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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Book Review: Beauty's Kingdom (Sleeping Beauty #4) by A.N. Roquelaure (pseudonym), Anne Rice

Beauty's Kingdom (Sleeping Beauty #4)
by A.N. Roquelaure (pseudonym), Anne Rice

Hardcover, 368 pages
April 21st 2015 by Viking

Mega-bestselling author Anne Rice, writing as A. N. Roquelaure, returns to the mysterious kingdom of Queen Eleanor in this new chapter of her Sleeping Beauty series. When the great queen is reported dead, Beauty and Laurent return to the kingdom they left twenty years before. Beauty agrees to take the throne, but she insists that all erotic servitude be voluntary. Countless eager princes, princesses, lords, ladies, and commoners journey to Beauty’s realm, where she and her husband usher in a new era of desire, longing, and ecstasy. Provocative and stirring, Rice’s imaginative retelling of the Sleeping Beauty myth will be adored by her longtime fans and new readers of erotica just discovering the novels.

This book is intended for mature audiences.

This is a review of the trilogy as well as Beauty's Kingdom

Sleeping Beauty Trilogy review
Until this year, I’d never read A.N. Roquelaure’s infamous Sleeping Beauty series. Sure, I’d heard via word of mouth that Anne Rice wrote an incredibly erotic fairy tale series under a pseudonym; however, I’d never taken the time to investigate. As an Anne Rice fan, I know how sensual her writing can be and when the opportunity to review Beauty’s Kingdom presented itself, I eagerly volunteered. And so, I embarked on a journey to binge-read the first three Beauty books, to prepare for my review of the fourth installment. I’d read erotica before, I was prepared, or so I thought.

Reading The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty’s Punishment, then Beauty’s Release in quick succession can be likened to eating a triple chocolate cheesecake in one sitting; it’s enjoyable and sinfully delicious, but in the end you’re likely to feel nauseous. I don’t fault the texts per se, but rather my process. When the books were re-released in recent years, they bore the tagline, “If you liked Fifty Shades of Grey, you’ll love the Sleeping Beauty Trilogy.” Rice herself evokes Fifty in her defensive preface to the new editions from 2012. I’d like to make something clear: Sleeping Beauty and Fifty are vastly different trilogies. They both chronicle BDSM sex, yes, but they are worlds apart. In order to enjoy the Beauty trilogy, one must be capable of transcending every preconceived notion one has about sexual relationships, preference and orientation, monogamy and methods. There were many times I struggled with this, but I endured.

The books chronicle the lives of naked pleasure slaves, who, for a predetermined term, serve in the kingdom and are subject to the whims and fancies of a multitude of masters. The goal is for pleasure slaves to learn the art of sexual pleasure, but to also learn humility and ultimate self-control. The minimalist plot in the Beauty trilogy is propelled by colourful characters and their graphic sexual encounters. Rice is endlessly creative in her descriptions of sex, sexual implements, and sexual participants. The language is poetic, rich and dense, kinda like cheesecake, and the sex is so outrageous, it needs to be carefully and slowly digested.

Beauty's Kingdom review
This brings me to the current installment, Beauty’s Kingdom. This fourth volume in the series can, in many ways, be set apart from the originating trilogy. It has been written over 20 years after Beauty’s Release and the realm has been reloaded, so to speak. Within the text, Queen Beauty and King Laurent have been asked to rule over Queen Elenor’s kingdom following a shipwreck that has left the queen and her son, the crowned prince, lost at sea. It has been 20 years since Beauty and Laurent were used as naked pleasure slaves and the request is both tantalizing and overwhelming. They agree to assume rule of the realm provided they are permitted to make crucial changes to the pleasure slave structure. These changes make this text far more palatable and acceptable for a mainstream readership. If Fifty-type readers are being marketed to for Rice’s new erotica, these changes were crucial. Many of the more problematic and troubling aspects of the original trilogy have been corrected through, well, political correctness. Rice reworks the realm to settle the mainstream reader’s nerves surrounding issues of age, feminism, ethnic diversity, and consent. As the text unfolds, Queen Beauty’s kingdom comes to represent a mature sexual utopia of perfect and beautiful democratic acceptance.

The newest installment was, for me, a more palatable sojourn into fantastic erotica. I found it less an exercise in challenging my own sexual mores and more an entertaining read. This book can be read as a standalone, I think, and, if you’re new to erotica or on the periphery, that’s exactly what I suggest. Rice does a good job of seamlessly recapping the past. The payoff in reading the first three books is that you are rewarded with closure in discovering what has befallen numerous intriguing characters. But there are new, equally formidable characters, like Lady Eva, who is a wonderfully fierce female heroine in this novel. So, if you plan to try this book, approach it like triple chocolate cheesecake; take it in slowly, one sliver at a time, and perhaps even share it with someone special.

4 sheep

Bianca Greenwood

About the Author:
Anne Rice (born Howard Allen Frances O'Brien) is a best-selling American author of gothic, supernatural, historical, erotica, and later religious themed books. Best known for The Vampire Chronicles, her prevailing thematical focus is on love, death, immortality, existentialism, and the human condition. She was married to poet Stan Rice for 41 years until his death in 2002. Her books have sold nearly 100 million copies, making her one of the most widely read authors in modern history.

She uses the pseudonym Anne Rampling for adult-themed fiction (i.e., erotica) and A.N. Roquelaure for fiction featuring sexually explicit sado-masochism.

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