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Becoming sage explores BDSM, polyamory and realistic relationship dynamics

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Becoming sage, by Kasi Alexander, has everything a reader could want: sex, violence, mastering, slaving. And the emotional autobiographical novel also two things that can't be safe-worded out of -- cops and family drama.

In it, Alexander, a local author, tells the story of a woman who leaves the vanilla world and jumps with both feet -- encased in uncomfortable four-inch heels -- into BDSM and polyamory, and find out how exotic, emotional and downright crazy it can be if you're doing it right, and how much more intense it gets when you make mistakes.

She begins with Jill or "sage " -- intentional lowercase "s" -- accompanying newfound friends Jessie and Rutger into a kink club called "The Keyhole", where she witnesses Jessie getting a birthday spanking unlike any other she'd ever seen, and she quickly discovers that Jessie is a slave named "sunni," Rutger is a Master named "Sir Rune," and she is about to get an indecent proposal.

"Your slave name is now sage," he said. "It means wisdom in English and well-behaved in French. I am going to take your natural wisdom and develop it so that you can teach other slaves to fulfill their submissive needs and desires, and I expect you to live up to both meanings."

I resisted the urge to giggle a little at his formality, but I had to admire him for the way he carried off what could have been extremely corny. He beckoned to sunni, who came to kneel beside me.

"This is your sister slave, sage," he said to her, nodding.

She turned to me and said, "Welcome to our household."

This is about the point where the kinky sex gets steamier than a Turkish sauna, and the interpersonal relationships get more complicated than untangling a box of Christmas lights. sunni turns into an attention-sucking bratty submissive, while sage is thrust into the role of the overly smug "good slave," and Sir Rune finally has to enlist the help of a public slave auction to teach the two submissives how to relate to each other without jealous stunts and passive-aggressive trickery.

Alexander does a superlative job exploring subjects like body image issues, NRE (New Relationship Energy), the effects of being in a lifestyle outside of societal norms, sexual chemistry and passion, and, of course, the good, bad and downright ugly of living a polyamorous life with bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism.

"We had been so trained to think that making love was so much more romantic and real than just 'having sex,' but suddenly making love seemed incredibly vanilla and prudish and boring. What we were going to do was to fuck -- it was something much more primal and exciting than what normal people did when they went to bed. It was kinky. Kinky might be in, but most people never had the nerve to really push their boundaries."

Alexander's writing is smooth and unencumbered, without any difficult-to-understand BDSM insider terms or high language, and her characters garner genuine reader empathy -- you really want to smack sunni upside her head at several points -- and when sage's mother sends the police to their apartment to do a welfare check right in the middle of them doing a BDSM scene, Alexander manages to combine the hilarity of cops having to question two maid-costumed slaves with the more serious issue of their dominant being assumed guilty of non-consensual abuse.

This book is a stellar read for anyone who has experience in alternative lifestyles, or for anyone who doesn't, since the sex scenes are hot, the drama is chilly, and Alexander really captures the bigger picture about how delicious, gratifying, painful and downright insane personal relationships can be -- especially when you add rope bondage and searing-hot candle wax.

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