Toy Box: Rings edited by M. Rode – review

Title: Toy Box: Rings (anthology)
Authors: Mychael Black, Syd McGinley and Kiernan Kelly
Genre: Fantasy, BDSM, pirates
URL: Torquere Press
Price: US $2.49
Other Information/warnings: Explicit m/m, BDSM, cock rings
Summary: What can one lover give another that means more than a ring? These rings are a little more than a simple gold band, but they make for a scorching hot Toy Box. In The Ming Ring, Kiernan Kelly give us Mark, a real player who meets his match in Lan, who has a special jade ring that he wants Mark to wear. In Syd McGinley’s Short Leash, Dr. Fell is learning to live again after the death of a loved one, and Rory might just be the man to get him going. Mychael Black’s Pirate’s Pride has pirate Ian worried that he’s not enough for his lover, Silas, and searching for ways to keep himself ready for love. My review: An anthology based on the use of cock rings would not be my preferred choice of reading, but I was sent a review copy by Syd McGinley along with a copy of Petsitting, which I’ve reviewed separately. Her story in this short anthology, Short Leash, takes the character of John Fell from Petsitting and gives us a window on his life some years on. He’s now Dr Fell and running a nice little submissive bootcamp from his cottage out in the boonies. Fellow doms leave their boys there for training and/or sitting, and Fell knocks them into shape. In Short Leash, he ends up managing three boys – Charlie from the earlier story, as well Rory and Colby who are new pets in training.

Like Petsitting, this story requires the reader to accept certain conventions of the 24/7 D/s lifestyle which may seem rather odd to the outsider. Like that earlier story, persisting with it despite reservations will reward the reader with a rich, layered story which is far less about the details of discipline and masochism, and far more about the thought processes of a dominant, how he has to consider the individual needs and desires of the submissives (and here, complicated by all three being rather different, and competitive), and what he gets out of the process. I found the rivalry between the three pets entertaining, and convincing, adding complexity to what might otherwise seem a very slight tale.

It’s also a bittersweet story about grief, and yearning, far from being a simple erotic piece. It is erotic, but it’s not the sex that I thought about for days afterwards. Dr Fell is a marvellous character, and I can’t wait to read more about him. The very richness of this story throws the other two into unflattering relief, as they are nothing like as long or layered or thoughtful.

Mychael Black’s Pirate’s Pride is pure porn (yawn) and as authentic a piece about pirates as a kid in a cardboard eyepatch. If you like that kind of thing, I suppose it’s okay, but I demand more from a story than ‘ooh, cock rings! So hot!’ to keep my interest.

That extra can definitely be found in Kiernan Kelly’s The Ming Ring, which has a deftly humorous narrative voice, an interesting plot twist, and some moderately entertaining sex (I simply don’t read stories for the porn content, which makes me far from the intended audience for this collection.) A bit too short to be absorbing, but a superior offering for this genre. I’d like to read more from this author.

The collection as a whole is not well edited – the same confusion between the homonyms of ‘discreet’ occur in both of Syd McGinley’s offerings from Torquere which makes me think no one on their editing staff actually knows the difference – and there were blurgy tense changes and other errors. Frankly, it’s not of a professional standard, and I think Torquere’s been in the business long enough that this kind of thing should be done better by now. However, they’re not charging print prices for this anthology, and if you only buy it for one or two of the stories, you won’t feel ripped off. Recommended, with reservations.