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.
Austin 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.