Series: An Invitation, Book 2
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 292 Pages
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Disclosure: A copy of this book was provided to me by the author for review. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
Passionate, Intense, and Sexy
She is master of her kitchen and suffers no fools. He is Master.
Chef Ariel Valerian is furious when Dane Reese strides into Valerian's Root, the café she and her sister own, as if he wasn't solely responsible for her older sister's sudden defection. It's bad enough that Alayna has taken off for thirty days to stay at a BDSM and D/s school, A Master's Gift, to safely explore her inner submissive. To have one of the co-owners and Masters of that school, Dane, think for a moment he's going to be working at the café to keep the bookkeeping straight while Alayna's away is just too much for Ariel to take.
She wants blood. Preferably Dane's. And she wants it now. What she doesn't want is anything to do with Master Dane, his high-handed orders, supercilious attitude, or sexy body. And she works all day with knives. He should beware.
The tiny, blue-haired Ariel may have a waspish temper and a sour disposition, but Dane promised Alayna he'd cover her duties at the café, running the business end of the popular eatery. He has every intention of fulfilling that promise. That pugnacious little pixie of a sister of hers is just going to have to deal with it.
Dane would love to put Ariel over his knee and teach her a little discipline. Years as a Master has taught him how to spot a submissive a mile away and Ariel is just begging for a firm hand and expert control. Not that she's going to listen to him on the matter. She's too busy fighting him every step of the way.
The only way they will ever be able to work together without killing each other is if they put all their cards on the table and make a little wager while setting some strict boundaries. If, by the end of the month, he hasn't opened up the tart little pixie to the joys inherent in filling her deepest needs, he's not the Master he thinks he is. And Ariel isn't the woman he thinks she is. A woman who may change everything for both of them.
I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of books that feature certain BDSM elements. I have very wide, thick, practically uncrossable lines relating to that subject. Occasionally, however, I like to read things just outside my comfort zone to push myself a little. I have no intention of jumping on the grey bandwagon, no matter how many shades it is - I prefer well-written fiction that doesn't feature brutalization and sexual sadism packaged as romance, thanks - but I wasn't far into this lovely read by Qwillia Rain before learning that it would be a good choice for wading into uncomfortable waters.
First, the focus of this book is far more D/s than BDSM. Though aspects of BDSM are mentioned and Dane is certainly familiar with the more physical aspects of that lifestyle, it's also clear very early into the book that the sexual practices embraced by him as a Dom are healthy, safe, and most importantly, consensual. The clearly defined lines are unequivocal, and at no time is it not completely clear that both parties are able to walk away or end the play at any time without the threat of emotional manipulation or abuse. As it should always be.
For me, the best measure of an erotic book is how it would read if the erotic or controversial elements are stripped from it. Rain's writing style is smooth, her narrative polished and sophisticated, and her characters complex and layered. More, Ariel is a spitfire with an unconquerable nature. She's a bit like a terrier, actually, tiny but ferocious as she fights not only everything Dane is about, but her own emotional and physical reaction to him. In that regard, this book tickled my fancy with a top notch enemies-to-lovers theme that complimented the erotic elements of the tale.
I liked Dane well enough, but he had a tendency to be infallible in word, action, thought, and deed, and I would have liked to see at least some measure of human failing in him to make him a bit more realistic. The fact that he was a stubborn and immovable rock just wasn't enough to do it. There was just too little compromise in him in all areas in his life. On the flip side, however, it was Dane who was the most emotionally forthright when it came down to the wire, and I had to admire that.
The story was seductive and highly sexual, but what impressed me the most was the depth of emotion and strength of character in the romance. Both characters were strong, even in moments of submission, and the feelings they had for each other superseded any sexy games they play. It was a powerful example of how things should be in a healthy relationship of that nature.
It was uncomfortable for me at times. I knew it was going to be. I can't say I loved the book for that reason alone. I can say I thought the differences between the BDSM and D/s lifestyles and needs were brilliantly defined, and both were treated with respect and intelligence. Just as the characters and their relationship were. For that alone I commend Rain. For the sexy fun and entertainment value of the read, I applaud her.