Rating: 3.75 stars
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Chase has just arrived at a week-long leather convention. As much as he is looking forward to the event, not everything is smooth sailing. Not only is his ex-boyfriend Ian here, with whom Chase had a very bad breakup, but the night before the trip Chase slept with his friend Derek. Despite the fact that Chase is a Dom and Derek a sub, Derek wanted only vanilla sex, something Chase found disappointing and confusing. And now things seem awkward between the men, made even worse by the fact that they are rooming together at the convention.
Derek isn’t quite sure why he didn’t want a scene with Chase. Part of it is that Chase is still badly hurt from his breakup with Ian, and Derek doesn’t want to be the rebound guy. He has been interested in Chase for a long time, but thinks they may be better as friends. So he is determined to enjoy the week, maybe even hook up with another Dom he has been chatting with online.
The guys figure they can keep things as friends, but as the week goes on it gets harder and harder. Both men are interested in one another, but don’t think the other has the same feelings. Neither wants to mess up their friendship, but being in this charged atmosphere of sex, leather, and kink is making it hard to not think about more happening between them. But for anything to work, Chase and Derek must talk to one another and share their feelings before they lose their chance to be together.
This story takes place entirely within the leather convention, and Witt does a fabulous job bringing it all to life. She gives us wonderful detail on all aspects of the event, from the trade show to the classes to the private parties. I could practically smell the leather and hear the floggers, so well does she recreate the environment. The story also really captures the feelings of these guys, whether in a scene or watching one. I could understand what they were feeling and thinking and how the sights and sounds were affecting them. The best part is all this is done without an info dump or over narration; it is all seamlessly integrated into the story in a way that really captures the setting and the scene.
The difficulty I had with this one is that it is largely a big misunderstanding story where these guys are at odds right from the start and it continues just about until the end of the book. Both men are uncertain about their hookup and how it all played out. Each one is thinking how much he wants the other, but is also sure his feelings are not reciprocated. So they dance around one another, holding things back, confusing their feelings, and are unwilling to just say what they want and mean. Unfortunately this is one of those plot devices that sort of drives me crazy and it went on throughout most of the book. At times these guys are basically arguing with themselves in their own heads – yes I want him, no I don’t – to the point that I found it frustrating as a reader.
The other issue is that I had trouble really getting to know these guys as a couple. To be honest, I assumed this would be a HFN story, or one where the guys get together but it is not a full on romance story. It just seemed impossible to get these guys from the stuck place they were to a true HEA, especially because we never see them really happily together for the whole book until the very end when they are proclaiming their love for one another. It is not that they are having sex with others (though they do), it is that neither one ever seems to feel certain about his feelings right up until the end when they talk. Then suddenly they are in love and making their HEA. I could have accepted lovers, or dating and seeing how things develop, or pretty much anything besides riding off into the sunset. I just need more between them before I could really believe that.
On a related note, I think there were other aspects of the story that were left off page that I really think we needed to see or at least learn more about. For example, the guys had this hook up that is a major turning point in their relationship (for the good and the bad), but we only hear about it the recounting. They are both so confused about what happened that it would have been helpful as a reader if we were able to understand it better. And Chase’s break up with Ian is referenced numerous times as a source of real pain and it is clear he is not over the trauma of that dramatic decline of their relationship. And again, I wanted more understanding of what happened. Why was this so horrific? What exactly transpired? This is such a pivotal part of the book for both Chase and Derek, I just felt like I needed to understand it better.
So this one was sort of a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed the story and thought Witt did an amazing job with the setting and the atmosphere. The scenes at the conference just leapt of the page and there is wonderful detail and imagery that made me really experience these events right along with them. I could feel their emotions and the intensity and it was all done really well. I think the relationship aspects of the story fell a little flatter for me and I just needed more to really understand the dynamic between these guys and to really believe in their happy ending. And please guys, just talk to one another, at least a little sooner in the story. Despite my issues with this one though, Witt continues to be one of my favorite authors and one that am sure I will continue to enjoy.