Dear Ms. Hill:
After many books exploring the vampire world, Unrestrained returns to the contemporary setting in a book very loosely connected to the Knights of the Boardroom series (a series that I found entertaining but very troubling). Athena is a widow and accomplished businesswoman with a challenging bedroom issue.
She served as a dom during most of her marriage to her now deceased husband Ray. Since his death, she’s visited the BDSM club they frequented and has found herself drawn to the submissive side of things. This confuses her a great deal. One person she finds alluring is Dale aka Master Craftsman. Thankfully this nickname is not used often in the book because I kept thinking Sears handyman.
Dale is a former SEAL who inherited a junk yard and a canine rescue program. He’s also a skilled Dom who hasn’t found anyone he would like to partner with on a long term basis. During one scene at the club he becomes aware of Athena’s interest and suggests that they explore the attraction between the two of them.
Athena struggles with the idea that she might be a submissive but Dale explains it perfectly. Athena is so desirous of pleasing her partner that she became the dom because that is what Ray needed. Ray and Athena had a wonderful and loving relationship and Athena was sexually satisfied but with Dale, she explores a side of her sexuality she hadn’t realized existed.
The emotions of this book are understated and it takes some time for the tension between the characters to build. Almost all of the story is told in limited third person from Athena’s point of view. It is really her story more than anyone else’s. Part of the struggle for Athena isn’t just being a submissive but getting others within her sexual social circle to accept this.
The key to Athena is that she is such a pleaser that she starts anticipating everyone’s needs, including Dale’s. The delicate power balance between the sub and the Dom are well structured because while we see Athena’s competence, we also see how she needs a leavening effect. Someone willing to tell her to breathe, take a break, that she doesn’t have to shoulder everyone’s burdens and strong enough for her to listen. Dale’s dominance actually serves to highlight Athena’s strength.
I often have trouble with the BDSM dynamic but not in this book, likely because so much is seen through Athena’s lens. She isn’t into humiliation or pain for the sake of pain. She seeks true release and Dale is able to provide for that. The former husband is treated with respect and care and not diminished in any way. You can see how much love the two had between them but the reader also understands that Dale is the right person for Athena now.
Dale was injured in combat and has some issues with his prosthetic, more issues than he thought he had at first. But when he becomes emotionally vulnerable to Athena, some feelings of inadequacy come to the fore. (He had never topped without his prosthetic, for instance, and he’s reluctant to take it off when Athena is around at first).
This was a lovely and understated romance. I would have liked to have seen more of Dale’s point of view and I did think that there was a little too much introspection. B-