the sergeantRating: 1 star
Buy Link:
Amazon | All Romance
Length: Novel

Sergeant Logan Pierce of the Houston SWAT team has a problem. For years, he’s wanted one of the members of his team, Corporal Clay Foster, but he’s afraid to approach him. Not only is he unsure if Clay would even be interested in a relationship, but Logan is a Dom and he’s not sure how to ask Clay to try the BDSM lifestyle when they’re not even dating. Then there’s all the problems associated with the fact that they work together and Logan is Clay’s superior.

When a shared car ride turns into a heated kiss, Logan finally works up the courage to admit to Clay that he wants him, and they agree to start dating. Logan holds back on dominating Clay for as long as he can, but finally it comes to light that he’s into BDSM. After some thought, Clay gives it a try and finds that he loves letting Logan take control. So much so that before long he’s wearing Logan’s collar.

Accepting Logan’s collar is not the end of the story though. Jealousy, miscommunications, and fear threaten to drive them apart and eventually secrets and lies separate the pair. Logan and Clay must find a way to overcome these obstacles and trust each other again if they ever want to repair the relationship.

Okay, so this review is going to be a little different for me in that it’s mostly going to focus on one aspect of the book and essentially only the second half of the story. The reason for this is that this book is so long (around 370 pages on my ereader) and there is so much going on with it that making general statements that apply to the whole book is just about impossible anyway. If I detailed all the issues with it, gave equal time to both parts of the book, and gave enough attention to my main problem with this story, this review would be almost as long as the book itself. It ended up pretty long anyway, but please bear with me guys, the issues I talk about here are really important to me personally, and a lot of other people too I’m sure, so I thought it was important to really do this one right. Besides, the feel of this story changes drastically from one half to the next and the second half of the story and the nasty turn it takes is the driving force behind the rating I’m giving, so I thought it made more sense to concentrate on that.

That’s not to say that there weren’t problems in the first half. Most notably the rather grating writing style. It was all “telling” and no showing, there were rapid POV changes (some as quick as two sentences in one character’s head and then a switch), and a lot of referring back to things that happen off-page between on-page action. If those scenes were really so important that we need to talk about them several times, then they should have just been on-page. Additionally, the first half just felt like one big sea of “blah.”  These characters felt like ones I’d read about a hundred times before and with no clear, discernible motivation for any of them, it was hard to care about them. I felt like every cliche possible was tossed into this plot, and it too felt like something I’d read over and over again. And most of the conflict heavily featured one of my biggest pet peeves—90% of it could have been solved with just a little communication between the characters.

Also, I just feel the need to point out that the side characters irked me to no end in this book. I’ll talk about one in particular later in the review, but as a group they were one big teeming mass of obligatory appearances. There was, of course, the jealous ex, the couple-friends who meddle aggressively because their relationship is going so well that they want to pair everyone else up no matter if the relationship is good for them or not, the rival love interests, the friend who has reservations about the relationship (smartest guy in the whole damned book), the superior who dislikes one of the characters and causes problems for their relationship (who incidentally just dislikes Clay because he’s closeted and he hit on Clay once and Clay rejected him, so like an emotionally stunted child he blocks any career advancement for Clay), and to round out the group, the rebound guy who points out to Clay what he really wants is to get back together with Logan. Any of those sound interesting or fresh to you? No? Me either.

So okay, now we’re getting into the second half, and my issue with it, which is simply this: this book is not a BDSM romance, it’s a handbook on how to emotionally manipulate your partner into giving up all their autonomy and freedom of choice and ability to consent. Their relationship is toxic and abusive, and throughout the whole second half I just wanted Clay to run as fast and as far from Logan as he could. Of course he didn’t.

I don’t want this review to turn into a PSA about what constitutes a healthy relationship and what doesn’t (although I fear it’s probably leaning in that direction), but I think I need to take a minute to detail my opinion on real-life BDSM relationships versus fictional BDSM fantasy so that you know where I’m coming from. I’m not one of these fans of BDSM that thinks that fictional kink has to follow all the rules of real-life play. Sometimes the appeal of the fantasy is in not following the rules. If the story you want to tell as an author is about the fantasy of not playing by the rules, then by all means, write it; I might even enjoy it, and have in many, many cases. But please, please, don’t try to sell it as a story that follows the rules. That’s when your story goes from being a fantasy that flaunts its disregard for the rules, and is all the hotter for it, to a really messed up representation of a romance.

So, this book wants to be a BDSM romance, but it entirely misses the point. The difference between a BDSM relationship and an abusive one is that in abusive relationships, one partner takes control from the other, and in BDSM one partner gives control to the other. A lot of people know about the “slogan” the kink community has used for a long time, SSC (Safe, Sane, and Consensual), but I actually prefer RACK—Risk Aware Consensual Kink—because it talks about risk awareness. I think you can’t actually consent to something unless you know what it is you’re consenting to. With that in mind, Logan never actually lets Clay know what he’s in for, meaning that Clay never really consents to anything in the whole book.

Logan is not a Dom, he’s an abuser. Period. He never obtains real, informed consent from Clay, he has absolutely no respect for Clay’s boundaries, he emotionally manipulates Clay into giving in to him, and he doesn’t take no for an answer. His behavior at the beginning of the book, when Clay was giving him what he wants, is only vaguely unsettling. I had a sense that he lacked self-control, which always worries me in a Dom, since self-control is one of the things a sub has to trust their Dom to maintain, but it wasn’t too bad. But then, when Clay breaks things off, like a typical tyrant, Logan is incapable of accepting the word “no” and his behavior takes a nosedive into this ugly, possessive, controlling monster.

Probably the most disturbing part of his personality for me was the fact that he gave a lot of lip-service to allowing Clay freedom of choice and wanting his consent, but when it came time to actually do it, he ignored all of that, simply barreling over Clay’s protests and asserting his own will any time Clay made a choice he didn’t agree with. Which means Logan understands the value of autonomy and consent, he just doesn’t care about them.

And worse, he understands how to use them. By playing at being an understanding partner who values personal choice, he can manipulate Clay into thinking that when Logan takes choice from him it’s only because he’s trying to help Clay make good choices, not because he’s a controlling jerk. Clay wants to keep their relationship separate from their jobs, but Logan constantly dominates him while at work. Clay says he needs time to think and Logan harasses him with phone calls and gifts, pressing him to let Logan back in. Clay says he needs them to take things slowly, so no sex while they’re trying to figure out how to fit back together, and Logan pushes him until Clay changes his mind. It’s actually kind of disgusting. Some of the sex scenes actually have a pretty rape-y feel to them where Clay starts off saying “no” but Logan touches him, kisses him, etc., until he responds physically and stops protesting, which Logan considers consent. Newsflash: it’s not.

But don’t just take my word for it, here, have some examples:

A week later, Logan was struggling to maintain his positive attitude on winning Clay back. He’d sent Clay a few texts asking if he wanted to talk. He’d called him once. He approached him at work once. But so far, he hadn’t convinced Clay to really talk to him.

…By this point, Logan was frustrated. He wasn’t going to give up but he didn’t want to cross the line and come off as harassing Clay either.

Too late for that, buddy. Multiple attempts to talk when Clay says he needs more time first, in the span of one week, equals harassment, and approaching him at work, where you maintain a position of authority over him, is kind of a dick move.

Okay, for this one, the whole scene is problematic for me, but I’m just going to sort of hit the highlights and hopefully you get the gist.

“Logan, we shouldn’t be doing this.”

Logan trailed his lips along Clay’s neck, breathing in his sleep-warmed scent. “Mmm…why not? We said we would wait. But if that’s not what you want…”

Clay gasped as Logan tugged at his nipple ring.

…Clay shrugged. “It’s not a problem, but I better go.”

…”Since I didn’t get my goodnight kiss, do I get a good morning kiss?”…Logan abandoned kissing Clay’s neck and moved back to his mouth, kissing him hard. He slipped his hand around to cup and squeeze Clay’s ass. He knew things were getting out of control. They’d gone past just kissing, their hips no longer pressing lightly, but instead moving faster and grinding their cocks together hard. But he could still keep things from going too far. He would stop…just not yet.

He pressed the tip of his finger into Clay’s entrance…Not exactly the best way to show he was on board with Clay’s request to wait.

You think?

Bear in mind for this next one, that they are not together at this point.

“Sir, please…”

Logan groaned quietly. Hearing Clay call him that while he was asleep and didn’t know what he was doing was torture. Still, he responded to his sub’s subconscious plea. Logan carefully pulled down Clay’s shorts, trying not to wake him.

Why not Logan? Because you know it’s creepy as hell to molest someone in their sleep when they have no idea what they’re doing? Also, you are not together, ergo, he is not your freaking sub!

This one bothers the shit out of me.

“You’re so sweet and tight, Clay. Gonna come for you, baby.”

Clay made as if to move off him. “No, not inside me.”

Logan clamped his hands firmly on Clay’s slim hips, holding him down. “Yes. Inside you. Every drop, baby.”

And in case you’re wondering, no, they are not using condoms here, and no, they are not together at this point, so no guarantee that there hasn’t been anyone else for one of them, just adding to the layers of messed up here. This is also not the first time that Logan makes decisions about safe sex practices in the middle of having sex without consulting Clay either.

And, in my opinion, the most egregious. They are still not together at this point, and this is Logan’s response to Clay asking for more time to come to a decision about their relationship.

Logan started to tell Clay to take his time but then he thought maybe he was going about this wrong. Maybe he shouldn’t let Clay work through this on his own, but should guide him like a submissive needed their Dominant to guide them…”Clay look at me,” Logan waited until those blue eyes, stormy with confusion, met his. “Baby, I’m sorry that you’re hurting over this. But it’s time to let it go. No more waiting to see if you trust me. The way that you see that I’m trustworthy is to be with me, Clay. So no more waiting. Either you want my collar or you don’t.”

No. No, no, no, no, no. I really don’t need to articulate what is so very, very, messed up about that, do I?

And poor Clay, what a mess he was as a character. Like many victims of abuse, he makes so many excuses for Logan’s behavior and takes a lot of the blame for things that happen between them onto himself, and in some cases, he’s not entirely blameless, but it just sets up a worrying pattern. But for all that I wanted him to get as far away from Logan as possible, I still didn’t like him as a character. He’s got the emotional maturity of a child (a common theme in this book, apparently), and the really mixed signals he sends Logan encourage Logan to continue with his ridiculous behavior. Not that I’m saying Clay’s actions excuse Logan’s in any way, because they definitely don’t, but they certainly didn’t help the situation. I’m actually pretty convinced that Clay needs professional help. He’s a recovering addict and he lost his brother at a young age in an event he feels partially responsible for. I think he dealt with the physical aspects of being an addict, and I think he dealt with the emotional issues of being dependent on a substance, but I don’t think he dealt with the driving need behind his substance abuse in the first place or any of the guilt over his brother’s death. I think this makes him very vulnerable to someone who would take advantage of him, like Logan.

I said I’d go back to one of the side characters, and this is poor Ryan’s time to shine. I know it might seem kind of pointless to focus on such a minor part of the story, but his plot thread and its resolution was actually the point where I really clued in to what a giant douchebag Logan was, so. Ryan was actually the one character in this whole book I connected with emotionally and cared about at all—and he’s supposed to be the villain. At first I thought he was just the victim of poor storytelling and I was merely annoyed by his portrayal. See, poor Ryan’s only crime is being Logan’s ex and still wanting to get back with Logan (God only knows why), and for that reason alone the reader is supposed to hate him. We get no indication that he ever did anything wrong or that his and Logan’s breakup was messy (or that an actual breakup ever happened) and it just struck me as so odd and I kind of felt bad for the poor deluded kid. And then we get more backstory about the relationship between him and Logan, and I got really upset for him.

Logan and Ryan scened casually with each other off and on for two years. Logan says he made sure that Ryan understood it was just casual, but I’m sorry, if you’re with someone for two years, at that point it’s not casual anymore. Either they want more from the relationship or you do, or you both do and for whatever reason someone’s got commitment issues. Logan has to know that Ryan wants more, which means that Logan’s just using him. I think after two years of Ryan making himself available for Logan whenever he wanted, and Logan not scening with anyone else during that time, it’s not unwarranted for Ryan to feel like there’s something more there. I think he’s well within his rights to ask Logan for more, to question why Logan doesn’t want him, and to hope that Logan and Clay don’t work out. Logan is a complete dick to him and it seems like all of Ryan’s petty, ugly behavior is brought out by Logan’s terrible treatment of him. Logan ignores him, threatens him, and belittles him to others, simply because he has feelings for Logan. It hurts my heart. Ryan deserves a partner who won’t treat him like shit, so I’m actually glad he didn’t manage to snag Logan away from Clay.

The scene that really hammered all of this home, and consequently brought Logan’s true colors to light was the scene where Logan rejected him. Ryan offers himself to Logan while Clay and Logan are broken up, and Logan takes him to a private room, tells him to kneel, and then tells him this:

“Don’t you think if I wanted you for my own, I would have made that happen by now? Before I got with Clay, I played with you off and on for what, two years? And in all that time I never once offered you my collar. Does that tell you anything, Ryan?”…“Clay is the only one I want.”… “Not you. No one but Clay. So not only do I find your play to entice me with liquor and the promise of a threesome extremely forward and unattractive in a submissive, I also find it completely useless because I have zero interest. I do not want you. Do you understand that?”

As a Dom, Logan has to know what kneeling for someone you want to submit to is like for a sub. He has to know what an emotionally vulnerable place that puts them in. And he puts Ryan there, and then he emotionally guts him, just…completely eviscerates him. He could have said all of that without ever putting Ryan on his knees—Logan chose to tear him down to his lowest level, and then leave him there, with absolutely no way to put himself back together. What a slimeball.

And last, but certainly not least, I’ve got to talk about the collaring issue. Collaring is a sensitive issue among the kink community because collars represent so many different things to so many people, but one thing everybody involved in BDSM agrees on is that fact that putting a collar on someone is a big deal. No matter what role a collar plays in your scenes or relationship, putting one on requires some pretty extensive communication about what it means beforehand. That just didn’t happen in this book. Once again, Clay had no idea what putting Logan’s collar on meant to Logan and so when he consented to wearing it, it wasn’t actually consent. It was too early, Clay wasn’t ready, and Logan manipulated him into putting it on. I think probably the bigger issue with the collar though is that Logan considers it a relationship requirement, which is so crazy. The thing that really makes BDSM work for a variety of people is that it’s not one-size-fits-all. There are a range of options between vanilla relationships and being collared, but Logan, because he’s a controlling, abusive tyrant, refuses to acknowledge that. When they break up and then subsequently get back together, Logan puts his collar right back on Clay even though collaring him too soon is what caused the rift between them and they never actually solved any of the issues between them. This was such a poor representation of how beautiful and meaningful being collared can be.

So, in case you can’t tell, I really don’t recommend this book. I felt like I was reading a spoof about what not to do in a BDSM relationship, and I think this story propagates so many of the misconceptions about BDSM relationships and culture that a lot of people have. It makes me want to die inside to think that someone will read this and actually think this is how BDSM goes. But, even if you don’t mind the abusive tone of the relationship, or you don’t agree with my assessment of the relationship as problematic, the wonky writing, the lack of character development, the clichéd plot and supporting cast, and the frankly lukewarm and rather tame sex scenes should make you pass this one over anyway.

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