Romance is sex plus love.
Erotica is sex plus fear.
WOW!!! So, I finally worked up the courage to read this book that I have literally owned since mid-2012. I’ve been equally curious about and yet kinda scared to read it this whole time, unsure if it was something I’d like… but I’m honestly so glad that I read it because OMG… it was GOOD!!! The writing was amazing! The story though was very, verrryyy different than a lot of what I read. It’s an erotic BDSM world and while there was definitely strong love, it was NOT at all a traditional romance. It was taboo and shocking at times, raw but extremely honest, very intricate and complex… It took me waaaay the hell out of my usual “reading comfort zone” but the characters, the writing, and the depth of the story have all hooked on this series and I will be starting the second book after writing this review because I NEED MORE!!! 😀
The story is infinitely complex but it begins with Zach, an editor at a major publishing house, who is given almost no choice but to work with a mysterious woman named Nora Sutherlin, an erotica writer whose books have been outselling his prize winning literary fiction novels. He’s beyond reluctant to have anything to do with her. What she writes is the furthest thing from the kind of books he’s passionate about and he wants nothing to do with her until he reads the first words of her book…
“I don’t want to write this book any more than you want to read it.”
And he’s hooked… and so was I. And the story began to unfold. At this point, I’m torn. It would be hugely misleading to tell you that this is “what the story is about” and yet if I told you much more detail, it would take the thrill out of the story. Suffice it to say that there’s a large cast of male characters around Nora.
There’s Wesley — her nineteen-year-old virgin intern who cares so deeply for this woman who is in almost every way his complete opposite. (Gah! I loved him so much!! *whispers* I think he’s my favorite!) To be honest, I think the hottest sex scenes were the ones that happened-but-didn’t-happen with him.
There’s Søren — the oh-so-mysterious, lethally Dominant priest who has been in Nora’s life since she was fifteen. I find him both scary and fascinating… for me (at this point), I feel like he represents “too far” in this world. I know that so many of you are on #TeamSøren but I’m still kinda eyeing him warily. I like him but he kinda scares me a little because he’s just so extreme!!! I’m drawn to the strength of his character though and to the power that he almost intrinsically commands… I think I’ll warm up to him as I read.
(hehe, I’d pay good money to watch Barrons and Søren duke it out. Just sayin’ 😉 #AlphaShowdown)
There’s Kingsley — Søren’s best friend, who runs the Club. We didn’t see that much about him this book but we saw enough to intrigue me and I know he becomes a major player in the later books…
And of course there’s Zach — the editor whose life is turned upside down after meeting Nora, who is still hopelessly in love with his estranged wife… and who is also hiding a secret from his past.
Oh and there’s Griffin — he’s another Dominant who we only saw briefly but I really like him!
Nora is the heart of the story though and is, without a doubt, one of the most intriguing female characters I’ve ever read. An erotica writer and a Dominant, who was once a submissive. She’s mysterious and yet forthcoming, so very clever, funny and charming, but sultry and dangerous, and yet also vulnerable. I love the strength of her character and I can’t wait to learn more about her as the series goes on.
There’s a lot of depth to the themes in the book. I don’t want to spoil anything by even hinting at it but I’ll just say that this is a lot more than an erotic novel. I found the beliefs and values held by the characters were very eye opening and would love to learn more about them in the books to come.
The story is erotic. Intensely sexual. There’s strong love, but no romance. It’s amazing the way the author separates these elements. Most books easily separate sex from romance. But separating love from romance while sex is still in the mix is a whole other level of intricacy. — If you’re a romance reader and planning to read this book, you’ll have to throw all the “rules” and expectations out the window. It’s just so wildly different that you can’t put it into that box. You just have to accept it as it is because….
This book doesn’t play by the rules, it makes it own.
I find the BDSM world really intriguing. The author did such an amazing job of educating the reader by “showing rather than telling” an understanding of the way that world works through the scenes.
You should know that Nora does have sex with multiple people during the course of this book. They are not random sexcapades and always served some sort of purpose. It kind of goes against what I usually like to read about but I found that once I just opened my mind and accepted the world, I was fine with it.
There are a lot of layers to the story that you have to really be paying attention to so that you don’t miss — like the way the scenes Nora writes in her manuscript but then deletes are ones that really happened in her past with Søren. It was so clever and secretive — hiding these secrets of her past in plain sight.
For an erotic book, it’s also surprisingly tasteful. Never gratuitous. The writing is just PURE GOLD. In fact, I’d say this is one of my most highlighted books ever — 72 favorites quotes selected!
I strongly recommend reading these books in order. There’s a real beauty, polish, and purpose to the way the story is unfolding. I usually am the kind of reader who wants to know the answers to certain things in advance but I’ve decided to just accept whatever comes and I’m reading these completely blind!
I want to stress that I do not consider these books “dark” really… there is nothing non-consensual in them. Even the most brutal, shocking, or extreme things that happen, do so because of choice, not force. There’s a huge difference between someone tying some random person up and beating them, and someone willing submitting trust to someone else to give them the beating that they want. The sub has all the power — they have a safe word they can use at anytime. While I most certainly understand that this world and this type of story won’t be for everyone, I also want to assure you that it’s definitely not random brutality.
I’m really glad that I have 7/8 of the books in the series already available. It’s such a rare treat to be able to really binge on a series so finding one that is this well written is just a bookworm’s dream!
On to book #2!!
Rating: This is just the start of the series so I’m going to hold off on rating it until I’ve read a bit more. But right now, I have the feeling that this will end up being a 5-star series for me!
*** SERIES READING ORDER ***
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*** FAVORITE QUOTES ***
Note: I “hid” these in a spoiler tag but they are NOT spoilers. I only hid them because there are a lot and I thought it would be annoying to just have them out there. Have a look if you want, it’s perfectly safe 🙂