Book Review

Review: The Dining Club by Marina Anderson


Title: The Dining Club
Author: Marina Anderson
Publication Info: Forever 2013
Genre: Erotica/Erotic Romance

Book The Dining Club

There’s a trend in erotica/erotic romance that I particularly hate. I call it “Surprise! Kink!” Like the hero and heroine have been dating for a while and he suddenly tells her he’s kinky, like he's handing her one of those fake cans of peanuts that snakes pop out of. Except instead of snakes, it’s dicks. And they smack her in the face.

I guess I personally believe that if your idea of a perfect committed relationship involves double penetration with your bestie and your girlfriend, maybe you should let your girlfriend know that before you get really, really involved. Because I don’t think the traditional fifth anniversary gift of wood is a good segue way for introducing that.

The Dining Club series by Marina Anderson commits “Surprise! Kink!” and many other sins, in my opinion. I found the relationship between the main characters to be exploitative and awful, and the portrayal of the sex club and its members to be particularly bad.

This is an eight book serial (which I will bitch about later, thank you) starring Grace who has been with her boyfriend, David, for six months. Grace is already in love with David, but she senses that he’s holding back from her. He suggests they take a weekend retreat to The Dining Club, where he is a member. Grace does not know that the Dining Club is a sex club. She expects to spend the weekend playing couples tennis or whatever. Instead David tells her that this is a sex club, he’s a member, and he really wants to introduce her to his lifestyle.

Okay, I’m already pissed that she found out about the sex club part after she got there. That’s a thing you tell a person before you show up. You don’t wait till they’re standing around the hotel room going “Why are there all these I-hooks in the ceiling?” That’s a fucking dick move.

But then David really does it.  He tells her that he wants to her partake in the four trials of the Dining Club and expand her sexuality all while playing the emotional-blackmail-for-kink card ala 50 Shades of Grey.

“You leave the Dining Club, and we part as friends,” he said softly. “We’ll have had some great times along the way, won’t we? But there wouldn’t be any point in keeping the relationship going, as it wouldn’t be able to grow. Don’t worry though. I’m not wrong about you. Your body soaks up pleasure like a sponge. Now you’ll have the opportunity to experience ecstasy beyond your wildest dreams.”

[…] Leaning back she looked up at him as his hands slid down into the small of her back. “But if I fail, it will be over for us, won’t it?”

“Yes,” he admitted reluctantly, “but I don’t want that to happen.”

“Neither do I,” responded Grace, shivering at the realization of what she’d learned about this man she’d fallen in love with, and beginning to realize what lay ahead of her if she agreed to go through with the weekend in order to try and gain his love. “I don’t want to lose you,” she repeated, “but I’m scared.”

“Do it for me, Grace, for both of us. Trust me, you’ll never regret it.”

Okay, let’s dissect all the fucking things that are wrong with the above passage.

1.      David has no problem keeping his lifestyle from Grace for six fucking months, then ambushing her and explaining “the relationship can’t grow” if she doesn’t agree to participate in the kink. Why spend the last six months leading her on then? I get that you probably don’t want to mention the fact that you’d like to dangle her from the ceiling while your buddy sodomizes her and you watch on the first date (that would be a great conversation to have at the Olive Garden) but maybe get to that sooner rather than later. I can only assume that David gets off on the emotional blackmail piece which is why he’s gone about it in this especially shitty way.

2.      He thinks he knows her body better than she does. Now, I am totally down with erotica that has the hero introducing the heroine to new and exciting things, but the whole “Trust me, you’ll like it—I know your body better than you,” right after she says, “Ehhhhh, I don’t think so,” strikes me as rapey and creepy.

3.      “Do it for me.” Nope. How about Grace explores her sexuality because she wants to, not to make you happy. “Do it for me” should be reserved for lunch with your mother-in-law or seeing a terrible movie, not having sex with strangers. Not even a little bit cool.

Now, I totally get the trope in erotica where the heroine (or hero) is new to the world she/he is being introduced to and is uncertain and scared. Take Joey Hill’s Unrestrained ( A | BN | K | ARe ). The heroine has always been a Domme, but secretly wants to try being a sub. She is scared. Her Dom introduces her to this new side of her sexuality with compassion and patience. He does not say “If this doesn’t work for you, I’m out. Deuces.”

I even understand erotica where, during a scene, the heroine behaves as if she’s not into what’s happening. There’s a scene in The Siren where Søren shares Nora with his friend, Kingsley, and she’s all “Oh, no, please not that,” but it’s obvious she’s in character and is a consenting partner. Everyone is having a good time.

I didn’t get that from The Dining Club. Grace is uncertain during all four trials, and even when she’s enjoying what’s going on, she doesn’t have agency over her sexuality. She does it for David, always acutely aware that he will leave her if she doesn’t . She is not, at any point, empowered.

So what are the four trials? Well, they mostly involve either not having orgasms, or only having so many, or having as many as possible within a certain time frame. Other members of the club are involved in the trials. Amber, the mistress of the club, Andrew (who falls for Grace because we needed three chapters of conflict that go nowhere), and the twins—Amy and Laura.

I’d like to say that Amy and Laura do not touch each other at any point, but the sex gets a little confusing during one of the trials and I’m not 100% sure who was touching whom. Generally speaking, I like to be 100% sure on that incest thing.

KY Warming Liquid

To make things even worse, the supporting female characters are boring archetypes. Amber is a bitch. She is jealous of Grace and David. Amy and Laura are ditzy, bubbly, and paper thin. All of them had a vaguely adversarial role with Grace: rather than being there to introduce her to the club in a supportive and thoughtful way, they deliberately (either by bitchiness or design of the trials) were there to see her fail.

So on top of being a shitty representation of sex club, the books are also kind of ridiculous. I mean, we hear a lot about the Dining Club’s special lubricant “imported from the far east.” It’s special. It makes her warm and tingly. Apparently they went to the “far east” to buy KY Warming Liquid. It’s at Target, you guys.

There’s the scene were David has what I think is supposed to be a moment of emotional reckoning when he thinks he might be falling in love with Grace:

Then, as he made his way in the world, he watched male friends fall into the same trap. Besotted with the women they’d fallen in love with, they changed. The rounds of golf became few and far between, while nights out with male friends gradually tapered off. Falling in love turned them into different people.

What a douche canoe. Love changed them. It gave them stuff to do on Saturday other than golf. Jesus Fucking Christ.

The best writing, sadly, happens during the sexual trials and it’s mostly description of things going in places and Grace being nervous but multi-orgasmic.

So there’s some BDSM, group sex, lesbian sex, and the grand finale…trial four… “The Club Sandwich.”

By this point, I’d hoped they meant an actual sandwich. I had a sneaking suspicion we were talking DP, not bacon, and fuck it, I was right.

David’s last girlfriend bailed on trial four, by the way. Because she didn’t love him enough to have another dude fuck her ass while she had sex with David. The bitch. Of course Grace aces it, and yay, now David won’t leave her!

I already felt sickened by all of this, but then it got even more insane. Turns out there is trial five, where Grace can challenge Amber for position of mistress of the club. Amber’s position is a real job. She runs a real sex club/hotel. She has to worry about staff and guests and all the things that come with running a business. She probably has to worry about participants getting STD tests and about the privacy of her “elite” clients. This is a big fucking job.

But if Grace can have sex with a bunch of people simultaneously with Amber and prove that she’s the better “slave” then she gets to run the club. And she wants to do this. Because having Andrew in her butt made her realize she loves David AND the club.

Yup, suddenly she loves The Dining Club. She’s doing it for the club. The club, which isn’t even a sentient being, is somehow emotionally manipulating her too.

Oh, by the way, Grace is a theater manager so she should be able to jump right into that running a sex club/small business thing. No probs.

Among their tests, Ben Wa Balls are inserted into Grace and Amber, and they have to use exercise equipment like a treadmill, exercise ball and stationary bike while having as many orgasms as possible. What. The. Fuck.

So yeah, that’s why I slapped this book with an F. Dickbag hero, one-dimensional female characters, emotional manipulation, shitty representation of fetish, Ben Wa Balls and treadmill. And special lubricant, from the “far east.”

Now, I have to bitch about the fact that this is an eight novella serial costing $1.99 a book. Each book is three chapters long. Book one took me fifteen minutes to read. Literally. I didn’t consider the format or the price when I graded this book since the author likely has little to no control over either, but I felt it’s worth mentioning how grossly expensive this is.

If you want to spend sixteen bucks on erotica/erotic romance go get some Joey Hill, Tiffany Reisz, Lorelei James or Maya Banks.  Do not enter The Dining Club. And please do not sample the club sandwich. 

This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Kobo | All Romance eBooks

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Tam B.. says:

    Oh Elyse, two F books in a row!
    Where do we send the sympathy wine and chocolate to soothe any suffering?

    Great review of a book I never hope to read!

    BTW I’ve read a Cherise Sinclair book where the douche dick-bag boyfriend does the “Surprise group sex! You love me don’t you?” routine but the girl stands her ground and ditches him and then takes up with the host (who is better in bed).  I think it might be Master of the Mountain.

    I sincerely hope that you are now curled up with a comfort read to act as brain bleach.

  2. 2
    Bea says:

    Oh, Elyse, I feel for you! But I have to confess that I adore your F reviews! Your efforts on our behalf are treasured and revered.

  3. 3
    Francesca says:

    Are there any books out there where she tells the guy to take a hike and ends out with that nice accountant from work, who doesn’t want to watch her having sex with as many people as possible?

    Everything in this series feels wrong and the excerpt on Amazon is dreadful. It doesn’t even come across as a guilty pleasure; just icky.

  4. 4
    theformerastronomer says:

    The club, which isn’t even a sentient being, is somehow emotionally manipulating her too.

    The Dining Club is the Overlook Hotel?

  5. 5
    cayenne says:

    Elyse, I completely agree with you about everything you say about this serial! I came so close to DNFing it several times, especially whenever her friend showed up and tried to slap some sense into her and all she would do is sniffle and stammer “but…but…I loooooove him”. This is paraphrased, of course, but is basically the gist of the whole depressing story. I really should have slapped myself for continuing.

    I just haven’t been able to get into this writer’s work. I love BDSM books as much as the next smuthound, but the others of hers that I’ve read (House of Decadence in particular) contain more of these manipulative, coercive, and “surprise! KINK” plotlines than I need in my life, and doormat heroines are not appealing. For British BDSM series, I will stick to Ashe Barker.

  6. 6
    SB Sarah says:

    Surprise! KINK! is really rage-pants bothersome to me, too, because one of the major points of BDSM being safe and consensual is the SAFE and CONSENSUAL part. It’s not safe if you’re using your kink to emotionally manipulate someone, and doing so does not make that person’s participation consensual, goddammit.

  7. 7
    jimthered says:

    I have no idea how no one has made a novelty gift where “

      one of those fake cans of peanuts that snakes pop out of. Except instead of snakes, it’s dicks


    Author/columnist Dan Savage uses the acronym GGG, which means (thanks, Wikipedia!)

    one should strive to be Good in bed, Giving “equal time and equal pleasure” to one’s partner, and Game “for anything—within reason.”

      A downside of the current explosion of kink/romance overlap is that, like in this book, it’s not so much about two (or more) people figuring out what they like together, as much as a dominant who doesn’t so much guide his partner into the world as push them into it.

  8. 8
    Dora says:

    Totes in agreement. The common theme of guys “knowing” a woman’s body and desires better than she does herself is so dangerous because it tells men they always know better, and tells women that if a guy TELLS you he knows better, then he must… even if your instincts are telling you no! The emotional manipulation reminds me a bit of the trope I actually hate the most… the guy who’s damaged to the point of being a danger to the heroine, or even physically and emotionally abusive, but because she LOVES HIM ENOUGH, and puts up with everything he does to her throughout, he gets “better”. HOLY DANGEROUS MESSAGE, BATMAN. Everything about that, and the issues you outline here, makes it sound that if a relationship fails and a guy has flaws, it’s your fault for not loving him enough to be able to “fix” him. Nnnnnoooooooooope.

  9. 9
    Nali says:

    Hah! Apparently, this hits on SO MANY of my issues with “erotica” these days.

    First, the “short novella” Serial. Can that please die a horrible, flaming death already? I mean, can we all stop pretending that it is somehow legit to put out something that is, for real, shorter than some samples you can download, while calling it a “novella” or “Book One [through Ten Bazillion]”? It’s annoying. And stupid. And you know what? It pisses me off even when I happen to read them for *free*, so it isn’t just the money. Because 9.9 times out of 10 (that’s like totally a scientific number, ya’ll), if it is “published” this way, the total over all story SUCKS too much to be a valid book, anyway.

    I get that you probably don’t want to mention the fact that you’d like to dangle her from the ceiling while your buddy sodomizes her and you watch on the first date (that would be a great conversation to have at the Olive Garden)

    I LOL’d hard. Now I want to write up the Dating Etiquette Guide For Kinky Ladies And Gentlemen.
    Like, “DP should definitely not be brought up before the third date, unless one has met their prospective partner in a kink-friendly venue where this is an agreed upon possibility. Possible examples include sex clubs, dungeons, fetish parties, and certain fanfic meetups.”
    And, “Ease into the conversation. Do not attempt to awkwardly insert it too early in the date. This is not something to be rushed into while perusing the menu; for instance, appetizer specials – no matter how tempting a segue it seems – should not be seen as an excuse to blurt out ‘Speaking of Two-For deals…’”

    Good Times.

    But as for the rest? Yeah.
    Do you remember, once upon a time, when authors actually researched stuff they wrote about? And by “research” I don’t mean “read a bunch of stuff written by other people who don’t do research.” I am pretty sure at least some of the offenders in the erotica field right now are familiar with this concept, considering how many of the clueless-but-plucky heroines who accidentally find themselves neck deep in hard core kink without meaning to (but who always have to go through with it, even though they are TOTALLY reluctant until they realize it is the missing piece in their lives) are actually writers or reporters of some sort “investigating/researching” something. Can we maybe get back to a trend where people knew at least a little about what the hell they were talking about?

    Because that lack of agency issue? It’s a HUGE one. And the supposedly more sexually “open” stuff is the worst. fucking. offender. I keep getting the vague impression that the author thinks what they are writing about has something to do with “liberating” someone from their mental/emotional constraints… except, no. Most of the heroines in these stories don’t need more sex toys or a good master or whatever-the-hell it is that the story is offering them… they need a nice cup of tea and a few years of therapy, for thinking it is “love” when someone manipulates you like that. And most of the stuff they are talking about, in real life, is ALL ABOUT EMPOWERMENT, CONSENT, AND BOUNDARIES.

    Oh, and the “special lube” from the “far east” cracked me up, so much. That whole “weird exotic thing we insist is special and made up just for this” thing is often comedy gold. Like the “special furniture” thing that everyone always seems to have rooms full of, and when you actually stop and think about it (and sort through some really bad descriptions), you find yourself thinking “Oh! Dude. That’s a weight bench!”


  10. 10
    Miranda says:

    Are there any books out there where she tells the guy to take a hike and ends out with that nice accountant from work, who doesn’t want to watch her having sex with as many people as possible?

    I would read the heck out of this.

  11. 11
    kkw says:

    I’m bored with the whole superkink shebang, because personally I find pain…painful, and the only time I enjoy someone else’s suffering is in an F review. To each her own, but I’m starting to wonder if a desire for equality is actually more unusual.

  12. 12
    Elyse says:

    @Nali WORD.

  13. 13

    Oh yes, I agree with Elyse—grab Tiffany Reisz before you grab this book (not that I’ve read Anderson, but after this review, I don’t think I’ll evver need to!).

    Great review! :)

  14. 14
    Betsy says:

    Nice review. I think I enjoy reading your “F” reviews more than reading the A ones.  These are ever so funny. I’m also very tired of crappy erotica centering around kink.

  15. 15
    Friday says:

    I’m so, So, SO glad that someone else feels the same.

    It makes me sad that I read this book – and all the way to the end and everything! Grace did not interest me as a character at all.  I liked her mate Fran much better, probably because I think I’ve recited many of her speech lines at similarly dopey friends of mine.  “He’s a jackass, he knows we have Big Thing on this particular day and has for months and you’re ditching me at the last minute for said jackass?!?’ Not cool.  Fran repeatedly questions why Grace behaves the way she does, brings up totally reasonable points and is predictably (in Erotic Romancelandia at least) shot down because Fran ‘doesn’t understand’.  That friendship should have died swiftly right then.

    The icky subtext at the end is that Andrew (supposedly madly in love with Grace) then takes up with Fran at the end.  I fear another ‘Surprise! KINK!’ book in the future.

  16. 16
    Elinor Aspen says:

    “Surprise! Kink!” is never a good idea, in fiction or reality. Does anyone else remember the political scandal ten years ago when actress Jeri Ryan’s divorce records were unsealed while her ex-husband was running for Illinois’ vacant U.S. Senate seat? The revelations that he had taken her to sex clubs and pressured her to perform public sex acts (she reportedly broke down in tears and refused) forced him to withdraw his candidacy (and forced the Illinois Republican Party to draft wingnut carpetbagger Alan Keyes to run against Barack Obama).

  17. 17
    Elyse says:

    @Elinor I actually did think about the Jeri Ryan thing. Apparently there ARE guys like that out there not just in Romancelandia

  18. 18
    Kelly S. says:

    My favorite part of the review is

    I guess I personally believe that if your idea of a perfect committed relationship involves double penetration with your bestie and your girlfriend, maybe you should let your girlfriend know that before you get really, really involved. Because I don’t think the traditional fifth anniversary gift of wood is a good segue way for introducing that.

    especially the last sentence.

    Also, when he tells her if she doesn’t go thru with the trials, it’s over, I would have been leaving and thanking my lucky stars I was escaping such a bad relationship.  That asshat is not a hero.

  19. 19
    LauraL says:

    Maybe the lube from came from the Target in the far Eastern suburbs?

    Elyse, once again, thanks for saving me from reading a book I would not be able to un-see or finish reading.

    Personally, I have a hard time believing Grace would not have gotten a hint that her man Dave was kinky after six months of dating and, I would think, dancing in the sheets. SMH


  20. 20
    Sarita says:

    In agreement with all of this. Also, am I reading it right that she is expected to not only agree to a bunch of kinky sex tests, but pass them? ie, this douchenozzle only wants her if she’s instantly and spontaneously super good at kinky sex she didn’t even ‘know she wanted’ and that’s supposed to be love? Pfft. I’m out.

  21. 21
    redheadedgirl says:

    Look, that Target is on the FAR EAST SIDE OF TOWN.

  22. 22
    cat says:

    I am so sorry you had to read this but it made for a particularly hilarious review. I’m not sure anything is ever going to top the Orca book though. Also, I won’t even be upset the next time someone does something annoying because it’ll give me a chance to use my new insult “douche canoe.” I’m sure it’s someone’s fetish because of course it is.

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