Blake Morgan III has just come out of a horrible five-year marriage and is not interested in getting involved again. He once dreamed of a happily ever after, complete with a husband and kids, but now he knows that is an unrealistic dream. His friends are determined that he get back out there, especially because he is hot, wealthy, and sure to be popular now that he is available again. But Blake is wary, especially since the last five years have basically been sex free. His friends are determined, however, and as a lark Blake agrees to go along when they make up a list of his sexual fantasies and potential adventures.
Artist Miguel Santana has been in love with Blake for years, but lost his chance when Blake married Diego. Miguel’s feelings haven’t changed, but after getting hurt once, he is not sure he is ready to try again now that Blake is single. Miguel is known as a playboy, but he would love to settle down with Blake. When their friends show him Blake’s lists of Seven Desires, Miguel decides to take a chance to see if he can be the man for Blake, but not before putting together a list of his own Seven Needs, which includes a long-term commitment.
The guys get down to living out Blake’s list and the sex and passion between them is great. But Blake is still convinced he is never going to get serious again, while Miguel is determined that they make something real between them. But with Blake’s crazy ex causing trouble, combined with his own insecurities, and both men’s fears about sharing their true feelings, the guys must work hard to find their way together for good.
Unsaid is the third book in Avery Astor’s Manhattanites series, the first two of which focus on m/f relationships. This story is really an ensemble work, featuring a group of incredibly wealthy, impossibly gorgeous, super successful socialites living in Manhattan. Aster refers to it as a contemporary romantic soap opera, and it definitely has that feel as the stories and characters are kind of dramatic and larger than life. To me there is also a bit of a Gossip Girl vibe, as these folks live unbelievable lives full of wealth and privilege, they are close friends, but they are also all up in each other’s business all the time.
I chose this book for New-to-Me Author Week and I did enjoy Aster’s voice and writing style. There is a playfulness and fun about the story, even though it does touch on some heavy topics. But Aster doesn’t take things too seriously and the writing is fun and fast-paced. For the most part, I enjoyed the ensemble aspects to the book and found that even as the third book in a series I haven’t read before, I was able to jump in pretty well here. Aster gives a guide to the characters at the start of the book and recaps a lot of what is going on.
I did have a few challenges with the format though. While I didn’t mind that Miguel and Blake were not the sole focus of the story, I did sometimes feel they got overshadowed by the rest of the storyline. The book jumps around to scenes with the various characters and their stories are all woven together throughout the book. In fact, their friend Lex ends up with at least as much page time for her own story as our supposed main characters. We deal with her wedding, her pregnancy, her job, her issues with her mother, her best friend, etc. As the story went on I become more invested in Lex, but when the book started I found it distracting to have so much time devoted to a character I didn’t know or care about. It didn’t help that I hated her fiancé and found him to be domineering and controlling. Perhaps I would have felt differently if I had read her story, but I did find it was just way too much time devoted to her. Part of me wonders if this is how all the books run, with so much page time devoted to side characters, or if this is a factor of this being a m/m story in a larger m/f series. Either way, although I enjoyed the gang, I felt like there was a too much focus on other story lines, making for a long book and not as much time for our guys.
I enjoyed the set up here with Miguel having been secretly in love with Blake for years. Then we have the conflict that Blake, who had always wanted to settle down, is now not looking for a relationship, while the supposed playboy Miguel just wants a commitment with Blake. There is kind of a dom/sub vibe that goes on as Miguel leads Blake through his list of naughty desires that include fisting, water sports, and more. Blake clearly likes things rough and dominating, and most of the time it worked for me, though at times I felt like the BDSM scenes lacked a level of communication and consent that I wanted to see. And there is one point where consent is so clearly lacking I was quite upset reading it. It took what could have been a hot scene of sexy domination and turned it sour for me. Given that this was a big moment in their relationship, it definitely impacted how I felt about Miguel and his sensitivity toward Blake.
“Miguel, we need to talk about our agreement and this whole week.”
“Don’t worry. You’re here now.” Kissing him on the forehead, right by the scar he always covered with his wavy hair, he hoped to put Blake’s nerves at ease. He’d seen those terrified blue eyes earlier in the week when Brutus approached. “I’m going to take good care of you.” He went to his toolbox and withdrew what he should’ve taken out the minute his friend walked in the door.
“I lunched with Thor and Vive today and they suggested you might be”
Whap. He slapped black vinyl tape over Blake’s mouth.
“No more talking.” Miguel figured he’d try and negotiate his way out. “We have the club only for a few hours. Get naked.”
Blue eyes rolling, he put his hand up to the edges to tear it off.
“Remove the tape and I’ll never speak to you again.” He reached for his sub’s zipper, yanking it down, almost knocking him off his feet. “Get your virgin ass onto the sling.”
I’m sorry, but just no. Blake wants to talk, and Miguel is using extreme coercion to get him to go along with the scene. I’ll also add Blake hasn’t had sex in five years, nor has he ever had anal sex, and they are about to undergo a fisting scene that terrifies Blake. The guys do end up getting out a lot of their issues that night, but even once it is clear Blake is into it, I had a hard time getting past this. I also didn’t like how Miguel is so pushy with Blake about committing to him right away. Blake literally got divorced like a week before, just getting out of an awful, scarring marriage. Maybe he can get five minutes to breathe before someone is demanding he commit again or everything is over between them?
So things with the more domineering guys in this book didn’t always work for me, but overall I enjoyed the story. I liked Aster’s writing and aside from some of the BDSM issues, I found the book fun and playful and entertaining. You can’t take things too seriously, as their lives and adventures are pretty much over the top, but I think the intent here and it works. So I am glad I got a chance to try a new author and I will keep my eyes on Aster’s work in the future.
P.S. I’ll mention that Aster also has a prequel series that focuses on the gang in college, called The Undergrad Years, if you are interested in following along more with these guys.