Certain Requirements by Elinor ZimmermanCertain Requirements by Elinor Zimmerman is a kinky, butch/femme erotic romance that’s surprisingly sweet.

Phoenix Gomez is excited to start the next phase of her life. After years of training, as well as scrimping and saving at a job she doesn’t like, she’s finally quitting so she can focus full time on building a career as an aerial dancer (think Cirque du Soleil). Everything is perfect until her best friend and roommate tells her that he’s moving across the country with his boyfriend at the same time that their rent is being raised.

Unwilling to ask for her job back and not particularly wanting to end up homeless, Phoenix agrees to an unusual arrangement and moves in with with a hot butch to be her full-time submissive. Sure, Phoenix has only ever had kink in the bedroom, but with free run of a beautiful house in San Francisco and the ability to pursue her dream, it’s worth at least trying. Besides, it’s not like it’s that hard, since Kris is a CEO at a tech company, which means that Phoenix will only really see her during their appointed play times.

The rules are clear: Phoenix will have regular chores and they’ll play for an hour each night with rewards and punishments as Phoenix deserves, plus one extended session a week. Also—and, most importantly—there won’t be any feelings or romantic anything between them, since Kris has no time or inclination for it. If only it were that easy though, especially when they start spending time together outside of the bedroom. Can Phoenix tame the hunky butch beast that is Kris? And can whatever they have survive when her dream job comes knocking and might take her away from the Bay area?

The Characters

Certain Requirements is told in the first person from Phoenix’s perspective, so we get to know her better than anyone else in the book. I love that even though she’s driven to pursue her passion, she stills maintains some balance in her life. I especially appreciated seeing how that contrasts with the way Kris is driven to work 80 hours a week and has very little balance. Both women are challenged by each other and they grow quite a lot over the course of the story (Kris even more so than Phoenix), so that they’re better people as individuals as well as for each other by the end of it.

I wish we’d been able to get a little more of Kris’s perspective. She’s that total beast (you know, the standoffish, butch version of the ice queen) who keeps people at arm’s length, and it’s lovely to see her slowly let Phoenix in. Zimmerman did a great job of showing her transformation, but I’m greedy and would have loved to get a little more of that inner landscape, especially before Kris starts communicating more openly with Phoenix.

The Writing Style

Although the pacing could have been a little tighter in spots, overall I think Zimmerman did a great job with this one. In addition to how she built the chemistry and romance between Kris and Phoenix, I was fascinated by her descriptions of aerial dance.

The Pros

Like I said, the character work was great. Also, I’ve never seen anything about aerial dance in lesfic before.

My favourite thing of all, however, is that we actually see safer sex practices! Phoenix and Kris talk about whether they’ve been tested for STIs recently and they use barriers when they bring another partner in to play with them in one scene. It was SO refreshing! Lesfic has a long way to go to catch up with mainstream romance when it comes to showing safer sex, so I was thrilled to see it handled so well here. (Seriously authors, please consider adding more safer sex practices for all the baby queers reading your books that are not getting what they need from sex ed or their parents. I promise you can do it in ways that are sexy, because Elinor Zimmerman sure as hell pulled that off.)

The Cons

This is more of a content warning than a con. People who don’t like kink in their romances aren’t likely to enjoy this one.

The Conclusion

If you’re a fan of erotic romances, this is worth checking out. It’s a solid debut novel and I’m looking forward to seeing what else Elinor Zimmerman has in store for us.

Excerpt from Certain Requirements by Elinor Zimmerman

I emailed Kristen while I walked to the BART station. My palms were so sweaty that I thought I might drop my phone. Luckily, I’d spent the previous year dating online pretty exclusively, so I had my virtual charm down pat.

Hi, I typed, in an email with the subject line, This is awkward.

My name is Phoenix (and yes, my parents did give me that name, which makes sense if you know my parents). In addition to really liking parentheses, I’m an aerial dancer, a kinky queer femme, and a friend of Meghan’s. Meghan said she met you the other night and that you and I might hit it off. She also said you had a room you were looking to fill with somebody who met ‘certain requirements.’ I’m incredibly curious about what those might be.

Because some folks do better with a visual, here’s my YouTube channel, so you can see me dangling off silks, ropes, a lyra hoop, and some trapezes. Notice that my costumes are basically underwear. If that piques your interest, drop me a line, yeah?

I then spent the entire ride back to West Oakland obsessing about how to sign off. Peace? Sincerely? Best? Some cute little emoji? Should I turn off my automatic email signature on my personal email account: “Phoenix Gomez, aerial dancer,” with a link to my aerial Facebook page? Did I want this random stranger to have access to my full name and my profile? But if I included a link to my performance videos, she’d be able find me easily enough. Should I skip the link to my videos? But as I’d realized pretty quickly through all that online dating, those videos were more alluring than I ever was in real life. While I was cute in person, in those videos I was magnetic. Every girl I’d directed to that channel had gone out with me at least once, if only out of curiosity. I was strong, flexible, sexy, creative, and powerful in those videos. Whatever the situation was, those videos would almost guarantee me a follow-up from Kristen.

In the end, I left my automatic signature on and finished my email with, Thanks for considering my unsolicited interest in possibly maybe being your sub. I hope receiving this sort of bid from a complete stranger wasn’t completely off-putting.

Obediently (maybe),

Phoenix.

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Bits and Bobs

  • ISBN number: 9781635551952
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Elinor Zimmerman Online

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