Review: Unsaid by Avery Aster

unsaidRating: 4 stars
Buy Links: 
 Amazon | All Romance | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

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.

challenge monthUnsaid 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.

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  1. With that brief scene and with your recap of the events coming before it, I understand why you didn’t love it. Sometimes I can take a scene like that for what it is – entertainment, erotica, and nothing more – and at other times I’m like you, just no, absolutely no. But I’m guessing the all over the top, socialite would more likely be the thing disturbing me. It happens that I read about the larger than life characters and billionaires, but I prefer more real life like characters and stories. This book has the bucket list though, and I definitely like the concept.

    • Yes, it is funny what bugs me and what doesn’t. Sometimes the toppy, alpha works for me, but here for some reason I found these guys not “sexy dominant” but more “jerky dominant” if that makes sense. But the majority of it worked just fine. And the socialite aspect was fine for me and I found it fun, even though these guys are over the top rich, gorgeous, etc.

  2. Hi, Jay. After reading your review, I’m almost certain I won’t read this book. My main issue is those “incredibly wealthy, impossibly gorgeous, super successful socialites “. I’m sorry, but I’m quite fed-up with that sort: The oh-so-handsome, so-perfect people who happen to make the worse choices and be terrible unhappy till they discover that happiness was living next door all the time. Too easy for me. I like my fantasies more fantastic (normally with paranormals in them), and my contemporary romances more realistic (give me something I can believe). Besides that dom/sub scenes you describe would be a no-no for me. I hate it when doms turn into bullies.
    Anyhow your review is great. Thank you for sharing it!

    • Thanks Susana! And yes, totally get it about the socialite aspect. Sometimes it works for me, and here it did because the book just had a fun tone. But other times I just want real people.

  3. I did read XO, BLAKE a week or two ago, and so I’m curious about what happens next (though that book has a weirdly jarring contrast between its lighthearted narration and some really heavy plot points such as miscarriage, getting roofied, and HIV). Sometimes I prefer The Undergrad Years series to its adult counterparts (for instance, Lex’s story UNDRESSED is kind of a fun Judith Krantz for the ’00s, but the sex scenes stop the thing dead in a total OTT way). I think the coercion aspect would turn me off here, however…

    • Yes, it is funny b/c XO, Blake has been on our weekly newsletter as a sale read for a while, and I never put it together that is was part of a prequel series to this one until I read this book. And yes, fwiw, this series has that same tone you mentioned. Some fun, lighthearted storytelling combined with pretty intense topics.

      • Yeah, I think it works better in the New Adult versions (though YOURS TRULY, TADDY is actually pretty melancholy at times, and has more emotional weight because of it). LOVE, LEX is really fun (and actually fairly sexy), so I was surprised that UNDRESSED fell that short for me. On the other hand, XO, BLAKE seems to be pure setup for this story, so I don’t know if that bodes better or worse for UNSAID…

  4. This is a new author to me. Ill have to check it out.

  5. Thanks for a thoughtful review. I’ll admit that the excerpted scene is a turn off for me. I appreciate the fact that your reviews tend to reveal both the positive and the (potentially) negative.

  6. Waxapplelover says:

    Hmmm…I’m probably gonna have to give this a skip. I don’t mind other character storylines if I’m invested in them already. However, without reading the preceding books it’d probably be hard for me to have that connection. And I’m already not the biggest fan of BDSM, so any scenes which don’t appear safe and consensual are a huge no for me. Thanks for a great review.

    • Yes, I think that was my issue at the start. I hadn’t read the other books so I didn’t care about the side characters. But once I got into the story, it definitely picked up much more for me.

  7. I don’t know that I want to read this. Thanks for the review.

  8. Melissa S. says:

    Thanks for the honest review. This is another new author for me. I read M/M and M/F books so I think I will wait until I have time to start at the beginning of this series and try book one. 

    • Yes, if you read m/f, I would start at the beginning just so you get all their stories. That should give you a better idea if you want to go on to this one.

  9. Wow…I totally understand why that scene was disturbing.  Thanks for the ‘heads up’ on that.  To be honest, all these books about super wealthy, beautiful people are becoming so prevalent, they all run together for me.  But I do like this author so maybe I’ll catch one of the series on sale.  Thanks for the review, Jay.

    • Thanks! Oh and fwiw, the college age prequel on Blake has been on sale for a while (XO, Blake). We have featured it in the newsletter but I didn’t make the connection until now that it is related to this series.

  10. Thanks for the review – appreciate your candid thoughts.  While sometimes over-the-top but fun books can hit the spot, I think the scene you described is a definite “no” for me.  I have DNF books for similar scenes…when coercion is not treated as such.

  11. I was actually considering this one when I read the “playfulness & fun” at the top of the review, but after reading the rest of the review, I really don’t think this is one I would enjoy. I enjoyed the review though. 🙂

  12. Thanks for the thoughtful review. With the issues you pointed out and the excerpted scene, i don’t think this one is for me. But it’s always great to hear about new to me authors.

  13. Denise Dechene says:

    New author to me. Reading your review I’m not sure it’s something I would like. I like Dominant men but the elements of BDSM (like fisting) have to follow the Safe, Sane and Consensual. I like it to be realistic and fisting after only a week is a little fast for me. Thanks for the review

  14. Something I’ve kind of known but discovered (again) recently is that the whole gorgeous, wealthy, social set kind of characters are just not for me. I can handle a millionaire here and there, but a whole cast of that type just doesn’t do it for me. I’m glad you share that one scene, too. I know out of context things can get lost in just sharing that one bit, but all combined with everything, I’ll take a pass on this one. Thanks, Jay!

  15. It sounds so appealing with Miguel being in love with Blake for years but I’m a bit put off by Blake having gone through a divorce and ex’s interfering with new relationships. The bdsm issue you mentioned is something I’m really particular about when reading a book in the genre.

  16. From the books description and your thoughts on how the characters interacted, I will most likely pass on this one. The rich socialite group, the diffused focus on the main characters and the way the scene was played out in the excerpt just doesn’t sound like it would be for me. Thank you for the review.

  17. I think this is definitely a no for me. That snippet you posted just about flipped my trigger. Oh no you didn’!

  18. Elizabeth Gray says:

    I’m not one for hardcore BDSM, although I will read books with a little in it.  I definitely do not like that a person did not consent, or is new to the BDSM and is taken into situations far beyond their knowledge. This one sounds like a pass for me.

  19. The story seems interesting and all, I was even planning to my never-ending list of books to read but…  you got me with the ”water sport” thing. I’m not sure I want read about that. Also, I never read a book that contains fisting and it makes me a little nerveous at how it can be presented (although if anyone has a recommendation, I’m all ears). I will have to think it twice before picking up this book, thanks for the review!

    • LOL, yes, the water sports was a little rough for me, but actually didn’t bother me as much as I would have though. It does nothing for me personally, but the scene was fine. Fisting is a bit trickier, lol. I have read a lot of books with fisting but I had trouble here suspending my disbelief (and a bit of irritation) at how quickly they jumped into it. If you are looking for reccs, Mark Cooper Versus America by Lisa Henry and JA Rock has fisting and it is beautifully done and very loving. It gives a good sense of why this would be something that someone would want to do (plus its a great book). I’m sure I could think of others if you want more suggestions.

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