Rating: 3.75 stars
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When fishing through his boyfriend’s desk drawer looking for tape, Jonah stumbles across train tickets to New York for New Year’s Eve. He is thrilled, as he has always wanted to spend his birthday in Times Square. But when he then finds a box with a set of rings, Jonah panics. Although he loves his boyfriend Evan, Jonah doesn’t feel ready to get married. He is just starting to recognize some of his submissive interests and knows he can’t commit to Evan until he figures out if this kind of lifestyle is something he might really want and need. Jonah is certain his straight-laced, conservative boyfriend would never be interested in any kind of dom/sub play, so he assumes that if this is something he is going to pursue, he would need to do it without Evan. But Jonah also loves Evan and wants to be with him, so he writes up a list of the things he would want to try, things he thinks he could never have with Evan, to help him sort out his feelings. A list that Evan happens to stumble upon when it falls out of Jonah’s pocket.
Things are tense between the two of them as Jonah tries to sort out his feelings and Evan is frustrated knowing Jonah is keeping something from him. They get even more stressful as the couple goes to spend the holidays with Evan’s family. Not only are they dealing with a busy house with little privacy to talk, but Evan’s cousin Kelly has just been unexpectedly dumped by his long-time boyfriend, shaking everyone up. Jonah worries that if something could break up that pair, then it could easily happen to he and Evan as well. This only reaffirms Jonah’s determination to keep his sub interests to himself until he can decide whether this is something he really needs.
As it turns out, Evan has some past experience in BDSM. Knowing Jonah’s interests, Evan introduces some D/S elements into their sex life, hoping it will encourage Jonah to open up about his feelings. But all it does is reaffirm Jonah’s fears, as he realizes that this is something he really wants, but isn’t sure he can have with Evan. He is afraid to talk to Evan about what he wants, and instead considers exploring the lifestyle with someone else as he tries to figure things out. The two men need to work out how to communicate with one another and be brave enough to share their feelings for both to get what they really want with each other.
So this story doesn’t exactly fit into the Big Misunderstanding mode, but more of the Inability to Communicate department. Both of these guys have some feelings about what they want, but neither one is willing to really talk about them. Jonah is just frozen in panic over this new side of himself. He worries Evan will run as soon as he hears Jonah wants to be paddled, cuffed, and blindfolded, and he is not willing to risk ruining the relationship until he know that BDSM is something he definitely wants. But he can’t know without trying it. So he is sort of caught in this endless loop which keeps him from sharing his feelings with Evan and moving forward. It was an interesting idea for me, this question of what happens when one partner wants to change the dynamic of the relationship or explore something new and the other doesn’t. Jonah loves Evan and doesn’t want to lose what they have, but he also worries it is not enough for him. So I get it, but I also felt frustrated with Jonah as the story continued. I just wanted him to work up the nerve and tell Evan already. Especially because Evan asks him over and over what is wrong, reaffirms he will do anything for him, and tries very hard to get Jonah to talk to him. And I couldn’t believe that Jonah would go so far as to consider trying things out with someone else, knowing it would ruin his relationship with Evan, just because he was scared to talk to him. At times I wanted to scream at him, tell him already!
Evan isn’t completely without blame here either. He knows from the start about the list and he tries to encourage Jonah to talk to him, both verbally and through asserting his dom side during love making. He does everything he can to make an open and safe place for Jonah to talk to him. But when Jonah refuses, why doesn’t Evan just tell him he knows what is going on? I realize that the story falls apart without this conflict as this is the core of the plot, but I did find myself frustrated with these guys inability to communicate. But it is clear that these men care about each other and that their relationship is important to them. They think they are protecting it, even as they make mistakes, and they come to it from a place of love and caring.
What did really work for me is the sex side of things. If you have read K.A. Mitchell before, you know she writes amazing love scenes and this story is no exception. In addition to the hotness, what I loved is that through these scenes we really see their emotional and relationship development. This is where Evan reaches out to Jonah, trying to show how he feels about BDSM, to encourage him to open up. It is where we really see the connection and love between these two men, and reaffirms how important they are to one another. There is a lot of sex in this book, but I think it works really well to move their relationship forward even as neither man can work up the nerve to really talk to each other.
So some interesting ideas here and some really nice scenes, mixed with a bit of frustration for me. I liked the story, but it wasn’t my favorite out of Mitchell’s amazing body of work.
P.S. Wish List is available both as an individual story, as well as part of the larger Red Hot Holiday anthology (along with two m/f stories)