A year ago, one of David’s best friends died during a BDSM scene, and David and his friends still haven’t recovered from his death. David worries something will happen to one of his other friends, and is frustrated that there is no real forum for subs to report bad Dom behavior. So along with his friends Miles, Kamen, and Gould, David starts a blog called the Subs Club where subs can rate Doms and warn others about potentially bad behavior.
While at a club, David meets a guy he dubs Pornstache for his crazy, retro mustache. The guy is also known as the Disciplinarian, and despite his facial hair and his arrogant attitude, David finds himself totally drawn to him. He decides he will make an appointment with the guy, find out more what he is about, and give him a rating for the blog.
At first David is his usual bratty self. He challenges the Dom at every turn, both wanting him to take control, but also fighting him. David struggles with himself, knowing what he needs and what he wants, but afraid to have it after Hal’s death. But after a few sessions, David finds himself more willing to open up, to trust his Dom, even growing to care for him. For the first time he is finding someone who can really challenge him and handle him, but also someone he trusts enough to really let himself go. David no longer has any interest in rating this guy for the Subs Club. He has grown to really care for him. But the blog has taken on a life of its own, pitting Doms and subs against one another, and now it threatens to ruin the happiness the men have found together.
The Subs Club is the first book in a new series by J.A. Rock that features this group of four best friends. It is clear that they are all still shaken by Hal’s death, and this story focuses on David and his attempts to sort out his own feelings and figure out how to go forward in the aftermath. What I most enjoyed here is that this story is a great mixture of humor and seriousness. I am always impressed how Rock manages to write both hysterically funny books as well as crazy, intense books equally well, and here we get to see a bit of both together. Most of the humor comes from David, who is a totally bratty sub and pushes his limits as much as possible (I love a good bratty sub). The rest of the guys are also so entertaining and I loved how deeply they care for one another. There is a lot of humor and fun in their antics together, as well as in the scenes with David and the Dom (ok, to clarify this confusion, BOTH MCs are named David. They refer to themselves in writing as David and david but for the sake of clarity here, assume when I say David I mean the sub). There are so many bits that made me giggle and even laugh out loud. When the guys are about to start a scene:
“You said you’ve had enemas before.” D opened the box. “Any reactions I should know about?”
“I whine a lot. And yell that the agony of a thousand plagues is inside me. I sometimes also beg for the mercy of a swift death.”
Or when David decides to help his Dom with the SyFy original movie screenplay he is writing about a crocopython:
I scrolled to a scene that looked juicy and read: “‘Jon: What is that?’ ‘Tom: A crocopython.’ ‘Alice: It’s huge.’” I glanced up. “D, none of your characters say more than three words at a time.”
He nodded once, a look of supreme peace and satisfaction on his face.
I refocused on the screen. “This is a Syfy movie. There needs to be tons of ridiculous expository dialogue. Like . . . Okay, like, ‘Tom: That snake’s the size of the cement mixer that killed my mother. Back when she built this lab, she swore she’d never try to play God. But now . . . we’ve unleashed hell.”
D gazed over my shoulder at the screen. “That sounds terrible.”
“But that’s how low-budget monster movies work. Also, you can’t name your characters Tom, Alice, and Frank. What is this, See Spot Run? They need crazy names. Who’s the main character?”
“Okay, he’s now Jake Mandragon. Frank is Tank Kevlar. And Alice is Dr. Brittany Sands. Who’s your wild card?”
“The bad boy who never plays by the rules and is going to appear to get eaten but then blasts his way out of the crocopython’s belly at the end.”
“He needs a single name that’s not really a name, like Twix. Okay, look, I’m opening a duplicate document, and I’m gonna help you.”
I went to work, changing names and dialogue and reading it aloud to him as I worked. “‘Jake Mandragon: Dr. Sands, head to the back shed, where my uncle kept all his banned firearms back before he died in a freak explosion, leaving me in charge of the lab. Grab the freeze gun. Tank Kevlar, you—’”
“Why would Tank Kevlar’s friend call him by his full name?”
“It doesn’t matter! His name’s Tank Kevlar; you have to say the whole thing…”
I loved the interaction between these guys and they are really interesting characters. Dom David is described as this Davy Crockettesque kind of guy, all meat eating manliness. He comes across at first so stoic and controlling, and frankly a little bit odd, but we start to see his vulnerability as the story goes on. I’ll admit I didn’t always see the attraction, or feel that the romantic side of things was as developed as much as I may have wanted. But I really liked both of these guys and found them a really interesting match.
As I said, what works really well here is that in the midst of the humor and lightness, the story deals with some serious issues. David really struggles with Hal’s death. He is terrified something will happen to his other friends, and it has changed the way he himself reacts in a scene. David craves being forced to let go. He wants someone to push him and discipline him and make him do the things he knows he needs to do but can’t make himself handle on his own. But at the same time, he can’t stomach the idea of a Dom forcing a sub to do anything, not after Hal died in a scene. Finding that balance is making him crazy and he fights against his Dom at the same time he wants the man to just force him to behave. Figuring out where that line is and how to make a relationship work, how to figure out who to trust, and navigating the scene after losing a close friend in such a horrible way is something that David deals with throughout the book.
These feelings also manifest themselves in starting the Subs Club. The guys are looking for a way to help ensure subs safety, even though that isn’t really possible. So they start the club with good intentions, wanting a place where subs can share their experiences and talk about Doms who are dangerous. But things spiral out of control. People are ranting and cruel in their ratings, rather than giving real warnings. The community is torn up, pitting Doms and subs against one another. And feelings are hurt as people are exposed and vulnerable in a public forum. Again, this is explored really nicely here as the guys struggle with wanting to do something good, but maybe finding the wrong outlet to do it.
I am really excited about this series and where it is going. Looking at the upcoming books, they each feature one of the friends and a different angle on the BDSM scene (this one being David and with a focus on discipline). I really like these guys and I love the tone of the book; I hoping it continues throughout the series. In the meantime, I really enjoyed this first installment. It ends mostly with an HFN, which I think fits well with where things are between the guys at this point. It is a great start and I am looking forward to more.