of utterly believable characters led by the fabulous Kirsten Caine, a forty-year-old femme fatale, a libertine whose life is devoted to the exploration of her deviant sexuality. When Simon Charlesworth – fifty three, born sensible and in the throes of his mid-life crisis – meets Miss Caine in a bar at Victoria Station, the orderly existence of the Secretary of State for Public Policy is given a re-shuffle of the most exhilarating kind. He is only too pleased to exchange the boredom and the smugness of his Home Counties life and wife for nights at the sharp end of Kirsten’s tongue. And her spike-heels. “Je suis la belle dame sans merci,” she tells him, and gives him an initiation night for which many submissive men would happily have paid top dollar. “In those moments there was just you, being fucked, having to work at going through the barrier of where ‘no’ used to be.”
And he’s hooked: his arse and his mind are both hers for the taking. And take she does. Aided and abetted by a range of fellow deviants – from Miko, the beautiful, sadistic, Japanese rope bondage specialist, to Gareth, the gay porn movie director and of course, the team at Madame Edwarda’s Academy for Adult Miscreants – Miss Caine puts her minister through a servile A-Z of BDSM. And interwoven through the tale of Charlesworth’s subversion are Kirsten’s own professionally and morally improper sexual relationships: the therapist, the Eastern European economic migrant corrupted by Western capitalism. It all feels so deliciously wrong. And it is this perversion that really gets Miss Caine going.
Martell has created an intriguingly contradictory character and Simon Charlesworth is frustrated in his attempt get the measure of her; he is used to being able to pigeonhole people. Although Kirsten’s Kensington address and her friends from London’s seemingly seamier side are incomprehensibly odd bedfellows to him, he could never guess at her anarchist criminal past. She is earthy, yet well spoken and well groomed and she is equally at home in the capital’s fetish clubs, in the art world and in the countryside. This is Kirsten Caine’s world: where art, aesthetics and eroticism meet and Simon Charlesworth is way out of his depth. And developing a dependency on his newly unleashed sexual deviancy.
But, this is not only hot porn, it is also a cracking thriller, told at a whip-cracking pace. And given the explosive ingredients – sex, drugs, politics and personal crisis – how could it not be? As the story hurtles towards our politican’s ultimate undoing, we see Kirsten’s return to her activist roots and in a wonderful twist we have an unexpected triumph of good over evil: perve-style.
THE PRIVATE UNDOING OF A PUBLIC SERVANT