Way behind on my reading quota for the year, so I figured I’d cheat a little and grab something short and potentially sweet. So when I saw that Zoe Miller, the critically acclaimed author of such books as The Visitor and A House Full of Secrets, was doing literotica, I had to grab it quickly before it disappeared. Except, as it turns out, Demimondaine was not written by that Zoe Miller. Apparently, this Zoe Miller is a Brooklyn based author with a cult following on Archive of Our Own and Literotica.com, with a focus on lesbian and non-binary couples. With this in mind, I buckled down to read a book with a title I couldn’t pronounce and originally thought was someone’s last name because I am an idiot.
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First things first – a Demimondaine is a woman, but the connotations of what type of woman really varies from context to context from “hedonistic” to “supported by a wealthy lover” to even in some contexts “high end sex worker.” I’m not sure if it has an additional context here, as the main character Nico is a cat girl and also a familiar for the more erudite witch Marigold. Nico is hard working and goal oriented, but also fun loving and kind of punk; Marigold comes off as haughty but unlearned, and maybe cares about Nico romantically? The chemistry between the two is a little off, really. I understand that for the context of the story, Marigold kind of just… invites herself along to this event that’s really important to Nico, but I don’t really get that the two care about or even for each other as partners, coworkers, or roommates.
Things go off the rails when Nico is in the mosh pit and she realizes that Marigold is in the upper balconies getting kind of close to a nekomata. She finds herself in the restroom, where she finds herself face to face with her idol, SelarLet, a succubus and the lead singer of the band DeathFuck. The two of them get along a little better than expected, and in a strange twist it comes off in a way as if SelarLet is taking advantage of Nico.
My initial impressions were, at least at the beginning, that the language used was overly flowerly. Then again, I’m the guy who read this book and didn’t know “who Demimondaine was.” At some point the writing relaxed and wasn’t afraid to tell it’s tale of tails, as it explored Nico’s frustrations with her roommate and then later with her sudden intimacy with SelarLet. It’s clear that Zoe Miller is a seasoned writer who knows how to work a crowd. The intimacy between these two women was very personal and on point, as they explored each other; there was a real attention to the characters and their desires as opposed to sex acts for the sake of checking off boxes for a reader. There’s also an almost suicidal tone to the intimacy between Nico and the succubus, who very clearly is draining the catgirl of her energy.
Of course, the intimacy is interrupted when Marigold, who up to this point has been completely selfish, almost inadvertently rescues Nico by claiming “her” property. The book ends in a well-choreographed fight scene.
As a general rule, I’m not a fan of these flash fiction titles on Amazon as I feel paying a couple of dollars for a few dozen pages is a bit much. I kind of feel the same here, especially considering 5 of this book’s 31 pages is a preview of another book the author has done. I would absolutely love to see more done with these characters, and find myself kind of curious of how the day to day relationship between Nico and Marigold would actually play out. There is a lot of solid potential there. That, then, becomes the biggest drawback of this entire book: there’s not more of it. It comes off less as a full fledged story and more as a well rounded chapter in what would have been an amazing novel, had it all been there. That said, what is here is absolutely marvelous, and I’d readily recommend it.
Zoe Miller has a Patreon where she releases other works she has done, and also apparently does commissions; it may be worth following her there to see what other content she writes.