I was really excited to receive the book Rye by Sam Rosenthal to review. Having reviewed quite a bit of queer porn recently, I was interested in checking out genderqueer erotic fiction. I was also excited to see what the lyricist of Black Tape for a Blue Girl would write. How exciting that he’s trying his hand at genderqueer erotic fiction. Rye turned out to be much more than just erotica. It’s full with examinations of sexuality, gender, open relationships, polyamory and kink. All this is woven together in an unconventional story about relationships and love.
Matt is a video artist and father who is dating Rye, an androgynous schoolteacher. Matt is attracted not only to Rye’s willful personality and desire to experiment sexually but to Rye’s genderqueer boi looks. Rye finds Matt both centered and kinky. It’s also the first time they have been attracted to a cisgendered male. Rye’s desire for Matt’s cock borders on fetish and finds they enjoy being bottom to Matt’s top. Matt sees spending his life with Rye and becoming a family with his son. The biggest roadblock is the fact that Matt lives in New York and Rye lives in Chicago. They find other hurdles to traverse while discovering more about their relationship.
Matt and Rye aren’t the only significant characters in this story. Matt is polyamorous and kinky so there are some very interesting people in his life. Matt likes to go to SexxCamp where he gets to experiment with his feeling of being genderqueer himself and have fun sexual encounters. It’s at SexxCamp that he meets Rain, a smart but snarky genderqueer playmate. At SexxCamp we meet Matt’s friends, who not only have some amazing sexcapades but also help him along in his self-discovery and navigating his relationships.
Matt, Rye and Rain become more than just a threesome. Together they struggle to deal with their choices and their desires in a way that examines many aspects of relationships and sexuality. Matt wants to settle down while still remaining poly but Rye is concerned this may threatened their independence. Rain finds they are interested in both Matt and Rye for various reasons. They not only explore some very sexy kinky scenarios, they help each other figure out how to deal with the fear of commitment and jealousy.
I’m amazed at how much is tackled in this novel. We start with the complexities of gender right from the beginning. Matt’s attraction to women who look and identify as male has him often examining his own sexuality. Not in a negative way, thankfully, but in an honest and open way. Rye, who identifies as “He” and has for many years dated women exclusively, also examines their ideas of sexuality and gender when they find themselves attracted to Matt. They both start to wonder why they don’t fall into conventional lines, even for alternative sexualities. I found this a great way to illustrate that we all love and desire for very different and individual reasons. We should love and desire as we choose, not what we think we’re “supposed” to do.
The cast of characters represent a vibrant collection of self-expression. Each person Matt and Rye come in contact with will definitely open up the reader to how many possibilities there are, how vast and infinite it can be. The very erotic sex scenes are well written and hot! At the same time they provide a delicious menu of sexual options. The variety in cis and genderqueer playmates is mind blowing. The sex runs that gamut from the intimate to imaginative. As a kinkster myself, I liked the various ways BDSM was portrayed, showing that kink is more than just pain play. The kink scenes also included the discussion of boundaries and safewords. At times the play was used to discuss a wide variety of issues such as gender identity, politics and freedom of expression. Each character has a clearly defined personality and their interactions would bring up some detail and in-depth discussions. In between the romance and the sexy situations you have lots to think about.
I understand that because this is a novel safer-sex practices are often not included since the written word doesn’t have to worry about actual results to its actions. There is no use of condoms or oral barriers anywhere in the book. I think this bothered me the most at SexxCamp. I kept reminding myself the book is not here to teach about safer-sex practices but was hard to ignore that when it took a stand on so many other issues. Why leave this important one important issue out?
[It was brought to our attention that there is a safe sex disclaimer that was missed at the beginning of the book on the copyright page. The author explains that in real life the characters in the book would be practicing safer sex but repeated reference would disturb the flow. Wanted to make sure the readers of this review were aware this was included in the book. – Editor]
The other thing that challenged me at times was the chapters with very little description of action or place, only dialogue. Many of these were depictions of chat conversations. It didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book; I just lost my place in many of the conversations. I would get half way through and lose track of who was speaking. This novel is really dialogue driven, which I liked, but is different than what I am used to with most of the erotic fiction I’ve read.
I definitely recommend this book. I also recommend giving it to someone who would like to, or needs to, learn more alternative relationships and sexuality. It opens up a huge Pandora’s box of subjects to discuss, which is wonderful. Read it with someone then discuss afterword. You might find this book not only inspires you in an erotic way but also inspires you to look at others in a whole new way.