On the face of it, Brought to Heel is a story of female domination and male submission or, as it's usually called, marriage. Josh is a nerdy computer programmer who likes dominant women. Cindy is a dominant woman who likes Josh. This marriage made in heaven is presented as an uber-erotic entanglement. Josh happily consents to becoming Cindy's matrimonial whipping boy. Cindy happily consents to do the whipping. With the help of her workmates from the hospital, and an eclectic combination of friends and acquaintances, Cindy treats Josh to a tour de force of male submission and female domination that could be construed as any computer-besotted nerd's Final Fantasy.
One of the main problems with stories in fem dom/male sub genre is the tenuous balance between naughtiness and nastiness. A certain level of trust needs to be developed between characters before she can stamp on his balls and spit in his mouth without the scene coming across as a pastiche of exploitative cruelty. Samantha Brooks has managed this tightrope walk with consummate skill. Josh willingly surrenders to Cindy's dominant nature and the balance of consensual naughtiness is consistently maintained throughout the novel.
It's not an easy trick. The psychology of the characters in this story is complicated and, as in real life, sometimes downright contradictory. Josh is naturally submissive but this doesn't mean he's a weak person. Contrarily, he is strong enough to recognise his need for a dominant woman and sufficiently confident to allow her to assume full control of his life. Cindy is naturally dominant but she does not automatically assume the masterful role of being Josh's mistress. Although Cindy doesn't vacillate as much as other stereotypical fem dom heroines she does show a degree of reluctance that comes across as a natural and necessary prudence. However, once she does consent to be the master of Josh's destiny, the story becomes charged with a powerful eroticism.
Tension is brought in when Cindy introduces new characters to the relationship, adding to Josh's excitement, developing erotic interest in their adventure, as well as satisfying her own carnal needs.
Samantha Brooks creation of Cindy is surprisingly well-drawn. Again, this is a difficult feat within the fem dom/male sub genre because the psychology of such heroines is surprisingly complex. Cindy comes across as domineering and bullying in her relationship with Josh. She keeps him in his place and controls his life with the authority of a woman born to rule. And yet she is also willing to surrender herself to other men either in the pursuit of her own gratification, or to remind her husband of his inferior status.
Ordinarily the juxtaposition of a dominant woman sexually surrendering to any man can come across as contrived or unconvincing. But Samantha manages this difficult narrative technique by repeatedly focussing on Josh's humiliation through Cindy's infidelity and his own exaggerated status as a cuckold.
Brought to Heel is a very contemporary story that revisits an erotic fantasy dating back to Chaucer and beyond. Samantha Brook presents a neatly told tale, unflinching in her presentation of the domination and humiliation, with a clever twist at the end. If you like your men strong enough to serve and surrender, and your women weak enough to willingly wield the whip, Brought to Heel is your book.