Rating: 4.25 stars
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Asher Penaz is attending a friend’s bachelor party in Vegas when he spots an adorable, but bumbling and slightly awkward, man in the hotel. Something about the man just sparks something in Asher, who immediately wants to know more about him. Even as Asher wonders at his own behavior, he can’t quite help himself, and soon strikes up a conversation with Daniel Tover, eventually spending most of the weekend together. When the weekend is winding down, Asher finds he is not ready to part with Daniel. And as Daniel is between jobs and residences, he agrees to accompany Asher back to his home in San Francisco.
Everything about his relationship with Daniel is foreign to Asher, starting with the fact that he is in a relationship at all. Asher tends to be a one night stand kind of guy, and has never lived with a boyfriend before (or even HAD a boyfriend). Asher is a pretty rigid and controlling guy. As a police captain, he needs to be orderly, structured, and professional, and those habits bleed into his home life as well. His apartment is spartan and tidy, he likes things clean and ordered, and most of all, he likes being in control. Prior to meeting Daniel, Asher’s sexual interests were full on BDSM and he enjoyed his role as a Dom, using whips, canes, bondage, and more on his eager subs. Asher can tell Daniel is not into this level of kink, and he manages to put most of that aside. But it is clear that what Daniel does like is to be controlled. He is totally turned on by Asher’s dominant side, his possessiveness and jealously and alpha tendencies really working for Daniel. But these guys are still very different, and for a relationship to work long-term between them, both must figure out both what they themselves need, and how to combine those needs into a partnership with one another.
I really liked the set up to this story and the way Asher is immediately out of his comfort zone, yet can’t seem to help himself from jumping in. While the “never do relationships” guy changing his pattern when he meets the right man has been done quite a bit, I think the author does a nice job creating a some unique angles here. Rather than fighting every step of the way, Asher actually pretty much jumps into this relationship, even as he wonders to himself that it is all really happening. I appreciated the lack of angst and the fact that he recognizes this connection and doesn’t spend ages analyzing and fighting his instincts and just goes with it.
I also really loved Daniel. He is such an interesting guy. What strikes Asher first is Daniel’s sort of bumbling demeanor, which brings out Asher’s need to take care of him. But Daniel is also something of a savant – dancer, black belt, musician, masseuse, etc. He has led an eclectic life of a vagabond, traveling from place to place, taking different jobs when the mood suits him. He lives out of a duffle bag, doesn’t really care about material things, and sort of floats from one thing to another. Although Daniel has had relationships, he has never committed and settled long-term anywhere. So both these guys are strongly drawn together and but must adapt to make a relationship work between them.
I have this story tagged as BDSM because Asher clearly identifies himself as a Dom, and prior to meeting Daniel he is very active in the lifestyle. However, Asher quickly realizes that while Daniel likes to be controlled and is turned on by some verbal and physical dominance, he is not into pain or any of the hard core aspects of BDSM that Asher usually likes. So while there is a spanking scene, the BDSM elements in this story are very mild, and mostly confined to verbal/physical control. I thought it was interesting to see how in tune with Daniel Asher is, and how he is careful not to push him into things he wouldn’t like or be able to handle. But I do wish we got to see more about how Asher handles this transition from hard core Dom to basically a vanilla lifestyle almost overnight. For someone for whom these activities were a major part of both his physical and emotional life for years, I found it hard to imagine so easily dropping them almost completely and wish we had more insight into this change.
I think in the end, my biggest issue with this story comes down to Asher himself. There are many things to like about him. He is caring and tender, doting and loving with Daniel. He makes a clear effort to be sure that Daniel’s needs are met both physically and emotionally. He works hard and takes his job seriously. And he is sexy and yummy and super hot. So there is a lot to like here. But I struggled at times with some of his more aggressive, alpha tendencies and I am not sure how much is the book versus my own feelings about this behavior. Daniel is very clear that he loves Asher’s jealously and possessiveness. It is a big turn on for him and he loves the feeling of being owned. But there are couple of times that Asher’s behavior seems to be so out of line, I found myself angry and frustrated. At one point he physically hurts Daniel and emotionally abuses him in the midst of a jealous rage. Daniel makes it clear afterwards that this behavior is not ok and Asher is very remorseful. But honestly, I found this scene quite abusive and just because Asher says he’s sorry doesn’t seem good enough, even if Daniel is very quick to forgive him. Especially, because Asher has another episode inspired by jealously that is different, but equally awful, later in the book. I found it surprising that there was any returning from it, yet Daniel eventually forgives. So like I said, I struggled here. Personally, I found the behavior bad enough to really impact how I felt about Asher. But Daniel seemed to be much more comfortable dealing with Asher’s behavior and it many ways it turns him on. Either way, I guess I just needed to see more how Asher was going to change. Not just that he feels bad (which he clearly does) but that he is going to actually be different next time and I didn’t quite get that.
Overall I really liked this one though. I adored Daniel and loved seeing Asher’s tender side with him. I liked the way we see each man slowly figure out what he wants out of life and a relationship, and then figure out how to build that together. They are super sexy together and I found much of the dominance and control aspects of their sex lives super hot. I think the author does a nice job of showing us why these two somewhat unconventional guys just totally work together, and how they just fit one another. So despite some issues, I really enjoyed this story and can’t wait for more in the series.
P.S. Just had to squee a little bit at the name of the band the guys go to see. A while back online the author was mentioning trying to think of band names and I said how my husband and I are always making up random imaginary band names (my favorite is my punk rock band “Eye Roll of Disdain” named after my preteen daughter). So I mentioned how we named our fictional metal band Burning Wrath and Indignation (which my fellow Jews will likely recognize from the Passover Haggadah) and the author asked to borrow it for the book. So my band made it into the story!
Cover Review: Oh this cover is so, so pretty! The blond guy is totally perfect for Daniel. For some reason I pictured Asher darker (not sure if he is described that way or that is just how I imagined him). But it is very lovely regardless.
This book will be released by Dreamspinner Press on February 25th.