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REVIEW: Out of Focus by L.A. Witt

Dear Ms. Witt.

I devoured this book. I had issues with it, sure, but I couldn’t put it down. It’s BDSM, done right! It’s hot m/m/m action. It’s TWO Dominants. It’s people with real lives! Yay! \o/

Out of Focus by L.A. WittRyan and Dante have been together for twelve years or so. They’ve been business partners in a photography studio for eight years. They’re both dominant, though, and every now and then they take on a submissive so that their Dominant needs can come out to play. Additionally, Ryan, known to Dante as Angel, never bottoms, ever, and Dante does but also likes to top, which he can do with a submissive. At a wedding, they meet Jordan, the brother of the bride. After the wedding, Jordan hires the pair to take promotional pictures of stallions at his horse farm. A slow seduction starts from there and soon the men are sexing it up every chance they can get. Until they start to fall in love…

Jordan is incredibly competent in his job, but his deadbeat ex-boyfriend lives with him and he’s been wanted to explore BDSM for a few years but hasn’t been able to. His physical and submissive attraction to Angel and Dante blows him away, and he’s in heaven when he gets their attention. Dante and Angel find in Jordan more than they ever expected — and therein lies the tension of the second half of the book. Their pact with each other was no emotional involvement with their submissives, but they both find themselves falling in love and have to figure out how to deal with it.

Weirdnesses first: the story is told in alternating first person point of view. So each chapter break and, at the height of the tension, each section break, I had to figure out whose head I was in. This was okay, except that Dante and Angel didn’t really have much to distinguish them. This might have been a characterization issue — writing skill — or it may partly be because they have been together so long and communicate really well, so there really isn’t much to tell them apart. Jordan was easier to figure out because he was physically removed from Dante and Angel, because he was new to BDSM, and because he was the submissive in the relationship.

Also, Jordan’s ex-boyfriend issue is a little odd. He’s an asshole who, as Jordan thinks, “Evidently . . . subscribed to the philosophy that men are like driveways: lay them right the first time, walk all over them forever.” I get that he’s the foil to Dante and Angel, but the fact that he hangs around for so long, mooching off Jordan, just bugged me (as it was supposed to, I’m sure, but not in a good way). I was flipping through the book at one point and skipped from one conversation between him and Jordan to another and they were almost literally the same (“When are you going to get a job and move out?” “I dunno, man, I’m trying.” “Well, try harder.”). And I get that that was the point. But it was boring, which is never a good thing for a book. His purpose would have been just as easily served by having him in Jordan’s past without having him actually present in the book.

The story is slow, but that’s okay. It’s supposed to be. Dante and Angel take their time seducing Jordan. All of them take their time figuring things out. When the crisis comes, it’s not a quick one, but neither is it overflowing with angst. I usually dislike stories that are just about people falling in love with no barrier, showing a “real” relationship as it happens real time, because there’s no tension. This story had tension though: the will-they-or-won’t-they tension of a couple asking another man if he’ll join them and oh, by the way, are you submissive?; the tension of working through what the BDSM meant for the three of them; and then the tension of, crap, we’ve fallen in love, what do we do now? Each of the men learns something during each stage and each of them fits together with the others better after each stage. The one thing I could have wished for is an indication of the “no emotional entanglements” rule a little earlier, to create a bit more tension right from the start. It’s only brought up halfway into the story.

That said, these guys talk, all the time. Sometimes they don’t, but then they talk about the fact that they’re not talking. It all seems a little too reasonable at times, but it’s so very realistic. This is how a BDSM relationship has to work if it’s really going to work.

And, oh GOD, it’s so refreshing to see BDSM done without the meeting in the Kinky Klub of Kinkiness, without the One True Way to Dominate, with the men having to feel each other out not only for attraction but for sexual compatibility. Kinky people meet in real life, just like anyone else, and they have to negotiate not only the “does he like me too?” question, but the “is he kinky too?” question, and you show that here. Also, Jordan never calls either of the Doms “sir,” and although they have their little ritual, it’s their ritual, that works for their relationship, not because it’s the One True Way:

I let a few seconds tick by, which must have been an eternity for him. When at last I spoke, I kept my voice gentle and soft to avoid startling him. “Excellent. Now get on your knees.”

Jordan glanced at me, at Angel, at me again. Before I could ask once more if he was still okay with this, though, he took a deep breath and knelt.

I waited a few seconds, letting the empty stillness settle its weight on his beautiful, bare shoulders. Then I moved toward him, giving him time to get used to my nearness before I stopped right in front of him. He stared at the floor between us. His fingers twitched a little on his knees. Even if my proximity unnerved and intimidated him, it likely alleviated that sense of vulnerable exposure from being naked and out in the open.

Mirroring the first contact Angel had made in the studio, I ran my fingers through Jordan’s hair. He jumped at first but then exhaled, his shoulders dropping slightly.

“Look at me, Jordan,” I whispered.

Slowly, he raised his chin and met my eyes. Few things in this world were hotter than submission, and kneeling at my feet, looking up at me like that, Jordan was the very picture of it.

Thank you for that! It makes me so happy!

And so does the sex. Whoo! Hot and steamy. Fun. These boys have fun and you show that and the reader has fun as a result (the reader’s partners might have fun too!).

I went to your webpage and almost passed out with joy at the extent of your backlist. From my enjoyment of this book, I can’t wait to dive into it.

Grade: B

Best regards,
-Sarah

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Sarah F. is a literary critic, a college professor, and an avid reader of romance -- and is thrilled that these are no longer mutually exclusive. Her academic specialization is Romantic-era British women novelists, especially Jane Austen, but she is contributing to the exciting re-visioning of academic criticism of popular romance fiction. Sarah is a contributor to the academic blog about romance, Teach Me Tonight, the winner of the 2008-2009 RWA Academic Research Grant, and the founder and President of the International Association of the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR). Sarah mainly reviews BDSM romance and gay male romance and hopes to be able to beat her TBR pile into submission when she has time to think. Sarah teaches at Fayetteville State University, NC.

10 Comments

  1. jayhjay
    Aug 04, 2011 @ 13:17:55

    Oh, I have been debating buying this for my beach trip and I think you have sold me. I loved loved Getting off the Ground/Infinity Pools and have half her books on my to buy/to read list. Luckily she seems to write really fast!

    ReplyReply

  2. Twitted by smexybooks
    Aug 04, 2011 @ 13:30:22

    [...] This post was Twitted by smexybooks [...]

  3. Lucy Woodhull
    Aug 04, 2011 @ 14:04:27

    “Kinky Klub of Kinkiness”

    Ha! Is that located next to the “Bangin’ Brothel of Bounderness” that I read about in historicals? Every rake has one.

    ReplyReply

  4. Artemis
    Aug 04, 2011 @ 14:30:48

    Excellent! It’s on The List.

    ReplyReply

  5. Jeannie
    Aug 04, 2011 @ 15:49:13

    I’m so with you, Sarah. This, THIS, is the kind of BDSM stories I want to read. So many of them either make me sick that I spent money on them or totally squick me out with the “Sirs” and “Masters”. I don’t quite know how to explain it but the titles bother me, whereas the domination doesn’t, Weird, I know, but still…I’m always on the look out for great m/m stories. I just finished Hothead by Damon Suede, and it was wonderful!

    ReplyReply

  6. L. A. Witt & Lauren Gallagher
    Aug 04, 2011 @ 19:31:13

    Thanks for the great review, Sarah! :)

    Lori

    ReplyReply

  7. orannia
    Aug 04, 2011 @ 20:05:54

    I have only read one LA Witt book to date – Static – which I really enjoyed. This is so going on my TBR list (right up the top – LOL :)

    Thank you Sarah :)

    ReplyReply

  8. Evelyn
    Aug 05, 2011 @ 04:19:13

    Just finished the book this morning – It was so great I tried to read it slower, because I didn’t want it to end.

    ReplyReply

  9. Kaetrin
    Aug 06, 2011 @ 05:46:45

    I’m glomming on m/m at the moment and it looks like I have yet another to add to my list.

    ReplyReply

  10. Anne
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 08:55:23

    I just finished this and wanted to thank you for reviewing it. From the cover, I wasn’t remotely intrigued and the story inside didn’t match up. [Though I understand the cover now- I still would have gone without something involving the chains, just made it seem like it was going to go a much darker route with things—which is why I skipped over it until your review.]
    I completely agree with your take on the story. Also, since this is my 3rd L.A. Witt book, I can tell you all 3 have had a seriously obnoxious ex that really was much better skipped over, but the main relationship and chemistry, and the, *ek-hem*, is always exceptionally well done.
    Thanks again!
    P.S. I’d love to read your take on Rules of Engagement, by Witt.

    ReplyReply

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