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Alexa Snow

REVIEW:  Rock and a Hard Place by Jane Davitt,Alexa Snow

REVIEW: Rock and a Hard Place by Jane Davitt,Alexa Snow

Dear Ms. Davitt and Ms. Snow,

I enjoy your contemporary romance collaborations and was interested to see how you would approach an enemies-to-lovers story, especially one with the added twist of an unexpected deserted island interlude. While the romance didn’t entirely convince me, I found the cast of characters were fun to spend a few hours with and I liked the way you played with some standard m/m tropes.

 

Sean Darrow and Andrew Carney are coworkers, competitors, and mutual thorns in each other’s sides. Andrew is the son of the investment firm’s owner and Sean is one of their top employees and aspiring junior partners. Sean is gay, out, and comfortable with it. Andrew is closeted, brings beards to company social functions, and doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to be his true self without disappointing his parents, whom he loves even more than he fears. And they hate each other. Not a manufactured, fake kind of dislike that propels the storyline, but full-on loathing. Even for the good of the company they often find themselves unable to resist going on the attack. Andrew’s father, fed up with his best employee and his son nearly sabotaging the firm again, sends them off on a luxury vacation to the Maldives to work out their differences.

On their way to the resort they encounter bad weather and their plane crashes into the sea. Unable to find the pilot, Sean and Andrew paddle their life raft to a small island, where they scrabble to survive, hope to be rescued, and find themselves appreciating each other. A lot.

The scenes on the island are really well done. Fruit does not fall from the trees, there are no handy fire starters left by the previous inhabitants, fish do not commit suicide and cook themselves, and there is sand everywhere. I could feel these guys struggling to survive and their fear that they would never be found. They keep arguing and fighting, but they have to rely on each other and they start listening rather than just talking and shouting.

What felt like hours of fishing time eventually resulted in him catching only two small fish, and his mood was lower than it had been when he trooped back to find Andrew. His spirits lifted as he smelled something new—wood smoke!—and he increased his pace, the loose sand shifting under his feet as he broke into a jog.

“Fire!” Andrew said as Sean joined him. He smiled sheepishly. “I know, pretty obvious, but still.”

“Told you it would work if you put some effort into it,” Sean said with a grin of his own. “Good job.” Despite his hunger and the knowledge the fish wouldn’t do much to assuage it, seeing the small but carefully tended fire made him hopeful again.

“I started with new sticks. They were the driest ones I could find, like, really old. I thought maybe last time they were still a tiny bit damp or something, and it worked!” Andrew was obviously elated, his high spirits infectious enough that Sean began to see why Andrew had so many friends. When his charm was turned on full, it was irresistible. Andrew reached out and patted the back of Sean’s calf with what seemed suspiciously like affection.

“How was fishing?”

“Not great,” Sean admitted and held up the fish for Andrew to see. “But at least we can eat them cooked this time around.”

“When we get back, I am never, ever eating anything raw again,” Andrew said with a shudder. “Not even an apple.”

“Yeah, you will. Just give it a decade or so. Start small with blueberries; work your way up to pineapple.”

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that they are indeed rescued, because this happens halfway through the book. Once they get back to their normal lives, their fragile trust and affection starts to fray, but their attraction and desire for each other is still intense. This leads to an unfortunate deployment of what Roger Ebert has termed the Idiot Plot: If the characters don’t behave like idiots the story can’t progress. In this case the Idiot is Andrew; he is convinced his parents will be shamed and destroyed if he reveals his homosexuality, but since he never brings up the possibility he doesn’t actually know.

So the attraction and the sex sizzles, but it can’t go anywhere unless Sean and Andrew can work out a path forward. This is a romance, so they eventually do. But getting to HEA is exhausting for everyone, including the reader. It says a lot about the skill and persuasive abilities of the authors that even at the end, I’m not really convinced they are going to be able to sustain the HEA, although maybe they are just the gay Bickersons and what I find tiring they find enjoyable and rejuvenating. It’s certainly possible.

The supporting characters and the family relationships are well portrayed and fun to read. Andrew’s female friends are sketched sympathetically and the treatment of their female colleague, while somewhat depressing, is believable. I didn’t buy the nouveau riche v. arriviste conflict, in part because I never saw Andrew’s family as particularly haute in their depiction, but that’s a minor niggle.

The sex is plentiful and hot, although it verges on stock m/m at times (they think a lot about lube). But the sex scenes are not gratuitous; to the contrary, they advance the plot, the relationship, and the character development.

I don’t seek out desert island stories, but I had a good time reading this one. I am definitely a fan of opposites-attract setups, and while this pushes right up to the boundary of credibility, I went with it while I was immersed in their story.

Grade: B-

~ Sunita

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REVIEW: Room at the Top by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow

REVIEW: Room at the Top by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow

Dear Ms. Davitt and Ms. Snow:

I thoroughly enjoy your books. So I was thrilled when I saw this one and I wasn’t disappointed when I read it. You have such consistently good writing, wonderful characters, and fabulous representations of BDSM.

Room at the Top by Jane Davitt and Alexa SnowAustin and Jay are a committed couple, completely, madly, deeply in love with each other…and both submissives. Their sex life is strong and they enjoy each other, but they both crave giving up control to someone else. They can’t dom each other — they’ve tried — so they need a top who’s not going to try to insert himself sexually into their relationship. They had a top who needed the release of BDSM but was still hung up on his partner who had been killed in a car accident. But he moved away. The story opens with them scening with another top who just doesn’t get it and not only forces Jay to safeword, but then tries to ignore the safeword. Things get a little tense with Jay and Austin after this disaster, because they’re both desperate for a good session with a competent top but don’t know where to start. A few days later, in a conversation with their former top, he suggests a straight dom he knows. They meet Liam, get along well, and they start to scene with him once a week. Until they all start to fall in lust and in love (dun dun DUN!).

I ranted recently on Twitter about the Gay For You trope and how annoying and insulting I find it. And technically, I guess, this book was also Gay For You, but it totally didn’t feel that way as I was reading it. I guess for me, Gay For You has the straight guy refusing to admit any sort of sexual preference for men, except for his partner. Liam admits right from the beginning that he prefers to top men, but has only ever had sex with women. So his sexual desire for Jay and Austin freaks him out a bit, it does so more because he promised them both that he would never try to insert himself into their sexual relationship, less because he’s worried about desiring men (although there’s a bit of that too).

Things happen in this book that are not sex (Jay and Austin’s house gets flooded by a broken water heater, so they live with Liam for a few weeks; Austin’s sister has fits of being a ragingly entitled teenager), but most of the book is made up of their scenes with Liam. Not every one, by any means, but important turning points. These scenes are brilliantly crafted, reveal the characters to the extent that they can talk without a speech tag (not that they do) and this reader knew exactly who said what, and delve into the psychology of BDSM. As in some of your other books, dominance/submission and sadism/masochism overlap in their play. They’re very formal D/s situations, but it’s also fabulous to see two such different types of submission and how Liam deals with both of them.

I had two issues: the stuff about Austin’s sister’s teenage melodrama was just utterly pointless. I mean, it wasn’t, I could see how it fit into the character and narrative arcs, but it took up too much space, went on way too long, and could have been replaced with something way less annoying. I’m utterly OCD about reading every word in a book, so I didn’t skip the scenes about Austin’s sister, but I totally wished I could have. I certainly wouldn’t have missed anything at all.

The second issue was a timing thing at the very very end, so I’ll spoiler cover it.

[spoiler]Liam gets back together with Austin and Jay, has a night with them, then admits in the morning that he’d had another job offer that would take him far away but had turned it down because of them…before he’d got back together with them. This would be fine, except we were IN his point of view for all of the reconciliation and there was no hint of this offer at all. It just seemed thrown in during the last scene as something to affect Austin, rather than as something that really happened to Liam.[/spoiler]

Overall, though, I really loved this book. The sex was hot and entirely UNgratuitous. The relationships were strong and grew over the book. There was no barrier, per se, that the men had to overcome; rather, they had to accept the evolving nature of their relationship without freaking out.

Grade: B+

Best regards,
-Sarah

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