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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Red Sash by L. E. Bryce

The Red Sash by L. E. Bryce
Publisher: Phaze Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short (47 pages)
Other: M/M, Mild BDSM
Rating: 5 Cherries
Review by: Phlox

The nobleman Tamasin owns a lush seaside villa and three handsome young catamites. Each one vies for the right to wear the red sash, which marks him out as the master’s favorite for the night. But when disaster strikes Tamasin will discover that only one of his lovers is truly loyal to him.

This heated erotic story, simple on the surface, bristles with jagged emotions and dramatic irony. At first glance, Tamasin appears no more than a rich, overly comfortable man, spoiled, somewhat vain and selfish. Everyone should have his problems, having to decide which of the three beautiful young men he owns to choose for the evening, his choice signaled by which one receives the red sash. Ah, but life is never so simple.

Bryce devotes a chapter to each of the three catamites, painting them in vivid detail through their reactions to their owner and their approaches to lovemaking. The dialogue is so convincing, each young man’s voice is clearly audible, no mistaking one for another. Urrit is a trained pleasure slave, skilled in pleasure but unable to let go of formal training, Elagan is confident and jaded, manipulating his master’s responses and insisting on complicated lovesport, while Semoy is shy and reticent, willing to please but unskilled. Tamasin begins to unfold for us as a person as he interacts with these three very different personalities. As their owner, he has no need to care about how they feel, and yet he does. He wants them to be happy and he desperately wants one of them to have feelings for him beyond obligation.

This is a tightly-woven story with fully realized characters and a fully realized society told in less than fifty pages with plenty of steamy sex scenes to satisfy the most jaded reader of erotica and plenty of rich detail and emotional depth to satisfy the most world-weary literary reader. While the reader will know the answer to Tamasin’s struggles long before he does, the dramatic irony only makes his dilemma more poignant. The red sash, the symbol of his approval, of his choice, gets to play its own part in a deliciously ironic final scene that left me smiling. But I won’t give it away – you’ll have to read this little gem for yourself.

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