I took some time to formulate my review for this short novel, Submission Guidelines by T. Neilson, as I found many pieces of it very entertaining and the characters extremely likeable. However, there were some decided holes in the overall plot and some big assumptions being made about the BDSM scenes that were included in the text. Overall it seemed as though the story wanted to be part mystery, part romantic comedy, and part BDSM themed. I believe this is what led to some questionable scenes and a lot of jumping about in the story line.
Cole has just relocated after losing his partner to cancer. He is a well-known food critic and novelist and apparently a dead ringer for a wanted criminal. Daniel has been undercover pursuing the felon for quite a while and his last run in with the guy left him wounded. Now Daniel is on surveillance hoping to bring down the guy who nearly ended his life, but something is not quite right. While all signs may say that Cole is a wanted man, he certainly does not act like it—not at all.
To make matters worse, Daniel feels a strong and growing attraction to Cole, a big no-no when one is on the job. As the two men spend more time together, Daniel’s radar goes up and he becomes more and more convinced that Cole is not who they think him to be at all. So the question remains, is Cole really the bad guy Daniel’s boss believes him to be?
This story began so smoothly with heaps of humor and lovely main characters. I felt myself drawn to Cole and Daniel immediately due to their back stories being parsed out fairly quickly to establish who they are and some of their past history. However, just as fast came this instant attraction between the two men and that was not quite as palatable given the rapid onset of their emotions. I did feel it believable that Cole would not hesitate to be drawn to Daniel given the fact that it had been almost a year since his lover passed away. His sweet demeanor and trusting nature made him a likely candidate to fall head first into a relationship with such a kind- hearted man as Daniel. But Daniel was on the job—a professional—and the speed with which he cast that aside didn’t ring as true for me. I felt he was more prompted by his reactions to discovering a secret that Cole had and not necessarily to genuine love or the beginnings of it at any rate.
All in all, I felt this was the first place the story suffered. If more time had been taken establishing the groundwork for a growing desire to connect with each other on an intimate level, I feel the whole relationship that developed would have been much more realistic. There was definite chemistry between these two men; it just seemed very rushed and much too intense way too soon.
The other aspect of this story that had me shaking my head a bit was what appeared to be the hastily written BDSM scenes. From the constant checking and making Cole reiterate his safe word to the incredible speed with which Cole seemed to allow Daniel to use restraints and take control, it was just way too fast for me to give these moments a great deal of credibility. I simply could not accept that a few pages before Cole had pushed Daniel away for lying to him and then suddenly was okay wearing cuffs that he could not escape from without Daniel removing them. Also, the fact that Cole was so in lust with Daniel that he was unable to state his limits should have put the halt to any BDSM play right then and there. These were some serious holes in an otherwise sweet and entertaining story. And I felt that some good editing and research could have caught them quite readily.
Submission Guidelines by T. Neilson had some lovely moments where some really great writing shone through. I look forward to reading more by this author as I feel there is real potential here for this author to develop into an outstanding storyteller.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.