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REVIEW:  Dealing with David by Katriena Knights

REVIEW: Dealing with David by Katriena Knights

“It’s tough to win the game of love if you don’t understand the rules.

Though Tony Mullin agreed to put on a medieval costume, complete with pointy hat, for her best friend’s marriage vow renewal, another round of wedding bells will never be in her own future. Been there, done that, still sifting through the ashes of broken dreams.

Yet she can’t take her eyes off the Armani-clad mystery man among the guests—and no one’s more surprised to learn it’s David Peterson, the erstwhile nerd who mooned over her in high school. He not only grew up to be a hunk, but a rich one as well. Pity she’s sworn off men.

Last David knew, sweet, artistic Tony married the high school quarterback. He made his fortune developing video games, but the torch he carried for her still smolders. His surprise that she’s ditched the jock quickly turns to determination to win her heart at last…though she seems just as determined to play keep-away.

David didn’t become successful by giving up easily. A freak snowstorm plays into his strategy, but debugging a few gigabytes of computer code seems easier than figuring out how to win this wary woman’s love.”

Dear Ms. Knights,

What made me want to try this novel when it’s got elements of blurbs past which didn’t pique my interest? Well, Tony sounds like a steadfast friend who would be willing to endure the ignominy of wearing a costume in order to make a friend happy. And – I could be wrong here but – it seems like a lot of second-chance-at-love plots feature the heroine who “just can’t forget that one passionate kiss 10 years ago and who still pines for the hunky hero” while here it’s the hero who remembers and is determined he won’t lose the girl this time. Plus I love me a nerdy hero.

DealingWithDavid72lgDavid impresses me from the start. He’s a gentleman and a gentleman doesn’t leave a lady stranded in the snow with a dead car battery. This is a Great Guy in action. This is “bring this man home to meet the family” stuff. David is such a sweetie in his love for Tony. He builds her up, his questions and statements always try and encourage her. David wants Tony to dream again… for her own good and happiness. To not be afraid to go after those dreams. He doesn’t hammer at her or try to force her into something she’s not ready for. Yet, as his friend Rich says, he can also be a bit of a lame brain at times. He also isn’t above wanting to show off his success to the people who gave him grief in high school. It’s his form of revenge – which is really the best kind. Not really in a mean way but a “hey, look at my convertible Mercedes” way. He’s well rounded, though not always perfect, as a person and this comes off in the way you’ve written his character. His scenes with his mother are cute too.

David could have been a sap. I get so tired of book plots with one main character who’s loved and pined for a person for ten years. Get real. David had a major crush on Tony, yes, but in the intervening years he’s dated and even thought another woman might have been The One. When he gets the chance to see Tony again, he takes it but doesn’t initially live on the hope that he can get her romantic attention. That would be nice but it’s not truly his goal. Instead he’s not above quietly showing that he’s matured and done damn well for himself. It’s only after he sees her again and learns she’s divorced that he slowly begins to make his moves. Yet, he also stops and thinks about things. He realizes what he had was a crush then and wants to be sure it’s the real thing now and not just braggadocio and “hot damn, she’s into me now!”

Tony has changed and matured too. She is honest with herself about the mess that her marriage was and doesn’t want to fall into that pattern again. At the wedding reception, she takes a good look at the people she hung out with and how shallow she once was for doing so. There’s also the issue of how she sometimes treated David then and I like that she owns up to it and apologizes for it. She’s also horrified at the thought that others could think she’s after his money – to the point that she almost goes overboard in rejecting any assistance from him and any hint that she’s sponging off him. Tony isn’t swearing off all future relationships because of her ex- she’s just going to take her time which seems so much more real to me. She discovers, slowly, that she wants to know David and know more about him. She’s interested in the man and not in his money. He’s also got a wicked, self deprecating sense of humor that appeals to her.

I like the way you show how important they’re becoming to each other and how, underneath it all, they’re in sync by having Tony feel so comfortable that she can tell David anything. Even deep dark, secrets and things about her life that she’s kept from most everyone else.

Their Big Mis actually makes sense given how you’ve written them and their pasts. Tony was controlled and belittled in her marriage and now struggles and fights against that and against it ever happening again. She’s been down that road and ain’t going back again. David wants the best for her and thinks she’ll be happiest as an artist and not as an accountant. But he also knows she wants to make it on her own and not get a job because she’s seeing the co-owner of the company. So, it makes sense that he would let Rich approach Tony first and also that – given how low her self esteem is – he wouldn’t want to raise her hopes by mentioning it beforehand. Then, her negative reaction to what she sees as more manipulation of her life by a man kicks in and we get the teensy separation. Really teensy as Tony does have some common sense and quickly starts to think about this option. Can she trust in herself and can she trust David? The answers to those questions are necessary and vital to their relationship. I also like how the job situation resolves. It’s real life realistic instead of pie in the sky. Tony isn’t ready for a full time graphic artist position but if she’s willing to “go for it” and try for her dream, the company will work with her.

I had fun reading this book because Tony and David are two characters whom I liked spending time with and who I was happy to see get their HEA. Though I actually finished this book a few weeks ago, it’s still fresh enough in my mind that I didn’t have to resort to checking my bookmarks in order to see what I wanted to say about it. That’s a winning story for me. B+

~Jayne

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REVIEW: Room at the Top by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow

REVIEW: Room at the Top by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow

Dear Ms. Davitt and Ms. Snow:

I thoroughly enjoy your books. So I was thrilled when I saw this one and I wasn’t disappointed when I read it. You have such consistently good writing, wonderful characters, and fabulous representations of BDSM.

Room at the Top by Jane Davitt and Alexa SnowAustin and Jay are a committed couple, completely, madly, deeply in love with each other…and both submissives. Their sex life is strong and they enjoy each other, but they both crave giving up control to someone else. They can’t dom each other — they’ve tried — so they need a top who’s not going to try to insert himself sexually into their relationship. They had a top who needed the release of BDSM but was still hung up on his partner who had been killed in a car accident. But he moved away. The story opens with them scening with another top who just doesn’t get it and not only forces Jay to safeword, but then tries to ignore the safeword. Things get a little tense with Jay and Austin after this disaster, because they’re both desperate for a good session with a competent top but don’t know where to start. A few days later, in a conversation with their former top, he suggests a straight dom he knows. They meet Liam, get along well, and they start to scene with him once a week. Until they all start to fall in lust and in love (dun dun DUN!).

I ranted recently on Twitter about the Gay For You trope and how annoying and insulting I find it. And technically, I guess, this book was also Gay For You, but it totally didn’t feel that way as I was reading it. I guess for me, Gay For You has the straight guy refusing to admit any sort of sexual preference for men, except for his partner. Liam admits right from the beginning that he prefers to top men, but has only ever had sex with women. So his sexual desire for Jay and Austin freaks him out a bit, it does so more because he promised them both that he would never try to insert himself into their sexual relationship, less because he’s worried about desiring men (although there’s a bit of that too).

Things happen in this book that are not sex (Jay and Austin’s house gets flooded by a broken water heater, so they live with Liam for a few weeks; Austin’s sister has fits of being a ragingly entitled teenager), but most of the book is made up of their scenes with Liam. Not every one, by any means, but important turning points. These scenes are brilliantly crafted, reveal the characters to the extent that they can talk without a speech tag (not that they do) and this reader knew exactly who said what, and delve into the psychology of BDSM. As in some of your other books, dominance/submission and sadism/masochism overlap in their play. They’re very formal D/s situations, but it’s also fabulous to see two such different types of submission and how Liam deals with both of them.

I had two issues: the stuff about Austin’s sister’s teenage melodrama was just utterly pointless. I mean, it wasn’t, I could see how it fit into the character and narrative arcs, but it took up too much space, went on way too long, and could have been replaced with something way less annoying. I’m utterly OCD about reading every word in a book, so I didn’t skip the scenes about Austin’s sister, but I totally wished I could have. I certainly wouldn’t have missed anything at all.

The second issue was a timing thing at the very very end, so I’ll spoiler cover it.

[spoiler]Liam gets back together with Austin and Jay, has a night with them, then admits in the morning that he’d had another job offer that would take him far away but had turned it down because of them…before he’d got back together with them. This would be fine, except we were IN his point of view for all of the reconciliation and there was no hint of this offer at all. It just seemed thrown in during the last scene as something to affect Austin, rather than as something that really happened to Liam.[/spoiler]

Overall, though, I really loved this book. The sex was hot and entirely UNgratuitous. The relationships were strong and grew over the book. There was no barrier, per se, that the men had to overcome; rather, they had to accept the evolving nature of their relationship without freaking out.

Grade: B+

Best regards,
-Sarah

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