First and foremost Subtext is erotica. So if you're looking solely for some sort of biography type book - well you might want to rethink a bit mate!
Kate's actually a feminist with a very good job - a job she is good at and takes very seriously. She's educated and intelligent and it shows. That might, in and of itself, take some readers by surprise if all they think about BDSM is of the cliches and stereotypes so prevalent about this community. Kate, wisely, recognizes early on that there is something different about herself. While she doesn't really get a chance to explore until college her recognition itself helps her to accept what she eventually comes to understand are her wants and needs as a submissive masochist.
Kate is a snarky and sarcastic narrator in this first person tale - so much so that you feel like you'd enjoy her among your friends. She's really quite engaging. That is fortunate since her voice is the novel. From the beginnings with the hairbrush and her American boyfriend to the end with Josh and toys far more sinister (*snarky grin*) she entrances and makes the reader want to keep reading.
In particular I enjoyed how some chapters were really scenes and they seemed encapsulated within that page span - almost like little vignette's within the story. It was an effective tool for me as a reader as it allowed me to "view" them and imagine them as a whole - not broken up across the narrative. I also loved the ingenious use of common household or store items - chopsticks, spoons, clothespins, and more. Not only is this book HOT but it's also educational - a twofer. Superb.
Remarkable as well is how Kate keeps her work and play life separate - there's really only one episode where the two are intertwined. This seems sensible and honest and comes off as authentic (not withstanding the below issue). It would have been even stronger if there would have been some dialogue and work scenes in the book - because as it is that part is all telling and no showing. I think Kate would have come off as more multifaceted had more been revealed. The narrative is strong, particularly the opening chapter, and the writing is very solid - clear and lucid without loosing the flow.
There were a few things that pulled me out of the story - the first is the level of pain. No two ways about it - Kate is what I've heard referred to as a pain slut. Sometimes it almost seems to go too far - too much pain that likely would leave injuries more severe than are mentioned in the book. Instead of the usual BDSM counts of 10, 20, or 30 Kate typically gets 100 of whatever she's getting. When you are talking about some heavy duty implements 100 is no small number - and although she mentions occasionally she feels like there should be blood that is never confirmed (although it is highly likely). It just seemed a bit much to me and I squirmed not in a good way. Even Josh is repelled by this - and he's the one doing it. So you know it goes further than most would be comfortable with. I definitely wondered how the hell she could go to work as one big huge bruised body - so again her devotion to her work and the way it is presented just didn't really jive with this level of pain being administered on a regular basis. Blunty sometimes I wondered how she could even walk.
The other part of this is that aftercare, which for me seems like it would be really critical, gets very little mention - and sometimes it is intentionally left out on the part of the Dom. Given the safe, sane, and consensual espoused in the book and the level of pain Kate experienced I really needed the aftercare to kind of "close the loop". Yet it was conspiciously absent a little too often for my comfort. In many BDSM books the experience of subspace is described but here I never really felt it - other than marginally - as Kate seemed always focused on the pain and it never seemed to lessen that much nor did it seem the endorphins kicked in for her as much as I might have expected. So there were times the pain really did seem more like torture than pleasure regardless of how Kate later related it or felt about it.
And, in the pain vein, the major thing that pulled me out of the story was the oft repeated phrase of that pain (the one for that particular scene) being the worst pain she'd ever felt. It came to be that I actually anticipated when that statement would show up. It impacted the, well, impact that the pain had on me. I guess I felt that it was just too much of a progression - and maybe not as real since it lent to the idea that every scene would have more pain than the last - and it seemed more plot device than natural story flow.
The last thing I found tough, as did Kate at times, was the verbal humiliation parts. However this is something that I can recognize would be very difficult for me personally so I certainly wouldn't mark down for it. Kate was clear in her need of it - but her extreme level of hatred of it made it hard to read for me. Hard to reconcile. As such I really didn't care, at all, for any of her Dom's. That presented something of a challenge, even though the book was really about Kate, because she was the only person I liked.
Overall though this is an excellent book - certainly erotic and intriguing. I also should confess that there were so many times when her words could have been mine - certainly this is a personal book. Novels, even erotica, often seem larger than life with characters that don't exist there in the real world we all live in. Subtext turns that on its toes - Kate does seem real and her thoughts and words will resonate with anyone who has questioned themselves like she does. I very much enjoyed the read and look forward to more books by this talented new author!