REVIEW: I Heart That City: Razzle Dazzle by Willa Okati
Dear Ms. Okati:
After my last BDSM novel review, this short novella was a welcome palate cleanser. While the writing is sometimes a bit too telegraphic, requiring the reader to infer a great deal about the characters’ motivations and emotions, this very fact also rewards close and re-reading.
Zach is a bar tender. Not only does he love his job, he’s famous for being somewhat of an oracle when it comes to mixing drinks.
For a woman who asked for a Push it to the Limit, he’d take in her tired eyes and her strained smile and mix her a Take it Easy. An older woman, her tie-dyed T-shirt bright and her long gray hair braided, asked for a Peace Out and got a Rock On. A pretty young thing who thought she needed a Blush got a Siren.
They loved it, ate it up — drank it down, rather — and most walked away with something new to think about. The way Zach figured it, some were born to heal, some were born to build, and he was born to mix a drink.
And he wouldn’t trade his life for the world on a silver platter.
And then Josef ordered a drink:
Ten minutes later, customers be damned, Zach’s cheek was pressed to the abrading surface of the ancient bricks outside and the blue-eyed man’s hands were tingling on his bare skin, the stranger’s cock buried in Zach’s ass, and his voice filling Zach’s head with soft, dirty promises and praise. The first time, but he already knew it wouldn’t be the last. If he’d had his way, it would have lasted forever.
But it wasn’t forever. The story actually takes place eighteen months later (or maybe a year? the timeline was a bit off now and then), at another bar across the country where Zach finally stopped running from Josef and their relationship. He ran because, although he and Josef fell naturally into extremely dominant/submissive roles, neither of them knew what they were doing and Zach got scared of losing himself to Josef. This is the story of what happens when Josef finds Zach and how they rebuild their relationship on trust, understanding, and communication, which is how any relationship should be built, D/s aside.
The characters are mostly well-realized. Zach is great and because the story is told entirely from his perspective, we know who he is and what he’s thinking and feeling. We can feel his absolute attraction to Josef and his almost reasonable panic about losing himself in the relationship. We see him beginning to accept himself and his feelings for Josef, coming to understand that his submission doesn’t make him any less of a man.
Josef, though, is much more of a cipher, and in the beginning of the story, even a bit of an asshole. We’re seeing him entirely through Zach’s eyes, and Zach’s perspective on Josef is a little skewed, after all. He sees him too much as a demi-god, not as a man. We come to understand along with Zach that Josef’s just as scared and as human as Zach is. But having him be quite so much of a controlling asshole to begin with and then having him leave for a couple of days because he’s trying to figure stuff out just seemed a little off. Having him tell Zach, “I need to understand you. I won’t be back until I’ve done that. And I won’t give up until you understand me” and then leave was a little surreal. Surely it’s easier to understand someone if you’re WITH them? If the message of the book, if there can be said to be one, is about how communication and treating your partner as an equal are of primary importance in a relationship, especially one so heavily invested in D/s, then why would Josef just leave to get his head back together, leaving Zach floundering, just as confused as ever?
That said, once Josef comes back and the characters start talking with each other, the relationship is believable, their happy ending satisfying, and the Domination/submission very naturally and realistically shown and works beautifully in the end. The last half of the story makes it all worth while. And that was a welcome and much needed experience.
This book can be purchased in ebook format from Loose ID.