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Book Reviews

REVIEW:  Unrestrained by Joey W. Hill

REVIEW: Unrestrained by Joey W. Hill

UnrestrainedDear Ms. Hill:

Generally speaking, I think that you write some of the most consistent and interesting D/s erotic romance in the genre today. I find your books equitably balance discipline and emotional connection while going deeper than a little Friday night spanking to get “wild”. Unrestrained is perfect example of that balance.

Athena Summers is a businesswoman, a wife and a Domme. She spent years acting as Mistress to her husband, Ray, who recently died. While he was alive, she and Ray spent quite a bit of time at Club Release, a private club where Athena became quite renowned for her creative and artful sessions. But after Ray’s death, Athena rarely goes to Club Release and has little desire to re-engage in the Life. Despite that, she decides to go to the club to see if she can reawaken her desire. She decides she’ll just watch while she’s there. It is there that she encounters MC, the Master Craftsman. A Dom so creative, so talented that Submissives are desperate for even one session with him. She watches, intrigued as he takes a sub through a session. She’s amazed at how easily she’s able to picture herself experiencing what the sub is, and how excited that actually makes her. But of course, she’s a Domme herself, so it would be ridiculous to even entertain the idea. She leaves the club, which is in a seedier side of town, and stops for gas. While there, she is jumped by two muggers. She’s enraged when they try to steal her wedding rings, and won’t give them up. She’s quite certain they are going to kill her, but she refuses to give up this tangible connection to Ray. Suddenly the attackers are pulled from her. Her savior is of course, MC. He introduces himself as Dale Rousseau, and tells her that he was aware that she was watching his session very closely. He wonders if she might want something from him. She denies it, but still agrees to meet him for lunch to discuss further. As Dale comes into her home, she realizes that she might be far more interested in subbing for him than she thought. His direct nature, and pure artistry as a Dom allow her to do nothing but be truthful about her desires. Soon they are embarking on a D/s journey that neither expect.

Oh I loved this book! First, it’s got a ton of angsty goodness. Athena genuinely and completely loved her husband. She misses him terribly and really believes she’ll never find love again. She’s this wonderfully together heroine, a businesswoman, smart, engaging and warmhearted. Dale is a former Navy SEAL with his own demons. He’s tough, no nonsense and matter of fact. He’s also a creative and interesting Dom. He sees that Athena is submissive from the moment he meets her, and is willing to help her change her mindset, which has always been to act as a Domme to that of a submissive. He understands immediately that her Domme mindset was because that is what her husband, Ray, needed. And at her core, Athena is a “giver”, she only wants to please those she loves. And Dale helps her understand that her submission is far more fulfilling for her than being a Domme was. And he does it all the while respecting the deep well of love that Athena had for Ray.

The book is fully about two grown-up people on a grown-up journey of discovery. Athena about her submission, Dale, about opening himself to possibilities and perhaps losing a tiny bit of the tight rein he holds on himself. The sexual scenes are beautifully crafted and grow in intensity as the relationship between the characters deepens. If I had an twinges at all, it’s that the book runs a bit long. I think that the story could have been tightened up a bit towards the inevitable ending of the two going back to Club Release with Athena as Dale’s submissive. Either way, it’s a truly lovely book with so many elements to recommend it. If you’re looking for an angsty D/s romance with plenty of heat and a really satisfying emotional journey, I think that Unrestrained fits the bill perfectly. Final grade: B+

Kind regards,

Kati

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REVIEW:  Thrown by Colette Auclair

REVIEW: Thrown by Colette Auclair

thrown

Dear Ms. Auclair,

Your book was a Golden Heart finalist at the 2012 RITAs so I felt taking a chance on a new author was less risky than it might otherwise have been. For the most part, I enjoyed Thrown. Although there were some things I disliked,  I’m not sorry I took the plunge. I think you have a lot of natural writing talent and I’m looking forward to where it might take you in the future.

Amanda Vogel is a professional horse trainer and showjumper. Her dream is to represent her country in the equestrian event at the Olympics. However, after seeing her best friend die in a jumping accident, she developed PTSD and was unable to compete. This led to her losing business and she eventually had to sell even her beloved horse, Edelweiss. To get away from her troubles and to make some money, she takes a summer job teaching the young daughters of a Hollywood movie star to ride at his Aspen Creek retreat.  Grady Brunswick is a 35 year old widower, completely out of touch with his daughters, Solstice (11) and Wave (8), and basically clueless when it comes to parenting. He is also a gorgeous action movie star and has women throwing themselves at him everywhere he goes.

Amanda doesn’t make a great first impression – she breaks Grady’s Emmy.  And the children make an equally poor impression on Amanda.  They are spoiled undisciplined brats; they run amok and take no prisoners.

There is an unspoken attraction between Amanda and Grady from the beginning but the romance has a fairly slow build.  I liked this aspect of the story quite a bit.

Amanda begins teaching the girls and, through the discipline she applies with horses (which work quite well on young girls it turns out), Wave and Solstice improve their behaviour and become adorable plot moppets.  The turnaround was fairly quick and I’m not sure I entirely bought the ease with which Grady effectively took direction from Amanda on child rearing.

Celebrity chef and Grady’s best buddy, Harris Stembridge, is the sassy gay friend and fits neatly into the stereotype. There were hints of a life outside helping Amanda and Grady’s relationship along but I would have like to have seen his character a bit more developed.

“…If I could package the chemistry between you two and sell it, I’d be Bill Gates. With better clothes. And a more resonant voice.”

The writing style was engaging – some of the turns of phrase painted amusing word pictures which I enjoyed.

Her mind, which had possibly just shaken hands with the first molecules of vodka, unhelpfully provided a movie of Grady Brunswick showering.

Some of it was a bit on the cheesy side, but I don’t mind a bit of cheese occasionally.  It is something which is very subjective so other readers may like it more, or less than I.

“You have champagne?”
“My bedroom is a happy place. Champagne’s a happy drink. Want some?”

In retrospect, I thought the book was too long.  At 384 pages, it is a substantial debut.  Numerous conflicts were introduced into the story – some of which didn’t go anywhere and others of which felt, to me, like authorial manipulation designed to keep the characters apart.  I think it would have worked better if there were less conflicts but more development of the ones which stayed.   While I liked the addition of Luke the farrier – a handsome man who Amanda dates briefly in the book (mainly in order to subvert her attraction to Grady), I was disappointed that he had to be made into a patronising 1950s type jerk to get him out of the picture.  One of the conflicts very late in the book had me a little exasperated – it seemed to come out of nowhere and made little sense to me.

More intimate scenes wait until very late in the book, with one barrier after another hindering the consummation of Amanda’s and Grady’s attraction. There was one scene which may have scarred me for life. I thought it went without saying. But apparently I was wrong.  There is nothing sexy about a snuggie, even when it is being worn by a handsome movie star.  Snuggies leach the sexy in my opinion and I could have used not having the mental picture of Amanda and Grady in snuggies getting “friendly”.

I was not one of those little girls who was into horses and that didn’t t really change when I grew up – I think those who are more into horses will enjoy the book a bit better than I did.  That said, I wasn’t bored or uninterested in the horse information – I thought it was sprinkled throughout the story in manageable bites which I mostly understood (and those few bits I didn’t get didn’t detract from my reading experience).  It was clear to me you know of what you speak in this area and your love of horses and showjumping is evident.   Little things like what sort of flooring is best for a horse barn gave flavour to the setting.

The epilogue was perhaps a little saccharine for my taste, but overall, I found Thrown to be an engaging read.  If the book were shorter, the plot tighter and some aspects of the story a bit better developed, I would have put the novel higher in the B range but as it was, I’m going with a B-.

Regards,
Kaetrin

 

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