Review

Review: Eight Kinky Nights: an f/f Chanukah romance by Xan West (2019)

Heat Factor: We open with fisting and go from there

Character Chemistry: Leah and Jordan are unfailingly kind and gentle with each other

Plot: Jordan has been suppressing her desires since forever, so her best friend gives her kink lessons

Overall: An object lesson in compassion


A romance novel, at its core, is a statement about value: this protagonist has enough intrinsic value that they deserve love. So when we come across a romance with protagonists with multiple marginalized identities – in this case, queer, kinky, autistic, fat, Jewish women – we have a statement that these characters are deserving of love. (Cat Sebastian, writing for the Los Angeles Review of Books, is much more eloquent on this subject.) It might take Leah and Jordan a while to accept that they do deserve love, but their hang-ups surrounding their lovable-ness is not about their identities, but rather about the specifics of previous relationships. So, lesson in compassion number one is about meta-narrative: these women aren’t “broken” or in need of “fixing”, but rather are deserving of a love story even with all of their flaws. In short, representation matters. 

I’m thinking that Ingrid might enjoy this book

Lesson in compassion number two is about modeling. Lean and Jordan model compassion – for themselves and each other – throughout the book. They show the reader how to negotiate a Dom/sub relationship. They show the reader how to listen and give the other person space. They show the reader how to apologize for hurting someone else, no matter how inadvertent. They show the reader that it’s ok to take space and time to conscientiously process what you need to in order to be kind to yourself.

In showing the interactions between Leah and Jordan, West includes a tremendous amount of detail. The level of detail, not just about what they do and say and eat, but how they feel on a sensory level, makes the characters feel very immediate and real. I personally found it especially enlightening in the scenes where Leah asks for pain as part of her submission – it really made real to me what kind of sensory pleasure one could get out of being spanked, and some of the language West used to describe the physical and emotional relationship that develops between Leah and Jordan is really beautiful. 

However. Sometimes the level of detail was such that I felt like I was no longer reading a novel. This is not necessarily bad, in and of itself, but it is not what I look for in a romance. 

At times, the book felt like an ethnography, like a very detailed look at a very specific subculture (queer, kinky, Jewish). This is perhaps nitpicky, because I have also dinged books for being too vague, for lacking a sense of rootedness in a particular time and place and community. But this book felt a little too rooted – what does it add to include that they got a latke recipe from a Maccabeats music video (this one, presumably), rather than a slightly more generalized statement that they got a latke recipe from an acapella song? 

Even more frequently, I felt that Eight Kinky Nights veered into self-help territory. For example: When Leah and Jordan begin to negotiate the boundaries of the D/s scenes that they do together, it is in the context of Leah teaching Jordan about kink, and therefore includes explanations and examples: “Here are the kinds of questions you could ask. Just because you’re the Dominant doesn’t mean that you have to run the negotiation – you should be allowed to be vulnerable and have needs as well.” (I am paraphrasing here.) The self-help vibes were most prominent in the D/s stuff, but also carried over into such topics as how to do self-care or how to ensure consent. I can therefore see this book being immensely helpful for some readers who are wondering about the specific techniques and language that might be useful when facing certain situations. 

Because of the ethnographic/self-help elements to Eight Kinky Nights, there’s not a lot of room for escapism. It’s a fine line with romance, particularly realistic (ie, no billionaires) contemporary romance. I want something that feels true to life, but also is divorced enough from day-to-day life that I can lose myself in the story, and I think Eight Kinky Nights is more solidly on the “true to life” side of the line my general preference. 

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.


PS: If you are particularly interested in representation in romance, I encourage you to check out West’s blog, where, in addition to writing insightful reviews, they have compiled lists of romances featuring, for example, fat, asexual, or autistic characters. 


Buy Now: Amazon


Looking for something similar?

BDSM (level of consent varies widely)

Friends to Lovers romances

Queer romances

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s