Book: The Briars
Author: Stephanie Parent
Publisher: Cemetery Gates Media
Genre: Erotic Horror
Why You Should Read It
A haunted dungeon! Dominatrix’s! Vengeful ghosts! Beautiful prose!
Why I Liked It
“How could a dungeon have an attic, you might ask? Well, this wasn’t a dungeon made of iron, the kind that stank of damp earth and echoed with the rattle of old bones, the kind buried deep beneath the ground. This was an S&M dungeon, where men slapped their hard-earned (or well-hoarded, or slyly swindled) hundred-dollar bills down on the front desk in exchange for an hour with the mistress or submissive of their choice.”
This was the opening passage from Stephanie Parent’s debut erotic horror novel “The Briars” that let me know this was the book for me. I was already familiar with her poetry before diving into this and knew that I was in for a treat of luscious prose, but what I got was so much more. Brimming with complex characters, descriptive details and picturesque locations, the author paints a vivid picture of what it must be like to work in a haunted BDSM dungeon. With realistic depictions of both the light and dark side of working as a dominant or a submissive, Parent creates characters you care about, and ones you’ll despise as well.
In “The Briars” we follow Claire and Ruby, a sub and domme respectively, and their co-workers at an LA dungeon. The attic is supposedly haunted by a trickster ghost, who up until that point, has only made harmless mischief for the girls. However, with the arrival of a new girl, Mara, something shifts in the atmosphere at The Briars, and whatever supernatural forces are at play suddenly turn dark. Accidents begin to happen, workers and clients alike become injured and the past comes back to haunt everyone in a surprising and heartbreaking way.
Reviewing this further would spoil the story, so I’ll leave you with this; in a genre where women are often brutalized and objectified, “The Briars” offers a refreshing, sex-positive take on erotic horror. Sex workers are often looked down upon, but here, the author humanizes and uplifts those involved in the oldest profession, while still offering a frank and realistic depiction of BDSM and sex work. Yes, many of the women who work in this line are haunted and hurt, but who isn’t? Many also enjoy this particular line of work and the power they feel when they are the ones in control. Similarly, the clients depicted in this story are also handled with the same human touch; some clients are respectful and cherished, and others are downright dreadful (lookin’ at you Cupcake Kenny).
If you’re looking to dip your toes into the world of erotic horror, “The Briars” is an excellent jumping point. Can’t wait to read more from this author!