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REVIEW: Under His Spell by Kathy Lyons

Under His Spell by Kathy LyonsDear Ms. Lyons,

“Under His Spell” is a book I find hard to grade. And might even find a challenge to review properly but here goes. I like a lot of things about it, while other things make me nervous. It’s the first (sorta vanilla) BDSM book I’ve ever read from Harlequin but I’m not sure how accurate it is or that it’s even supposed to be since I don’t think Nicky is truly a submissive so much as just looking for a way to relax her super control over every aspect of the rest of her life. In sort, I’m left with conflicting views of it even a day after I finished it.

Nicky Taylor is a driven executive. A total control freak. And magician Jimmy Ray has loved her forever. When he spots her in the audience, he realizes he finally has a chance to fulfill his own lifelong fantasy. With a little help from Dr. Mesmer, that is…

Who’d have guessed that a little hypnotism would unleash Nicky’s wildly sexual nature? Or that Jimmy’s powers of persuasion would encourage her to burn up the bedsheets with him that night…and the nights after. She’s the perfect woman.

Unfortunately Jimmy’s pretty sure Nicky’s still under his spell. And he has to change that. Because he’s quickly falling under hers…

Nicky and Jimmy – call me Jim – are both smart business people but Nicky is the driven one – which I thought was a nice flip on the usual Harlequin hero Uber-Businessman. Nicky is the one with her nose to the Blackberry, a thousand emails to read and a weekend of work. But you even turned her upside down a bit and had her be in the middle of her MBA class instead of Miss Over Achiever. Making Jim have been the shy one during their adolescent days was a third change that I enjoyed as well.

Kudos for giving Nicky and Jim nice families without major hang ups who care about each other. I also like the brother dialogue between Jim and Rick though Jim sharing Nicky’s list of sexual fantasies with his brother sounded a squick alarm. That’s just not something which anyone beyond a bed partner needs to know about, IMO.

Nicky and Jim, despite getting to know each other naked very quickly, take the time to learn about each other outside of their sexual fantasies and develop a trust in each other that’s great to see. You also avoid rushing them to the altar which is a pet peeve of mine. I was surprised that they didn’t end up starting their own company with Jim doing the brainstorming and Nicky handling the business end but the ending you gave them works well enough for me.

Now, for the stuff that I’m still not entirely sure about.

Maybe there have been other bondage books published by Harlequin and I just haven’t read them but this is a first for me. And I’m not sure how far you meant to go or how deep into this lifestyle this is supposed to be. I haven’t read many books which feature D/s or bondage but this one seems to be on the vanilla end of the scale. But that sort of makes sense since both Nicky and Jim don’t know much about it themselves and are – pardon the phrase – feeling their way along. I like that they establish a safe word to use but then Jim ignores the one time Nicky uses it even if he gives her a mind blowing orgasm.

And mixing hypnotism in with the sex worries me almost as much as it does Nicky. Is she really hypnotized and under Jim’s control, even though he says she’s not? Are her responses to Jim’s questions about what they’re doing while they’re doing it all her own? I’m not sure and that’s what makes me (o-0) about it all. If Nicky finds sexual freedom and release in being blindfolded, tied up and made to obey Jim – great. I’m happy for them. If they enjoy role playing sexual fantasies – and this part I felt more comfortable with as these fantasies seem to be uninvolved with any hypnosis – have at it. But there are enough questions in my mind that the D/s part of the plot leaves me leery.

I would recommend the book for Nicky and Jim’s relationship outside of sex. And maybe, sorta for the sex scenes themselves since they’re beyond what I’m used to reading in a Harlequin line. But I don’t think they are a reason for anyone truly interested in trying these things or for those who are already into them, to buy it. C+


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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. Jane
    Mar 23, 2010 @ 16:07:59

    I find the whole of idea of BDSM via hypnotization pretty creepy. Does he just want a semi animated blow up doll?

  2. Jayne
    Mar 23, 2010 @ 17:21:51

    @Jane: Actually, that’s not really how it is. The first time they meet as adults, Nicky is going to a show of Jim’s. He hypnotizes her onstage and she feels so free and relaxed that she tries to stay under hypnosis. Which leads her to see him as her fantasy man (she still doesn’t recognize him at this point). She then goes to his house and they have wild sex but there’s no D/s at this stage. That comes later.

    When the fantasy play begins, he always asks her, at each step, if this is what she wants and she has to answer him before he’ll go any further.

  3. anon
    Mar 23, 2010 @ 18:10:36

    I was married to a man who used hypnosis as a sexual aid – I’m really not sure he could function without putting me in a trance. And he had me conditioned pretty thoroughly. It was a violation in every sense of the word. It took a hell of a lot of therapy to recover from that relationship.

  4. Joan/SarahF
    Mar 23, 2010 @ 18:17:53

    Ignoring the safe word?!?! Oh, no, no, no, no, no. Never ever ever, no matter what kind of orgasm you give her.

    I know hypnotism is a kink/fetish for some. But I’m with Jayne, Jane, and Anon. Squicks me, seems to be a violation of necessary consent.

  5. Kathy Lyons
    Apr 01, 2010 @ 18:51:25

    Sorry. I didn’t see this until now. FYI, this is NOT supposed to be a BDSM book. Blaze doesn’t go that far. It’s just supposed to touch on a forbidden fantasy. So yes, they “feel” their way through it just to see how it works. The book was supposed to push the edges of vanilla, not move into BDSM.

    Also…did he ignore the safe word? Hmmm. I didn’t mean for that to happen. So, mea culpa there! Sorry!

  6. Jayne
    Apr 02, 2010 @ 04:59:34

    @Kathy Lyons: Thanks for stopping by and clarifying the BDSM-esque-ism of the book. I didn’t think it was supposed to be an accurate representation of the lifestyle but wanted to be sure.

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