Fear, Love, and Broken Things | Matt’s Smut Vault

What does Noir mean to you? To me it usually means black and white film and plenty of fedoras, but I’m sure it’s actually more complex than that. Today’s feature addresses itself as “erotic noir” which both confuses and arouses this particular reviewer, so let’s get to it. Open minds at the ready, it’s Noir Smut Vault time y’all!

Fear, Love, and Broken Things by Sally Bend starts with some of the most brutal imagery I’ve encountered as a reviewer. Caitlin is on the run, literally, from her husband whose beatings and torment have finally reached the breaking point. While no domestic abuse is to be taken lightly, this particular brand of cruelty was especially vicious, and carried on for ten years of “marriage.” The character describing her wounds is equally sad and sickening, so consider this intensity before digging too deep in the story. Slipping into a flea bag motel, Caitlin buys two nights and some essentials with what little money she has and hunkers down until an old friend can come rescue her from this version of hell. Most of the novella’s events take place in this motel room, with brief call backs to the trauma as she takes some unique steps to rebuild. Someone to trust right now would be the best thing for her, and a tall ebony goddess of a hooker next door might just be the answer. Can Caitlin do what’s needed to free herself? And what in God’s name might that actually entail?

The themes presented by the author at face value are tragic, gritty, and downright scary considering the circumstances. Caitlin’s life was one of “perfection,” the sort of thing required by her husband lest grotesque physical abuse meet her (which it often did). This shithole of a motel looks bad to the reader, but it represents personal freedom, something the main character hasn’t had in at least a decade. There are some very dark elements at play, some I can try to explain, and some that I can’t. There’s an insect fetish that seems to captivate Caitlin’s dreams that are difficult to process, while at the same time her fears are examined through an infestation of rats in her hotel room as a counter to any sexual thoughts or actions considered by Caitlin herself. The name of the game here is total catharsis. The hooker next door, Gracie, is a beautiful larger than life pre-op trans female, who might as well be “most opposite” character to what Caitlin has experienced in her married life. Even talking to this woman would draw her husband’s ire, let alone the kinky things they soon share with each other. The closer these two come to sharing love, the more the motel rats show up to seemingly take exception. I’ll put on the French beret and black cigarette and assume that the rats represent the fear and evil of Caitlin’s husband, and to break free, she needs to defeat this fear. It’s alarming, disturbing and vile, but dammit, this mess is beautiful when you take a moment to think about it. There hasn’t been anything proper or good for Caitlin in a long time, so perhaps the notion of licking semen out of a mystery condom or pissing herself on the bed in personal defiance should be viewed as hers. It’s all she’s got to her name right now, and no one is going to take it away.

Verdict: Fear, Love, and Broken Things by Sally Bend is a nerve racking erotic noir that paints a picture using only the darkest of colors, with no pretensions of conventional happiness or experience. A woman frees herself from horrific marital abuse, and is finally free to do things for herself. The author’s symbolism and imagery are to be commended, as the main character’s catharsis can be not only be understood, but even appreciated when given the chance to breathe alongside the other main character of the story. I should be disgusted, as maybe the characters should be as well, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the page as these two found love in the craziest way I could have imagined. This is the sort of story John Waters would be proud of, and I mean that in the highest regard.

Special thanks to Sally Bend for providing a copy of Fear, Love, and Broken Things to TehBen.com for review. All thoughts and opinions are our own.
Author’s Twitter: @bibrary
Purchase Link: Amazon

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