That’s a Wrap is the third book in the Ben’s Life series and continues the story of partners Steve Michaels and Zack Greene. Steve is a producer/director and Zack is the star actor on the television show Ben’s Life. They have been together five years and have a dom/sub relationship, mostly focusing on a discipline structure where they agree to rules and Steve is responsible for enforcing them and meting out punishment. That’s a Wrap starts pretty much immediately after the end of Cutaway, after Josh, slave to one of Steve’s old friends, shows up at their door. Josh has left his old master and wants Zack to take on the role. Steve and Zack know Josh’s old master mistreated him and that the young man is desperate for somewhere else to belong and feel safe. They agree to take him on for a trial basis, clarifying that there will be no sexual component to his role a slave and that their own relationship will continue to be monogamous.
At the same time as they are dealing with changes at home, things are still in upheaval with the show. The ratings decline has gotten more serious and the other producers tell Steve they must do a last ditch publicity tour to shore up the ratings, or else the show will be cancelled. The men give up their hiatus to go to New York, along with some of the other actors and Josh, who is posing as their personal assistant. Things do not go well in New York for a variety of reasons and when they return home they face even more bad news in relation to Steve’s mother Crystal, throwing the men into even more upheaval. Their lives are changing in a variety of ways and then men must stick together and support one another to make it through.
As I said, this is the third book in the series and as I read this book, I couldn’t help but think back to the story’s progression over the series. What has always worked well for me, and continues to be the best part about this book, is the relationship between Zack and Steve. Prior to meeting Steve, Zack’s life was out of control. He was wild, engaging in bad behavior, and having trouble working. Zack left a bad family situation (and has only recently rekindled his relationship with his mother) and desperately needed some structure in his life. Their relationship has totally turned Zack’s life around as he has become a responsible, caring man who is able to handle challenges and work through problems. The love between these guys is evident and I really like that no matter what they face, they do it together. I especially like the ways we have seen their relationship grow and change since the first book. Although the men have never really had a hard core BDSM relationship, in Action we see Zack in much more of a submissive role, needing a lot of structure from Steve. Over the course of the books, Zack has needed to take on the role of caretaker for Steve at times, and in this story the men even experiment with the occasional switching of roles. It was interesting to see the way things are developing between them and they are quite doting with one another. At times their sweetness goes a bit over the top for me, but overall I really like them together.
Where this story didn’t hold up well for me was the subplot with Josh. It seemed a little out of character that they were willing to bring someone else into their very private lives, even agreeing to make a commitment to him after only a week trial run. In the end they rethink this decision, but it still seemed surprising to me that they were willing to make such a big change in their lives so quickly with a man they didn’t know that well. Even more frustrating is that this story arc doesn’t seem to ever really go anywhere. We get a big set up, and then things sort of fizzle out. Perhaps we get some further development in future books, but as it stands I felt like we got a lot of awkward set up and conflict between the three men with no real pay off or resolution to this subplot.
My other recurring issue with this series is that I think it needs tighter editing. I feel like we got a lot of different things happening (especially toward the end) and the story would have benfited from some tightening. I continue to be frustrated by the seemingly unrealistic way things are run on the television show. The producers know ratings are down and insist the actors do some promotional work to help generate interest. But they refuse to allow the actors to be TOLD the ratings are down, forcing Steve to keep them in the dark. First of all, this makes no sense to me at all. And second, I’m sorry but the idea that these people have NO IDEA their ratings are tanking unless the producer tells them seems highly unrealistic. This stuff is readily available online, not to mention that their agents and PR folks would certainly keep them apprised of this type of information, especially given how dire it is. We are told they have gone from a hugely successful show to one that gets less than a million viewers an episode and no one notices? It seems like these types of issues where things just don’t really make sense have cropped up more than once over the series.
I also want to mention that this book really needs to be read as part of the series. Even after reading the first two books, there were a few times where I was a bit lost in references to events that happened in the last book (which I read two months ag0). It assumes an understanding of Steve’s accident, Josh’s experience with his former master, and other aspects of the plot and they not explained in much detail here. Aside from keeping up with plot details, I also think it is worth reading all the books to see the progression of Zack and Steve’s relationship over the series.
Overall I still continue to like following along with Steve and Zack. I find them a really enjoyable couple and I am excited to see the new direction their lives take in future installments.