Pick up this anthology and you’ll be treated to four very different stories that all encompass the need for control. I loved the wide selection of themes included inside, and it made for a fantastic read. If BDSM is your kink, then I can absolutely recommend this anthology to you. You won’t be disappointed.
Master Key by Anah Crowe and Dianne Fox
Rating: 4.5 stars
Navin is stuck under the thumb of his controlling mother, working for her and bending to her every wish. His boyfriend Marquis provides him a happy distraction. That is, Marq does when he remembers to show up. Marq is a highly paid and sought after architect, and he often gets absorbed in his work to the exclusion of all else. Navin just wants time with Marq, and Marq wants to be able to be there for Navin. But their relationship is falling apart. When Navin discovers Marq’s porn collection and sees what he’s into, Navin is shocked. But it also gives them a point of connection. When Marq expresses the desire to wear a cock cage, and for Navin to hold the key, the men think that they have finally found a way to keep Marq on track. But things don’t work out like they expect. The two men have to break apart before they can put themselves back together.
I really liked the dichotomy of these two guys and I thought the authors did a really great job of showing the layers each character had. Navin is a bit of a push over when it comes to his family, but with Marq, he happily takes control. Marquis is definitely a people pleaser, and his submission is right under the surface. The pacing for this short story was really well done, as we got to know both men individually and together. There was one single point where the story slowed down a bit for me, but it picked back up again before too long. What I really appreciated was the conversation these guys had to get back on track, and how they were able to reconcile their needs and desires with practicality. Navin and Marq work really well together in the end, and I liked this story a lot.
House Rules by Cari Z
Rating: 4.75 stars
Introverted screenwriter Jon lives by the rules his lover Alistair has set out. They are there to keep Jon safe, healthy, and focused, and Jon needs to follow them even when Al isn’t around. Which has been a great deal lately, as Al has been out promoting his movie, which Jon wrote. Jon is having a bad day, and he doesn’t want to follow the rules, but still he tries. Watching the Oscars, where his lover is up for a Best Actor award, is nerve wracking at best. It takes its toll, and Jon does not complete every task he’s supposed to. When Al gets home, Jon knows that he has to face his punishment. And though he doesn’t want to, deep down he knows he’ll feel grounded once it’s over.
I really enjoyed this story. Jon is a fantastic character, and so very well written. He definitely has his issues, and I liked that he was self-aware enough to know what they were. I liked the relationship between him and Al. Domestic discipline is not something we see a lot of, and I though Cari Z did an amazing job with it. These two men are so clearly in love, and so right for each other. Jon needs the focus the rules provide, and he knows that without them he’d be much worse off. Which is why he submits to them, and to Al, despite occasionally pushing at them. This was a really well done story with a lot packed in, which still felt complete.
The Harder They Fall by Heidi Belleau and Lisa Henry
Rating: 4.5 stars
Tad Jameson is a spoiled rich kid with no boundaries and no consequences. Finding out that he gets off by making a prostitute cry while sucking him off, Tad returns to the service demanding another prostitute. This time he wants an older man, and when he gets a look at the guy offering to take him on, Tad figures he’ll do. But what he doesn’t expect is for the man to make Tad call him Daddy and for his entire world to shift on end. With just a few well-placed words, Daddy has Tad feeling things that he never has before, and reaching inside himself to a place he didn’t know existed. But it’s all just a game, and Tad knows that when it’s over, he’ll pay and leave. He doesn’t expect to feel heartbreak at the thought. And he almost doesn’t believe Daddy when the man offers him something more.
This story is intense, and though I had a couple of issues with it, it was well written and very good. Tad is very hard to like in the beginning; he is the quintessential poor little rich boy. He is, to put it bluntly, a complete asshole. But almost from the minute Daddy steps into the picture, Tad begins to change. He sees himself in a different light, and though he doesn’t completely understand it, he’s willing to do what it takes to chase what he’s feeling and to be a good boy for Daddy. I did have a slight problem with the intensity of the whole thing, considering that Tad was a complete novice to this kind of play. I thought there should have been a little more conversation between them. I did appreciate that not only did Tad invoke a safeword, but that Daddy immediately listened to what he said. There is also a lot of humiliation going on here, which isn’t always my thing, but I thought it was well done. The story did feel a little unfinished to me, in that Daddy almost seemed to be taking advantage of Tad’s vulnerability when he offered him more. Overall, the story was good, and a little hardcore, so definitely keep that in mind when going into it.
CTRL Me by Anna Zabo
Rating: 5 stars
Tom left a bad situation in California, and now resides in Pittsburgh. When his girlfriend dumps him, Tom is hurt. He’d told her upfront that he was bi, but when he asked for what he needed in the bedroom, she freaked. Gabe is his best friend and coworker, and when Gabe invites Tom out to cheer him up, Tom agrees. But the night quickly turns into something Tom never expected. A little rope in the glove box clues Tom in to what Gabe is into. Tom’s kink is bondage, and he has a desperate need to submit. It’s too much to hope for that Gabe would be able to give Tom what he needs. These two men find that their needs and desires complement each other perfectly. Can the two friends find their forever with each other?
I loved this story from beginning to end, and it was my favorite of the bunch. Tom is our narrator and we get to know him intimately right from the start. He was incredibly self-aware of what he needs and wants, and he had an amazing sense of self preservation. He’s been hurt, but he is moving past it. He doesn’t need anyone else to fix him, though Gabe’s time and attention certainly helps. I loved this guy. And I love the way that we got to see Gabe through his eyes. The author did a fantastic job of letting us get to know Gabe as well, and I thought it was wonderfully well written. The fact that these men are friends first is exactly what Tom needs. There was no other way he could trust another Dom if it weren’t for him already knowing Gabe so well. This story was perfect and I loved it.