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The Scarlett Letters: My Secret Year of Men in an L.A. Dungeon

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Jenny Nordbak takes us to a place that few have seen, but millions have fantasized about, revealing how she transformed herself from a beautiful USC grad into an elite professional dominatrix. On an unorthodox quest to understand her hidden fantasies, Jenny led a double life for two years. By day she was a construction manager, but at night she became Mistress Scarlett. Wor Jenny Nordbak takes us to a place that few have seen, but millions have fantasized about, revealing how she transformed herself from a beautiful USC grad into an elite professional dominatrix. On an unorthodox quest to understand her hidden fantasies, Jenny led a double life for two years. By day she was a construction manager, but at night she became Mistress Scarlett. Working at LA’s longest-running dungeon, she catered to the secret fetishes of clients ranging from accountants to movie stars. She simultaneously developed a career in the complex and male-dominated world of healthcare construction, while spending her nights as a deviant sex worker, dominating men. Far from the standard-issue powerful men who pay to be helpless, Mistress Scarlett’s clientele included men whose fantasies revealed more complex needs, from “Tickle Ed” to “Doggie Dan,” from the “Treasure Trolls” to “Ta-Da Ted.” The Scarlett Letters explores the spectacularly diverse array of human sexuality and the fascinating cast of characters that she encountered along the way.


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Jenny Nordbak takes us to a place that few have seen, but millions have fantasized about, revealing how she transformed herself from a beautiful USC grad into an elite professional dominatrix. On an unorthodox quest to understand her hidden fantasies, Jenny led a double life for two years. By day she was a construction manager, but at night she became Mistress Scarlett. Wor Jenny Nordbak takes us to a place that few have seen, but millions have fantasized about, revealing how she transformed herself from a beautiful USC grad into an elite professional dominatrix. On an unorthodox quest to understand her hidden fantasies, Jenny led a double life for two years. By day she was a construction manager, but at night she became Mistress Scarlett. Working at LA’s longest-running dungeon, she catered to the secret fetishes of clients ranging from accountants to movie stars. She simultaneously developed a career in the complex and male-dominated world of healthcare construction, while spending her nights as a deviant sex worker, dominating men. Far from the standard-issue powerful men who pay to be helpless, Mistress Scarlett’s clientele included men whose fantasies revealed more complex needs, from “Tickle Ed” to “Doggie Dan,” from the “Treasure Trolls” to “Ta-Da Ted.” The Scarlett Letters explores the spectacularly diverse array of human sexuality and the fascinating cast of characters that she encountered along the way.

30 review for The Scarlett Letters: My Secret Year of Men in an L.A. Dungeon

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mischenko

    An honest memoir about a woman who has a career in construction management, but also on the side, has a secret life as a dominatrix named Mistress Scarlett. In all actuality, the book has much more than that as the author is on a journey of self-discovery. I didn't even read the blurb on this and requested it from NetGalley having no idea what it was about. This isn't my type of book, but it was written well and I did find it interesting and even shocking at times. Thanks to Netgalley, the publis An honest memoir about a woman who has a career in construction management, but also on the side, has a secret life as a dominatrix named Mistress Scarlett. In all actuality, the book has much more than that as the author is on a journey of self-discovery. I didn't even read the blurb on this and requested it from NetGalley having no idea what it was about. This isn't my type of book, but it was written well and I did find it interesting and even shocking at times. Thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and author for a copy in exchange for an honest review. 3***

  2. 5 out of 5

    Cher

    4.5 stars - Incredible. I really loved it. Not for the most sexually conservative reader, but I found this memoir to be captivating. Well written, engaging, and had me laughing out loud and reading excerpts to my husband throughout. She artfully balances those funny memories by discussing thought provoking moments and including tragic personal details about her life. Having a degree in archaeology + quickly progressing from vanilla to confident role playing professional + writing a debut book that 4.5 stars - Incredible. I really loved it. Not for the most sexually conservative reader, but I found this memoir to be captivating. Well written, engaging, and had me laughing out loud and reading excerpts to my husband throughout. She artfully balances those funny memories by discussing thought provoking moments and including tragic personal details about her life. Having a degree in archaeology + quickly progressing from vanilla to confident role playing professional + writing a debut book that is this wonderful = the author sounds like a well-rounded individual that would be interesting to have in your circle of friends. And so no surprise that the memoir reads like you are sitting back and catching up with an old friend. ------------------------------------------- Favorite Quote: Men mostly just seem to worry about other penises without realizing that it’s women’s hearts that run away with them. First Sentence: I was having a typical Monday.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jacque

    I am not a person who likes reading non-fiction books, especially biographies. I, however, do enjoy a good smutty book and even though The Scarlet Letters was listed as a memoir, I went for it. In all honesty, I had a few preconceived notions about what I was going to be reading. I've read plenty of BDSM fiction, and just assumed I was going to get more of the same, just on the reality side. WRONG! I was so, so wrong. Everything I read before was romance with BDSM as filler. What The Scarlett Le I am not a person who likes reading non-fiction books, especially biographies. I, however, do enjoy a good smutty book and even though The Scarlet Letters was listed as a memoir, I went for it. In all honesty, I had a few preconceived notions about what I was going to be reading. I've read plenty of BDSM fiction, and just assumed I was going to get more of the same, just on the reality side. WRONG! I was so, so wrong. Everything I read before was romance with BDSM as filler. What The Scarlett Letters offers is a journey of self-discovery, which just happens to take place in a dungeon! So let's tackle the easy part first, because let's be honest, it's the whole reason why I and almost everybody else is picking up the book. The Dungeon, Dommes and the people who go to them. Jenny, aka Mistress Scarlett, does not start out as a Domme. She has to work her way up. Along the way, she interacts with many interesting clientele and let me tell you, for the most part, I was in stitches laughing. Not because what they requested of her, but of her personal reminiscings. You have to give these guys credit. They faced their fetishes head on and knew (for the most part) what they wanted. Okay, some of the requests were funny and some were just down right gross. My personal favorites were Ta-Da Ted and Ben. Well, not Ben's initial story, but the prep work Scarlet and its aftermath. Could. Not. Stop. Laughing. The harder and more emotional side to the story is Jenny. She has personal issues she addresses in a frank, candid way. Nothing is held back and you have to admire her for it. As she grows into and become Mistress Scarlet, I can't help but feel without her duel sides she wouldn't have gotten to where she is now. As funny as Scarlet's stories are, Jenny's are deep, honest and tore my heart out. It's quite the journey she takes her readers on as begins to acceptance what she wants in life and she comes into herself. So why did I read this book? The blurb lured me in. The subject matter had me curiosity, just like it will most people. However, let's be frank, The Scarlet Letters is not a book for everybody. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed the subject matter, the content can be hard to swallow. There were some scenes that had me gagging and something you can't just unread. But, if you can get past all the kink and are willing to step out of your comfort zone, you will find a story of a brave woman on her voyage of self-discovery and self-worth. I received this book from The JeepDiva prior to release with the express purpose of an honest review. The opinions, contents, and rating of this review are solely mine Stars - 5, Flames - 5

  4. 5 out of 5

    Autumn

    When Jenny decided to transform into Mistress Scarlett, it wasn’t for the reasons that you might first expect. She did it to uncover the truth – her own truth. With the Dungeon as a backdrop, Jenny uncovers so much more than the stark reality of sex. She discovers the vast depth of humanity, the nuances of pain and the power of simple kindness. So I began an internal odyssey to find my way back to my authentic self, starting with the source of my greatest frustration – sex. When I read the blurb f When Jenny decided to transform into Mistress Scarlett, it wasn’t for the reasons that you might first expect. She did it to uncover the truth – her own truth. With the Dungeon as a backdrop, Jenny uncovers so much more than the stark reality of sex. She discovers the vast depth of humanity, the nuances of pain and the power of simple kindness. So I began an internal odyssey to find my way back to my authentic self, starting with the source of my greatest frustration – sex. When I read the blurb for The Scarlett Letters, I knew that I had to read it. I was expecting plenty of kink and sex but I wasn’t at all prepared for the emotional undercurrent of Jenny’s story. She created such a complex combination of both the cerebral and the physical that it spoke directly to my secret self. And I would really love to know who her client “Oliver” really is ;) It’s honest and cruel, wickedly sexy and thoroughly empowering. Every time I played with Dan, I was reminded that just because people get older doesn’t necessarily mean their libido withers and dies. It is perhaps uncomfortable to think of our grandparents in that light, but I think we unfairly cast older men as “dirty old men” simply for not having the decency to lose all interest in sex because they’ve passed an arbitrary age. And the idea of a promiscuous older woman is unacceptable to most people. Women of a certain age shouldn’t even think about sex lest they be judged. I for one plan to be a dirty old lady. And I couldn’t agree more. Meet you in the dungeon…

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Pollock

    This book is full of a lot of hard-core BDSM scenes, which should come as no surprise in a memoir by a professional dominatrix. It’s interesting to see the author contrast how her own kinky behavior varies depending on whether she’s working professionally or engaging with her boyfriend. She’s very open/minded and non-judgmental about most of her clients. Her depiction of one of her clients, Yoshi, gave me pause; frankly, it’s racist. He’s the only specifically Asian character in the book, and sh This book is full of a lot of hard-core BDSM scenes, which should come as no surprise in a memoir by a professional dominatrix. It’s interesting to see the author contrast how her own kinky behavior varies depending on whether she’s working professionally or engaging with her boyfriend. She’s very open/minded and non-judgmental about most of her clients. Her depiction of one of her clients, Yoshi, gave me pause; frankly, it’s racist. He’s the only specifically Asian character in the book, and she portrays him as speaking in “Ming the Merciless“ dialect and having a tiny dick, racial stereotypes right there on the page. In a memoir, where you have the license to change specific facts about people to protect their identities, she could’ve made this character a sinister asshole of any race. Golf clap to her editors who didn’t see anything wrong with this either. Do better, publishing. Even so, if you wonder what happens inside professional dungeons, this gives you a front row seat to probably more than you want to know. It’s not well written, but it’s honest. I wish she had been able to dramatize the personal tragedies in her family a bit more skillfully.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I may not be sheltered or innocent but when it comes to the world of BDSM I'm about as vanilla as they come. Jenny Nordbak not only makes that world relatable but she makes it reachable. This isn't just a story of sex but a glimpse into the psyche of people who aren't afraid to express themselves through their fantasies and her own development as she discovers her inner badass. She takes you on a journey through a world that is so alien to most of us but you get to see it through the eyes of som I may not be sheltered or innocent but when it comes to the world of BDSM I'm about as vanilla as they come. Jenny Nordbak not only makes that world relatable but she makes it reachable. This isn't just a story of sex but a glimpse into the psyche of people who aren't afraid to express themselves through their fantasies and her own development as she discovers her inner badass. She takes you on a journey through a world that is so alien to most of us but you get to see it through the eyes of someone you can relate to as if she were your sister. This is a definite must read!!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Wow! This was definitely eye opening! 😱 I consider myself to be pretty open minded but this was a whole other level. Some pretty interesting stories here! 😊

  8. 5 out of 5

    Leigh Kramer

    After listening to Jenny Nordbak's marvelous podcast The Wicked Wallflowers Club (co-hosted with Sarah Hawley), I decided to give her memoir a try and I'm so glad I did. Nordbak worked in construction by day and as a dominatrix by night. She has fascinating stories from both worlds but what I found most interesting was the ways she grew in confidence and self-understanding as the book progressed, particularly with her relationships. It's really about her journey of self-discovery and I really en After listening to Jenny Nordbak's marvelous podcast The Wicked Wallflowers Club (co-hosted with Sarah Hawley), I decided to give her memoir a try and I'm so glad I did. Nordbak worked in construction by day and as a dominatrix by night. She has fascinating stories from both worlds but what I found most interesting was the ways she grew in confidence and self-understanding as the book progressed, particularly with her relationships. It's really about her journey of self-discovery and I really enjoyed seeing how this played out. There were a number of stories (the candle wax scene!) that made me laugh out loud, making for quite the engaging read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    b.andherbooks

    A fascinating glimpse into a woman's experience exploring her boundaries while learning the ins and outs of being a Switch in an LA dungeon. I have a bit of a crush on Jenny Nordbak after hearing her speak on a variety of podcasts, and this was a super illuminating read. I had some wide-eyed moments, and definitely learned about a new kink (or three). Definitely worth picking up! A fascinating glimpse into a woman's experience exploring her boundaries while learning the ins and outs of being a Switch in an LA dungeon. I have a bit of a crush on Jenny Nordbak after hearing her speak on a variety of podcasts, and this was a super illuminating read. I had some wide-eyed moments, and definitely learned about a new kink (or three). Definitely worth picking up!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    While the scenes at the Dungeon were sometimes fun, this memoir (which reads more like bad Reddit sex tales) is a disaster. Even the title is a farce; no letters to be found. Disappointed that the author, who claims to be sex positive, judges half of her clients and most of her friends, doesn’t address her issues (trauma? lack of connection with herself as a sexual being? something else?), and basically admits to needing drugs and alcohol to do her job as a sub/switch and also have sex in her pe While the scenes at the Dungeon were sometimes fun, this memoir (which reads more like bad Reddit sex tales) is a disaster. Even the title is a farce; no letters to be found. Disappointed that the author, who claims to be sex positive, judges half of her clients and most of her friends, doesn’t address her issues (trauma? lack of connection with herself as a sexual being? something else?), and basically admits to needing drugs and alcohol to do her job as a sub/switch and also have sex in her personal life. Not a good model for young women interested in exploring their sexuality, boundaries, and/or humanity. Hope this woman has figured it out by now...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kat C

    Nordbak weaves together the events of her "vanilla" life with anecdotes about her sessions with clients as she becomes Mistress Scarlett. I found the peek into the BDSM scene fascinating and enjoyed getting to know the irreverent found family Nordbak creates for herself. This book is pretty hardcore though, the content is not for the faint of heart--some of the fetishes her clients have are a lot. Like there is a guy who liked to be forced to do disgusting things and she recounts all the gross th Nordbak weaves together the events of her "vanilla" life with anecdotes about her sessions with clients as she becomes Mistress Scarlett. I found the peek into the BDSM scene fascinating and enjoyed getting to know the irreverent found family Nordbak creates for herself. This book is pretty hardcore though, the content is not for the faint of heart--some of the fetishes her clients have are a lot. Like there is a guy who liked to be forced to do disgusting things and she recounts all the gross things she and the others would think of for him to do. While I liked this memoir the perspective kept nagging at me. While Nordbak is definitely part of the scene and has her own personal struggles it's not clear to me why she is the one who gets to publish a book about this scene. Nordbak is only a dominatrix for two years and leaves because she loses the spark and soon after marries a man who is not in the scene. I feel like someone who was in the scene longer or more experienced could have written a more interesting book. Many of the other characters we meet are more entrenched in the scene and I think they would have added more point-of-views on the BDSM lifestyle. Like the club's only male dominant who grew up in East Germany or the older desk mistress who is described as having as "seen some shit" or the Black submissive who is often asked to act out slave or pimp/prostitute fantasies. I wish it had been more like Orange Is The New Black which is both about Piper's story but also acknowledges others stories. I did this on audiobook and Nordbak is a good narrator, she had a theater background so there is a performative quality to her narration. I do side-eye the fact that despite there being Scottish, British and German people in this book the only accent she does is an Asian one. She does it once to mimic a client and again as a joke and it just came off as really distasteful.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rebekah Crain

    It should be obvious by the title alone, but in case there was any confusion, this is not a book for the prudish. Or, perhaps it is. For most of us, when we find ourselves getting bored or feeling like something is missing from our lives we find a new hobby like knitting, playing basketball, geocaching. We might even look to switch up some things in our relationships. What, I'm guessing, most of us don't do is wake up one day and decide everything in our lives, from the time we were kids playing It should be obvious by the title alone, but in case there was any confusion, this is not a book for the prudish. Or, perhaps it is. For most of us, when we find ourselves getting bored or feeling like something is missing from our lives we find a new hobby like knitting, playing basketball, geocaching. We might even look to switch up some things in our relationships. What, I'm guessing, most of us don't do is wake up one day and decide everything in our lives, from the time we were kids playing on the school playground, has been pointing us towards working in a sex dungeon. Yet that's exactly what Jenny did. The Scarlett Letters is Jenny's memoir detailing her incredible self discovery as she gradually transformed herself into Mistress Scarlett. By day Jenny continued to live her vanilla life and work her vanilla job. By night Mistress Scarlett began to grow, experiment, and find herself in the most non-vanilla of ways. Through it all she did not lose herself like you might think, but instead found clarity and a rebirth of her own innermost self. In many ways this book will appeal to fans of The Fifty Shades of Grey series. However, unlike the FSG series The Scarlett Letters is a documentary of sorts. Jenny details her growth and experiences all of which included consenting adults. They range from degrading to invigorating, and throughout them all Jenny allows her readers a unique inside view into the life of a sex worker. There were times while reading this book that I was grossed out, times I laughed, and times I felt wonder. It's certainly not the book- or lifestyle, for everyone, yet I found it very interesting to read. Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the review copy and opportunity.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jacque

    This book was absolutely incredible!! I received it about a year ago because I follow the author’s podcast, but my stance was “I like this author but I’m not a nonfiction reader.” However, my sister started reading this book two nights ago and was like “You HAVE to read this book!!” and once I started it couldn’t put the book down!! Literally it was like 3am when i finished it and I was crying. It was such an incredibly written book, with a well crafted and fascinating story arc. The biggest thi This book was absolutely incredible!! I received it about a year ago because I follow the author’s podcast, but my stance was “I like this author but I’m not a nonfiction reader.” However, my sister started reading this book two nights ago and was like “You HAVE to read this book!!” and once I started it couldn’t put the book down!! Literally it was like 3am when i finished it and I was crying. It was such an incredibly written book, with a well crafted and fascinating story arc. The biggest thing that hit me was watching the author forego the expectations of others & learning to be authentic. Personally I tend to get really caught up in meeting people’s expectations, & I end up feeling shame for not being able to fit into their boxes, and anxiety that people wouldn’t accept or value all of who I am. It was so encouraging to see her learn to prioritize her own needs, find her tribe and be unapologetically herself- something I really needed to hear & had me tearing up! Probably one of the best books I've read all year

  14. 4 out of 5

    Stella

    This is not Fifty Shade of Grey. Let's get that out of the way. If you read Fifth Shades of Grey and thought it was so scandalous and taboo, get ready to grow up. Jenny Nordbak was a construction site manager by day, and Mistress Scarlett by night. Following Jenny though her post college years of discovery, The Scarlett Letters is a story of humanity. We meet people who are open with their sexual desires, but at the core, that isn't what this book is about. This is the story of a girl, who was fl This is not Fifty Shade of Grey. Let's get that out of the way. If you read Fifth Shades of Grey and thought it was so scandalous and taboo, get ready to grow up. Jenny Nordbak was a construction site manager by day, and Mistress Scarlett by night. Following Jenny though her post college years of discovery, The Scarlett Letters is a story of humanity. We meet people who are open with their sexual desires, but at the core, that isn't what this book is about. This is the story of a girl, who was floating through life, in a boring job, with a boring boyfriend, who knew that she needed and deserved more. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this advance copy in exchange for this honest review.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Sciolino-Moore

    I read this for book club and was annoyed by it. It feels inauthentic, and I’m totally judging Jenny Nordbak badly as a tourist and narcissist. Although, aren’t we all when we’re in our early twenties? In the end, there wasn’t much here. Someone shopped a book that promised some shock to the Fifty Shades Of Grey audience and delivered on the formula. I like a memoir with an arc. I started *here*, some crazy shit happened that challenged my world view and I ended up *there*. None of that here. Yo I read this for book club and was annoyed by it. It feels inauthentic, and I’m totally judging Jenny Nordbak badly as a tourist and narcissist. Although, aren’t we all when we’re in our early twenties? In the end, there wasn’t much here. Someone shopped a book that promised some shock to the Fifty Shades Of Grey audience and delivered on the formula. I like a memoir with an arc. I started *here*, some crazy shit happened that challenged my world view and I ended up *there*. None of that here. You get the feeling that Nordbak didn’t really learn anything or grow very much, but rather grew bored of a whim and moved on. Just look up the Amazon page for Urethral Sounding and read the Q&A for your shocking sexual practices and you can skip this book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mediaman

    Unsatisfying, fake-feminist book that's mostly an R-rated version of a dominatrix sex life. Some sections give too much gross detail, while others barely mention things that should have been better explained. The first two-thirds of the book is basically a chapter-by-chapter summary of what the author did with her clients. It's fairly tame at first, when she's a "sub" learning the trade, but by the middle of the book she takes charge of other people that want to be belittled. She claims she lives Unsatisfying, fake-feminist book that's mostly an R-rated version of a dominatrix sex life. Some sections give too much gross detail, while others barely mention things that should have been better explained. The first two-thirds of the book is basically a chapter-by-chapter summary of what the author did with her clients. It's fairly tame at first, when she's a "sub" learning the trade, but by the middle of the book she takes charge of other people that want to be belittled. She claims she lives by "rules" of the business (so she doesn't actually have sex with customers, doesn't touch their private parts with her hands, and doesn't allow them to cum on her) but then she breaks those rules over and over. Some things are so crude and offensive, yet this supposed feminist brags about urination, poo, whippings that leave her bloody, making men lick muddy shoes, etc. The worst is the unnamed major Hollywood star who she allows to cum on her while her finger is in his...well, you'd have to read the book. But it's pretty creepy, but she admits she broke the rules because he was a hot star that she loved. Classy. Add to that her side stories about her co-workers, where she has a number of lesbian sexual encounters, and her having an open relationship with her boyfriend, that lets her become part of orgies, sex with other men outside of work, etc. Liberating, right? The irony is that she has a day job in the medical field, helping to build a children's hospital--seriously! No surprise in one meeting she runs into a sex client--who is a doctor at the facility. Nowhere does she analyze her hypocrisy or why she flipped a switch literally overnight from clean innocent college girl to rabid sexual dominant. She does mention her parents divorce, her new stepmom's crazy behavior, and her longing for her dad back. But she doesn't care--she's too hungry to exploring different sexual fetishes to feed her need to dominate men. Near the end Nordbak gets just plain weird, flipping the book away from sexual antics into reconnecting with her father but refusing to give any details about their conversation. She reveals her secret evening job working as a dominatrix to her mother, who thinks it's funny and reveals secrets about her own past--again, none of those conversations are shared in the book. Why write a book and fail to include stories or enough detail about your private life, yet you're willing to brag about carrying a bag of poo around with you in your purse to give to a client? After she quits her job the author goes to Burning Man and brags about being the center of everyone's attention by topping another woman with a black dildo, then wearing the strapon while she walks around bottomless the rest of the festival. Add to that the many drugs she brags about doing (throughout the book) and you have a pretty classless woman hiding her disgusting behavior behind the cloak of feminism. Then in the final nine pages of the book it all changes--she falls for a tall guy who she gives control over to, elopes, has a baby, and changes her attitude to claiming she would never again have sex with anyone else. "So am I still kinky?" she writes at the end, "That's a tale for another book." HUH? She just told us she was committed to one man and was no longer focusing on sexuality. This all might work if the book were more about her private life throughout the pages and that she didn't feel the need to constantly brag about her sexual prowess. She also makes a misstep condemning religion and mocking those listening to a funeral sermon. The author has no thought of the afterlife, she just lives impulsively to fulfill her desires and never regrets any of it, no matter how much damage she did to others or herself. The book is not really about her self-proclaimed heroism but is about self-mutilating hedonism.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sonora Taylor

    This was a fun, saucy read. It's a memoir from Jenny Nordbak, a woman who had the ultimate side job. She hides little about her work as a dominatrix for two years. It was interesting, surprising, and yes, quite sexy reading about her clients as well as her friends and co-workers. The chapter about her and Dom was easily the steamiest. The hardest to read was the one about Urethra Sounds. I have a pretty high tolerance and that made me squeamish, so be warned! Where the book fell short for me was This was a fun, saucy read. It's a memoir from Jenny Nordbak, a woman who had the ultimate side job. She hides little about her work as a dominatrix for two years. It was interesting, surprising, and yes, quite sexy reading about her clients as well as her friends and co-workers. The chapter about her and Dom was easily the steamiest. The hardest to read was the one about Urethra Sounds. I have a pretty high tolerance and that made me squeamish, so be warned! Where the book fell short for me was towards the end. For the first two-thirds, we really got to know both Jenny and Miss Scarlett. She got deep into her relationship with her boyfriend, Wes; and how her job both brought their union to new heights and exposed its flaws. We learned about Jenny's co-workers and Jenny's various awakenings, both sexual and coming-of-age. In the final third, though, things seemed rushed. A coupling teased in the first third happened, then ended within a couple chapters; and in summary. Other relationships ended in a paragraph. New adventures began and ended quickly and in the same chapter - sometimes on the same page. It almost read like Nordbak had a much longer book, but rushed through the end to keep it as a short read. This could've lingered a little longer and been better for it, especially when Jenny decides to leave Miss Scarlett behind. She has a realization about what she could become that just, well, happens. I wanted more time devoted to her thoughts on this towards the end, even if it meant less time at various fetish parties or less sex scenes (the Burning Man chapter, for instance, didn't bring much to the table except a girl-on-girl sex scene, which we'd already gotten). Still, it was a fun read and held no punches when discussing BDSM and people's secret dark sides. I recommend it overall. I'm also going to wonder who "Oliver" is for many days to come.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Pandora Elinor

    Ok so, this is rather obvious, but I will say it : the book is very explicit! It's basically a list of very explicit sexual encounters, with some biographical narration in between. Obviously the book is aiming to titillate with experiences that are outside the norm, and I'd say it succeeds fairly well in that respect. There's nothing really that surprising or even that intense though, except the waterboarding and the urethral sounding. I feel like this book's blurb was very misleading. It implies Ok so, this is rather obvious, but I will say it : the book is very explicit! It's basically a list of very explicit sexual encounters, with some biographical narration in between. Obviously the book is aiming to titillate with experiences that are outside the norm, and I'd say it succeeds fairly well in that respect. There's nothing really that surprising or even that intense though, except the waterboarding and the urethral sounding. I feel like this book's blurb was very misleading. It implies that this book is about a Domme and her experience with submissive clients. That's not what the book is actually about though. It's really about one woman's BDSM phase, where she did indeed work in a dungeon, but first as a submissive and then as a switch. It's also about her family, her relationships, her other job buying equipment for a hospital under construction. It's about the BDSM lifestyle and the cons and cool parties she wants us to know she attended. I'd say less than 25% of the book is about her working as a Domme. So to be fair, I was disappointed that I was misled, and it did make me a little more impatient with the book. I would not have picked it up if I knew it was going to be like this. But the things that annoyed me would have annoyed me anyway, just not this much. The dialogue felt very stilted and wooden. Sometimes it was used for clunky exposition, especially in the beginning. Other times it sounded like wish fulfilment, you know how you rewrite a conversation in your head after the fact to how you wish it had gone. The stuff that was done to the sub workers was sometimes exploitative and even abusive, but the author seemed unaware of this. There was no acknowledgement of the impossibility of truly consenting to an act when a person has to do it as a means to earn money to live. (This was not the case for the author, but some of the other workers were not as privileged as her and this seemed to be their means of earning their subsistance). Sometimes things were done to subs who clearly did not consent, and it was shrugged off. The author herself had to fight off a client who was attempting to rape her. She was uneasy for a few days, then decided to return. There were no consequences for the man. The book fails to think through the implications of these events, they are swept under the rug. In general, the author's values seemed really off to me at other times too. For example she blamed herself for her boyfriend cheating. I call bullshit, he's an adult and that's on him. Her behaviour by taking such a sexually charged job in secret wasn't appropriate and she was right to reflect on that and want to make amends, but shitty behaviour doesn't excuse your partner having even shittier behaviour, that's not how it works. At one point in the book, she says she doesn't understand how one could get pregnant accidentally given the range of birth control options. I was floored that such an ignorant and judgemental opinion was printed in an actual book without even being questioned. First of all, there is literally no method of birth control that is 100% effective (except for abstinence obviously). And secondly, people are human and make mistakes sometimes, there's no call to be judgemental. Especially since the author admits to not making her ex wear a condom earlier in the book because she felt too insecure to ask. Exactly the kind of thing which could result in accidental pregnancy. In fact, for as much as the author congratulates herself and the BDSM community on being accepting and non-judgemental, they sure do make fun of their clients a lot. I get it, it helps to get through weird sessions, and some of those situations were quite funny, but then preaching how BDSM made her so much more accepting than the judgemental vanilla masses was not quite as convincing as she probably hoped. The whole book sounded exactly as judgemental as a vanilla person would be. She never fails to describe in uncompromising detail whatever a person would usually be judged for (being fat, being unattractive, not having curves in the right places, being old, being wrinkly, being an Asian person with an accent, having a ridiculous fantasy...). And on the flip side, she always feels the need to point out how attractive she and some other people are. Clearly these things are important to her. I feel like if she were truly non-judgemental she would be seeing other things in people. I didn't understand why Colin was included. She says he was her friend, but proceeds to treat him like shit. She seems to think she's so much more enlightened than him, when all I see is a guy who's obviously in love with her and has a bit of a complex about helping lost girls, which isn't that unusual. (There are also a lot of women who are into helping lost men too.) Clearly his feelings weren't reciprocated or welcome, but there was no call to be so consistently mean to him, or put him in the book for what seemed to be no purpose but to make him look stupid. She should have been honest from the start that she wasn't interested, instead of stringing him along, being purposefully obtuse when even her mother told her he was making puppy eyes at her! Overall I got the feeling that the whole book was a brag. The author was desperately trying to convince herself and us that she's cool and open-minded and went to all these cool parties, and impressed all these cool people. She was told she was a natural as a Domme! She went to a party half naked and everyone looked at her! She walked around in only a shirt and a black dildo at burning man! This is someone who needs a lot of attention and validation. It just got to be too much bragging. The very little information there was on being a professional Domme was interesting. There were a few amusing anecdotes and interesting people. But for me, there really wasn't enough to justify wading through all the rest.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bookish brown girl

    3-3.5 This was an interesting read and I enjoyed getting a peek into the workings of a sex dungeon. Jenny wrote with a lot of candor about her experiences and it almost felt like a coming of age for someone going through quarter life crisis. Overall I enjoyed the sex positive message, how our sexual predilections are always evolving and changing and I liked the message to be non judgmental no matter how foreign the kink might seem.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kayo

    Book was well written, and author didn't hold back with anything. Shocked maybe isn't the word, just surprised. I received this book for free thru Netgalley and St. Martin's Press, but that had no bearing on the rating I gave it. Thank you! Book was well written, and author didn't hold back with anything. Shocked maybe isn't the word, just surprised. I received this book for free thru Netgalley and St. Martin's Press, but that had no bearing on the rating I gave it. Thank you!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Shannon Dyer

    Not my usual reading fair, but so very insightful and entertaining.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I could listen to Jenny Nordbak read the phone book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Shonna Bexten

    Audiobook. Well...never read anything like this before. The narration is by the author and she is telling her story. It is well told and written. I was definitely shocked by some of her stories.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bri Espinoza

    Don't lie - you're curious about this one! Jenny Nordbak recounts her time working as a dominatrix in an LA dungeon. Before you start to freak out, a "dungeon" is not a brothel but basically a place of sexual role-playing with no sexual activities with the employees allowed. That is not to say that this book isn't sexy, because it totally is. Each chapter of the book is dedicated to a person - usually a client but sometimes a character in Jenny's personal life. The chapters about her clients are Don't lie - you're curious about this one! Jenny Nordbak recounts her time working as a dominatrix in an LA dungeon. Before you start to freak out, a "dungeon" is not a brothel but basically a place of sexual role-playing with no sexual activities with the employees allowed. That is not to say that this book isn't sexy, because it totally is. Each chapter of the book is dedicated to a person - usually a client but sometimes a character in Jenny's personal life. The chapters about her clients are mostly HILARIOUS. Most of what goes on in an LA dungeon is fetish-related (think feet, tickling, spanking, etc), so unless you have the same particular interest, you will likely laugh during a lot of her client interactions. I am also still SO curious about her super kinky interaction with an ulta-famous actor (who goes unnamed, obvi). WHO IS HE?!?! This book is highly entertaining, well-written, and very thought-provoking. It's not just a book about sexuality, it's also a story about humanity. You should totally read this one! I give it all the flames (and stars).

  25. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    An honest look into a part of the BDSM community and lifestyle that shows some universal truths of human nature and how to deal with what life throws your way. This is real shit and not fifty shades. Growth through self-exploration and expression.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Abby Jimenez

    I'm starting to realize that my favorite kind of reads are autobiographies. You walk away learning something and living someone else's actual life for the duration of the book, and I love that. This one had me unable to put it down—and I don't say that often. I'm kinda picky and quick to DNF something, simply because I don't have the time or patience to try and push through something I'm not enjoying. I've got shit to do lol I didn't know much about the BDSM lifestyle prior to reading this book, I'm starting to realize that my favorite kind of reads are autobiographies. You walk away learning something and living someone else's actual life for the duration of the book, and I love that. This one had me unable to put it down—and I don't say that often. I'm kinda picky and quick to DNF something, simply because I don't have the time or patience to try and push through something I'm not enjoying. I've got shit to do lol I didn't know much about the BDSM lifestyle prior to reading this book, other than just a surfacey understanding of what it was about. I'm here to tell you that 50 Shades is NOT the book to read if you're looking for a deeper understanding of this lifestyle. It was fascinating to learn about this and get to know the author and the people she met and worked with through her storytelling. I have to be totally honest and admit that reading this dispelled a lot of preconceived notions I had about the industry. It truly was educational and highly enjoyable. If you're worried about the steam level, it's R, not X rated, which I think is a testimonial to the author's ability to make this accessible to the average reader, despite the topics covered. X rated doesn't bother me, but it might scare off some who otherwise wouldn't find this a comfortable read. If you opt for the Audiobook, which I did, the author narrates it herself and does a great job. I love when authors do that on their autobiographies. It makes you feel even closer to the story to hear it in their own voice. Very well done and I highly recommend.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nikki Cunniff

    This was a fantastic read! I dont do nonfiction and memoirs, but finally caved because I was so intrigued. I finished this in one sitting and was so engrossed, fascinated, excited, and a bit grossed out. Then I'd have moments where I remembered - WOW, this is her life! And be even more interested and wish I knew her and was half as willing to be brave and go for the things I want. Wonderful book! This was a fantastic read! I dont do nonfiction and memoirs, but finally caved because I was so intrigued. I finished this in one sitting and was so engrossed, fascinated, excited, and a bit grossed out. Then I'd have moments where I remembered - WOW, this is her life! And be even more interested and wish I knew her and was half as willing to be brave and go for the things I want. Wonderful book!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    An interesting and weird book to learn about what some people's fetishes are. I recommend this book if you are okay reading about some erotica. An interesting and weird book to learn about what some people's fetishes are. I recommend this book if you are okay reading about some erotica.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

    I don't usually offer ratings or content warnings, but this book is NSFW, and is for adults only. Not for the faint of heart or squeamish. There's multiple instances of drug use as well as the to-be-expected kinky sexuality throughout. It is, nevertheless, a compulsively readable memoir. Not high literature, and more of a reflection of sex work than of BDSM, but fascinating in its glimpses of the extremely wide range of possible kinks. Nordbak's story is mostly focused on her time in the Dungeon I don't usually offer ratings or content warnings, but this book is NSFW, and is for adults only. Not for the faint of heart or squeamish. There's multiple instances of drug use as well as the to-be-expected kinky sexuality throughout. It is, nevertheless, a compulsively readable memoir. Not high literature, and more of a reflection of sex work than of BDSM, but fascinating in its glimpses of the extremely wide range of possible kinks. Nordbak's story is mostly focused on her time in the Dungeon, but it also encompasses her personal life leading up to, during, and after her time in the dungeon. She'd been through some trauma in her life, and her ability to move forward and keep trying new things was good. I was, however, extremely turned off by her use of illegal drugs. At least she was honest about it, I guess, but the drugs and the way she got them really drove home her lack of responsibility to me. And her privilege. As a white girl from a successful family in L.A., she got a pretty useless sounding college degree (me too--no judging there), but had a mom running a business, so she got a good job that she kept even when she was totally distracted by her work at the Dungeon and admittedly regularly cutting out early from her full time work to go to the Dungeon. So she had a job for which she was not qualified, because of personal connections, and was able to use drugs without fear of repercussion, because she was a privileged white girl. And that's a part of her reality that she doesn't address. She also seems to dismiss how her choices affected other people's feelings, specifically how she treated a woman in her life during this time. Polyamorous relationships, as I understand them, are supposed to be about caring for all the people you're involved with, not just your 'primary' lover. What Jenny describes felt more generically "open" than polyamorous, and not very kind to at least one of the other lovers in her life. So as much as I enjoyed the journey in this story, of reading about Jenny's clients and coworkers, I can't say the overall story was satisfying. Jenny spent most of the book searching for herself, and even at the height of her involvement with and enjoyment of her work dominating at the Dungeon, she still sounded like she was lost and trying to impress others. She admits as much several times throughout the book. If you aren't secure in your own identity, no change of culture or scenery or activities will fix that. So perhaps that's why it's difficult for me to really buy the HEA ending she assures the reader she's gotten. Because seekers who need external validation and identity won't usually stay satisfied, unless they've truly changed internally. One can hope for her sake that the latter is the case for Nordbak. Regardless, the story, as it pertains to her clients, her coworkers, and their subculture, offers fascinating glimpses into a necessarily private work, and as such kept me reading far too late most nights until I was finished with the book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Amy Mikaelson

    For being someone who writes erotic fiction in her spare time, I found Jenny's book to be very informative on certain things, especially the type of people you meet, things you engage in, implements you use and how you handle them when you are part of the "scene" known as BDSM. My most favorite part was the chapter she wrote on Dominic ("Dom"), who I myself had the pleasure of meeting, talking to, being hugged and yes, even spanked by at her book launch party. It made me hot reading it because I For being someone who writes erotic fiction in her spare time, I found Jenny's book to be very informative on certain things, especially the type of people you meet, things you engage in, implements you use and how you handle them when you are part of the "scene" known as BDSM. My most favorite part was the chapter she wrote on Dominic ("Dom"), who I myself had the pleasure of meeting, talking to, being hugged and yes, even spanked by at her book launch party. It made me hot reading it because I could totally picture everything she was saying about him in my mind and wholeheartedly agreed with it all. It was amusing to hear Jenny's stories and how she handled certain men in her Domme way. I have to commend her on some things, especially when she told those men in the elevator to get the hell out and put that guy in his place at that Rammestein concert. She is definitely a great role model for feminists everywhere but as interesting as it was hearing her stories ( and damn it do I really wish she would have shared with us who that celebrity guy really was ), there were a lot of things I could have done without hearing. I think "TMI" would be the best way to describe the more disgusting things she engaged in, both with clients and her friends. There are some nasty af people out there and their fetishes were hard for me to stomach and I found myself cringing a lot and having to put the book down for a while before returning to it. Still, the book was more interesting than anything and free with the party admission so I definitely can't complain. I also got to meet her, had my first sexual experience at that party with a real life Dominant, she signed my copy and I won a free flogger so I definitely can't complain at all about what else I ultimately got with this book. :D It's definitely worth the read in my opinion, but due to all the nasty details about this disgusting fetish or that...it's only fair that I give it three stars. I just couldn't stomach more than one chapter of that. Sorry. Thank you for sharing your experience with me, Jenny!! Totally jealous of Dom's wife now, and your cuddles of comfort with him in the dressing room. Hope you write another one!

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