Jordan Kane is the lead singer for the popular band, No Rules. He is wealthy and famous and seems to have it all. But the constant touring is taking its toll and he can’t go anywhere for fear of being mobbed by fans. Instead of being fun, Jordan is feeling overwhelmed and stressed. And making things even more complicated is his best friend and band mate Daniel, who once again seems to be sliding into drug addiction. Keeping everything together is overwhelming for Jordan and he feels like he is falling apart.
Jase Hewitt is Jordan’s bodyguard and he takes protecting his charge very seriously. But Jase has been hot for Jordan since way before he started working for the man, and now that Jordan is expressing an interest in him, Jase finds him impossible to resist. The fact that Jordan is into kink as well, seems to make them a perfect fit. Jordan is a natural submissive and Jase delights in introducing him into the BDSM scene. Submitting to Jase seems to center Jordan and give him a sense of peace and calm he can’t get anywhere else.
Even as things are going well for the two men, problems with Daniel keep coming between them. Daniel is like family to Jordan, and watching him self destruct with drug addiction is killing Jordan. Jase knows exactly what Jordan is going through; he watched his former lover spiral out of control, no matter how much Jase tried to help him. Jase knows there is nothing Jordan can do to bring Daniel back from the brink, and part of Jordan does as well. But Jordan can’t bear to turn his back on Daniel even as he knows the chances of him getting better are slim. Jase is determined to help Jordan navigate this difficult path, but the emotional upheaval may just be too much for both of them.
Guarded takes on some really heavy themes and I think the authors handle them quite well. On one hand we have the the sexual relationship between Jase and Jordan and the exploration of dominance and submission between them. Jordan has always been kinky, but being famous, has never really had a safe and private place to explore. Jordan is a natural submissive, but his real kink is breath play. So he has been engaging in this act with a series of random partners, risking his safety and public exposure to get his needs met. With Jase, Jordan learns more about the BDSM scene and formal Dom/sub roles.
The authors really do a nice job exploring how this all centers Jordan and how he finds some mental peace through his submission. As Jordan falls apart in other aspects of his life, it is clear both his emotional relationship with Jase, as well as their Dom/sub connection, are really what is holding him together. I did, however, feel these guys jumped into the deep end a little quickly. Jordan goes from some unstructured kink to hard core pain and public play with not much in between. It seemed hard to imagine putting someone so inexperienced in that type of situation without any real lead up.
I also found myself somewhat unsatisfied with the breath play part of the plot. We learn early on that it is Jordan’s biggest kink and it is something that freaks out most of his partners because it is so dangerous. Jase is wary of choking Jordan, especially after the first time they try it. The hosts of their BDSM parties don’t allow any breath play at all because of the danger. So it is an interesting issue brought up here in that what Jordan really wants and needs is something that is not really safe for him to have. So I was really interested to see how this would play out, but it just never really got resolved. Sometimes Jase would choke Jordan or cut off his airway, and sometimes wouldn’t do it. I just felt like this was an interesting issue, and one that came up over and over, but it never really crystallized into anything or resolved in a clear way.
The second focus of the story is on Daniel and his drug addiction. Guarded is interesting in that it is officially the story of Jase and Jordan, but Daniel is almost a third person in their relationship. He and Jordan are so close and so emotionally intertwined that Daniel’s decline is just destroying Jordan. I loved the way the authors give us Jase as a lens here to view what is happening, because Jordan is so emotionally enmeshed with Daniel that he can’t see him or the addiction clearly. By giving us Jase, who has gone through this before, we can get that perspective of what is really happening with Daniel, and how desperate the situation truly is.
The authors really do a wonderful job portraying all the pain and suffering on all their parts. We see Daniel’s belligerence, his despair, his anger at Jordan. And we see Jordan torn apart watching Daniel self destruct. And we also see Jase, who can hardly bear to go through this again after his lover’s death, but who also is determined to be there for Jordan. So this is an emotional and very intense book, and not always an easy read. It is often sad and depressing and there are some very dark times for all of these men. I think the authors handle it very well, but it is not always easy to get through.
I had a few other issues with the story. First, the story is told in alternating first person between Jordan and Jase, and honestly, I got confused a lot as to whose POV we were in. It doesn’t help that they are both J names, but I think the first person made it particularly challenging because we are in both their heads so directly. I frequently had to stop and sort of mentally orient myself as to whose POV I was reading. It got better as the story went on, but it was still tough.
It is also a fairly long book and sometimes felt a bit repetitive, especially the multiple fights and makeups with Jordan and Jase. Given how intense the story was, at times it just felt too drawn out and I think the book could have benefited from some paring down.
All that said, Guarded is really well done. I think the authors explore some really interesting ideas here and approached the BDSM elements and the addiction components in unusual ways. So this is an intense read that deals with some pretty heavy issues, but the authors handle it all very well and have created a really great story here.