REVIEW: Unrestrained by Joey Hill
Dear Ms. Hill:
After many books exploring the vampire world, Unrestrained returns to the contemporary setting in a book very loosely connected to the Knights of the Boardroom series (a series that I found entertaining but very troubling). Athena is a widow and accomplished businesswoman with a challenging bedroom issue.
She served as a dom during most of her marriage to her now deceased husband Ray. Since his death, she’s visited the BDSM club they frequented and has found herself drawn to the submissive side of things. This confuses her a great deal. One person she finds alluring is Dale aka Master Craftsman. Thankfully this nickname is not used often in the book because I kept thinking Sears handyman.
Dale is a former SEAL who inherited a junk yard and a canine rescue program. He’s also a skilled Dom who hasn’t found anyone he would like to partner with on a long term basis. During one scene at the club he becomes aware of Athena’s interest and suggests that they explore the attraction between the two of them.
Athena struggles with the idea that she might be a submissive but Dale explains it perfectly. Athena is so desirous of pleasing her partner that she became the dom because that is what Ray needed. Ray and Athena had a wonderful and loving relationship and Athena was sexually satisfied but with Dale, she explores a side of her sexuality she hadn’t realized existed.
The emotions of this book are understated and it takes some time for the tension between the characters to build. Almost all of the story is told in limited third person from Athena’s point of view. It is really her story more than anyone else’s. Part of the struggle for Athena isn’t just being a submissive but getting others within her sexual social circle to accept this.
The key to Athena is that she is such a pleaser that she starts anticipating everyone’s needs, including Dale’s. The delicate power balance between the sub and the Dom are well structured because while we see Athena’s competence, we also see how she needs a leavening effect. Someone willing to tell her to breathe, take a break, that she doesn’t have to shoulder everyone’s burdens and strong enough for her to listen. Dale’s dominance actually serves to highlight Athena’s strength.
I often have trouble with the BDSM dynamic but not in this book, likely because so much is seen through Athena’s lens. She isn’t into humiliation or pain for the sake of pain. She seeks true release and Dale is able to provide for that. The former husband is treated with respect and care and not diminished in any way. You can see how much love the two had between them but the reader also understands that Dale is the right person for Athena now.
Dale was injured in combat and has some issues with his prosthetic, more issues than he thought he had at first. But when he becomes emotionally vulnerable to Athena, some feelings of inadequacy come to the fore. (He had never topped without his prosthetic, for instance, and he’s reluctant to take it off when Athena is around at first).
This was a lovely and understated romance. I would have liked to have seen more of Dale’s point of view and I did think that there was a little too much introspection. B-
This is the first of Hill’s books I’ve read, though I do own Natural Law (due to your rec). I’m always so fascinated with books that take a thoughtful look at the BDSM dynamic. I really enjoyed Unrestrained for that reason.
@Andrea T: Natural Law is more emotionally intense and really pushes the boundaries. When I first read it, I was a newbie to erotic romance. I think it is still my favorite because it is so different. There were scenes in NL that bothered me but it was a gripping story.
This sounds like a really interesting read and I’m a big fan of second chance at love stories where the former partner isn’t demonised. I shall put it on my list.
Eep! At $9.99 I’ll also wait for a special.
I’m with @Kaetrin, the price.. yikes. It’s on ammy for $7.99 right now, but to me that’s a bit more than I’m willing to pay – although the story does sound good!
I too have Natural Law, Amazon freebie a couple of months ago. I keep telling myself to read it but am on the fence. I got it a) it was free and b) the main character’s profession is listed as a cop..and there’s a cop in my life I’d like to tie up.
@Jane, now you’re not such a newbie to the genre, have your thoughts changed re: NL or if you were to reread it would you find some of the scenes still bother you?
@Sandra: Probably. Some of the BDSM stuff are power exchanges that I can’t really wrap my head around. I know that everyone’s kink is different and should be respected but there are a couple of public scenes that make me feel uncomfortable even recalling them. I don’t *get* it so it’s hard for me to see it as loving and romantic even though I know for those in the lifestyle it is.