Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

REVIEW: My Liege of Dark Haven by Cherise Sinclair

Dear Ms. Sinclair,

I’m pretty sure I’ve not read anything by you before. I saw Angela James talking about your book on Twitter and clicked over to Amazon to see whether the book might appeal to me.

 Threatened by university cutbacks, Professor Abigail Bern’s only hope is to publish a provocative research paper–soon. Planning to covertly observe behavior in the notorious Dark Haven BDSM club, she takes a receptionist job. When the owner calls upon her to assist in a demonstration, she’s appalled. Then fascinated. Under the unyielding hands of the master known as my Liege, she discovers a need to be more than an observer.

His late wife had been the center of his life, and Xavier Leduc wants no other. But when his new receptionist does her utmost to keep an emotional distance from him, he’s intrigued and digs deeper. She’s adorable. Intriguingly intelligent, beautifully submissive, sweetly vulnerable. He soon realizes her defenses are keeping her on the fringe of her sexuality–and her life. As he draws her into fuller participation, she unconsciously does the same for him. She begins to fill his world.

Ever since the night she met my Liege Xavier, Abby has questioned everything she believes about herself. She’s falling for the stern owner of Dark Haven and thinks he’s beginning to care for her…until the day he learns why she’s in his club.  – Goodreads Description

The blurb itself was enough to peak my interest, but it was the cover, showing a man’s back and long braid that really intrigued me. For some reason, I’m a sucker for a man with a long braid.

As the blurb says, Abby is facing losing her job at the university if she doesn’t live up to the maxim, “Publish or perish”. She needs something provocative to write about.  After being unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend, Nathan, who really wanted her to explore the D/s lifestyle with her, Abby decides to face her fear and goes to Dark Haven, a local BDSM club. There she hopes to covertly observe and then write a paper about the social interactions and hierarchy within the club. When she arrives, she discovers that the club has just lost its receptionist. Given that she definitely cannot afford the dues to the club, she decides to take the job. One of the perks of the club is being allowed to play. Abby has absolutely no intention of playing; she’s there to study the behavior of the members. That is, until she meets the club’s intriguing owner, Xavier Leduc.

Xavier has been mourning his wife, Catherine, since she died five years ago. In the time since her sudden and unexpected death, he’s become known as a player. He generally has a few women he dates, a slave who lives at home with him and a play partner at the club. But he’s committed to no one, knowing that he’d never be able to duplicate his relationship with Catherine. But when he meets Abby, he notes immediately that she’s both a born submissive and has absolutely no idea what that means. He decides that he’ll begin her training by having her assist him in a demonstration with a younger Dom who needs some guidance. After the exercise, Xavier collars Abby indicating to club members that they’ll need to seek his permission before playing with her. He also tells her in no uncertain terms that she will not be permitted to just observe what goes on in the club, rather she must participate.

Abby is wholly disconcerted to find that Xavier is insistent that she join in the activities of the club. But in order to complete her research, she decides to give it a try. As she and Xavier begin to play, she finds that he demands her full attention, asks invasive questions, and is constantly putting her body, which she’s terribly self-conscious about, on display. And then there is the connection that she is beginning to feel with him. She’s very clear that Xavier doesn’t “do” relationships, but the insight he shows into her personality and foibles and his insistence that she never put him off with a lie or evasion is building her trust and her feelings for him. After they have sex for the first time, Xavier unceremoniously leaves Abby, realizing that he didn’t think of his wife once – something that’s never happened before. But Xavier can’t seem to stay away from Abby. She’s a gentle soul, one who he feels both responsible for and connected to. He continues to see her, and his feelings continue to build. As Abby tries desperately not to fall for Xavier, he’s busy falling deeply for her.

I really enjoyed this book. I formed an emotional bond with Abby almost immediately, even if I did question her motivation for joining the club. I felt like her reaction to the intimacy that Xavier was forcing on her, her body issues and her bewilderment that someone like Xavier would be interested in her was something I could really relate to. Her consternation at being told she needed to wear less at the club was exactly how I’d feel, and I appreciated her thought process behind taking off her top or bottom — it felt very real to me. I also like Xavier. He was domineering at times, but tempered that with a lovely need to take care of Abby, making him a Caregiving Alpha, my very favorite hero-type. He showed emotional awareness and thoughtful care, and I fully understood his reluctance to becoming entangled with Abby, and more, how she fell head over heels in love with him.

If I had any complaint about the book it would be that Abby’s stepsister, Janae, who played a small but crucial role in the climax of the story, was straight out of central casting. I would have liked to have understood more about her, why she behaved the way she did. Instead, she was just written EEEVIL, which was a bit much for me. Otherwise, this is a well written, deeply enjoyable romance featuring truly likeable characters and some very spicy sex scenes that build the connection and intensity of emotion between the characters. I give My Liege of Dark Haven a solid B.

Kind regards,

Kati

AmazonBNSonyKoboARE

Kati Brown

I've been reading romance for more than 30 years and reviewing regularly for the last five. My first romance was Irish Thoroughbred by Nora Roberts, and once I read it, I was a goner. I read most subgenres of romance (except inspirational and steampunk) but focus mostly on contemporary and paranormal, with a sprinkling of historical thrown in for flavor. I am an avid sports fan, so I have a special place in my heart for sports themed romances. I'm a sucker for old skool romance, which is probably most evident in the fact that The Windflower is my favorite romance of all time.

15 Comments

  1. MrsJoseph
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 10:36:42

    Great review, thanks! I heart Cherise Sinclair but I’m not a fan of romances that feature deception as the major plot mover. I think I’ll pass this one for that reason only…but you make it sound very tempting!

  2. Shelly
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 10:37:39

    I never EVER read books about BDSM. (Frankly, most make me roll my eyes in annoyance. I can’t explain why.) But I’m reading the first few pages of this novel online at Amazon and I’m loving it. Abby is definitely likeable and I hope she can carry me through the book. Thanks for the rec!

  3. Faye
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 11:34:09

    I just can’t get over the idea of the Internal Review Board (required for any academic research involving human subjects in the US) meeting and reviewing her proposal. Where is this set?

  4. cleo
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 12:04:10

    @Faye: lol – I thought about irb too. Don’t know what it is about this set up (researcher setting up unlikely study and falling in love with subject), but I’ve encountered it before in romance – most recently in Erin McCarthy’s Hard and Fast. Pretty sure this is set in San Francisco.

    Honestly, Sinclair’s books always require a certain suspension of disbelief. Her stories usually ring emotionally true to me, even though the real world details don’t always add up. Sometimes I can go with the fantasy and sometimes I can’t.

  5. Ros
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 12:04:49

    @Faye: I can’t get past the idea that this is how an academic would do ‘research’ for an actual paper. Sounds more like a journalist writing a magazine article to me.

  6. Anne V
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 12:27:18

    @Faye: California. San Francisco, I think. As far as IRBs and higher ed goes, it’s all very suspension of disbelief.

  7. Sunita
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 14:41:43

    This kind of setup really annoys me, even more than student-teacher romances. At least with the latter, one can argue that emotions overcome other concerns, and certainly in real life there are plenty of HEAs involving students and teachers.

    But why choose a scenario that is grounds for dismissal (and tenure revocation if necessary) to motivate the plot? Undertaking blatantly unethical research is not a solution to the publish or perish dilemma, so it doesn’t even make sense within the context of the story.

  8. Shelly
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 15:23:59

    Okay, I’m going to have to come to the author’s defense on this one (and I’ve never read any of her previous works.) Yes, its very implausible that a professor would be doing this to get papers published in order to get tenure (???), but reading the book so far, its kind of campy. From the receptionist walking out in a huff in her thong to Xavier wishing he had his usual assistant on hand so he could show proper use of nipple clamps to a new domme, its pretty obvious that you’re in for a romp that is meant to suspend disbelief. It’s not zany by any means, but I know that I’m not in for a realistic tale here. (At least, that’s what I’m getting as I read it.)

  9. Lynn S.
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 16:16:18

    An improbability in a Cherise Sinclair novel. Pardon me while I wander off to ponder on the probability of that.

  10. cleo
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 16:53:10

    @Lynn S.: LOL. I really enjoy Cherise Sinclair, but you do have to check your disbelief at the door.

    @Katie – thanks for reviewing this. I’ve read the two Dark Haven anthologies and didn’t realize that Xavier’s story was out.

  11. Ducky
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 17:24:46

    I am not into BDSM but I enjoyed several of her books including this one. I don’t expect realism from them and doubt they show realistic depictions of the travails of people in the life style. I see her novels more as fairy tales for subs who get to meet and frolic with their ideal doms in a sort of BDSM paradise.

  12. Merrian
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 06:26:56

    @Sunita:

    I agree, I read the excerpt last week and decided to pass this Cherise Sinclair story by, not only because of the sheer bad ethics but because it made Abby TSTL. At that point she deserved to be losing her job because she wasn’t able to act professionally.

    Reading the review and thinking about why I feel so strongly I was also reminded of Staci Newmahr’s very interesting ethnographic study of the BDSM scene in ‘Caeden’ “Playing on the Edge: Sadomasochism, Risk, and Intimacy”. A critical part of her text is her consideration of the ethics of her anthropological study and she thoroughly details the processes she goes through to ensure that her research meets ethical standards and responsibilities according to the university and with the Caeden community. Newmahr also notes how the community she studied has been badly treated and burned by unscrupulous researchers and journalists seeking to use them. If trust is the essential element of BDSM relationships and play then why would I want to read about someone untrustworthy like Abby who breaks it before things begin?

  13. MrsJoseph
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 12:45:04

    @Merrian:

    Newmahr also notes how the community she studied has been badly treated and burned by unscrupulous researchers and journalists seeking to use them. If trust is the essential element of BDSM relationships and play then why would I want to read about someone untrustworthy like Abby who breaks it before things begin?

    That is a great point. A great point. I think it might be why I dislike deception storylines as well.

  14. Sunita
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 13:16:54

    @Merrian: @MrsJoseph: Agreed, that is a great point, Merrian. It’s not the suspension of disbelief that’s the problem for me, it’s the lack of internal consistency. I don’t expect all my romances to make sense according to the real world, but they should make sense within their own world.

  15. pamelia
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 17:45:57

    This might be my least favorite Cherise Sinclair book.
    I liked a lot of it, but was bothered by a few things. First and foremost I did not buy Xavier’s quick realization of his feelings for Abby; it was almost like he flipped a switch rather than coming to terms with his feelings. I also was waiting for her finished paper to be vetted and commented on by at the very least Xavier, but the paper fell right through the cracks (I actually wanted to hear more about the sociological aspects of the BDSM club and was looking forward to it!).
    I was also (like many of you) scratching my head as to why on earth a sociology professor would not go about her research in a more ethical way. To me that whole secret undercover spying for the sake of her paper felt WAY too much like a plot device to bring about the big punishment scene.
    Yes the book was fun and hot and entertaining as all get out, but I’m usually not left wanting when I finish a Cherise Sinclair book and this one left me wanting.

%d bloggers like this: