Julian Schwarzenberg has given up his kink lifestyle, and hasn’t indulged his dominant side in more than six months. But when a friend who owns the club at which Julian used to scene calls in need of a favor, Julian goes. He’s introduced to Christopher Radley, a beautiful but troubled submissive in need of help. Julian is drawn to Chris, and since Chris has nowhere to stay, Julian offers him a no strings place to stay. Julian makes it clear that Chris doesn’t have to be his submissive in order to live in his home, but that if it’s something Chris wants, they can discuss it.
Christopher has pushed every Top he’s scened with, looking for something that he just can’t find. He wants more than just play, but no one is able to give it to him. Until he finds a connection with Julian. But even though both their needs and wants are well suited, it’s not smooth sailing. Chris has a lot of baggage; his eating disorder is a sticking point, not to mention his abandonment issues.
Julian and Chris agree to a temporary contract to try out a true D/s relationship. The men get off to a somewhat rocky start as old hurts in Chris’s life rear their heads. But Julian is patient, and he knows that Chris has the strength within him to overcome the hurdles. With Julian’s patience and guidance, together they can work through the issues. But even as they make progress, their new found stability, and Chris’s very life, is threatened. If they can make it through the aftermath, they can withstand anything.
I have to admit that I wasn’t too impressed when I read the blurb for this one, but at the same time, something about it caught my interest. I decided to take a chance, and I’m glad I did. This debut novel has a lot of promise, and Alexandra Blunt is definitely an author to watch.
Where the story excelled in the characterization. Both Julian and Christopher are fairly well drawn. Julian, right off the bat, commands the page. He’s a strong character, and his Dominant personality just rolls off him. But he’s also got a great heart, generous soul, and a great capacity to love. These traits are not always easy to balance. Too often the Dom is either too far on the dominant scale, or too soft on the indulgent side. That’s not the case here. Blunt managed to create a character that never went too far in either direction, and he was utterly believable. He had command of every situation, but it was always tempered with that softer edge. Which made it perfectly believable that he would not only take in a stranger, but that he was the perfect Dom for Chris. That’s not to say he was without flaw though, and that too was done well. Julian made mistakes and missteps, but he also realized it quickly and took action to correct them.
Chris, while still well done, had a little missed potential for me. I really liked that he was not your average sub. He wanted to please, and he wasn’t into playing games. There was a beauty in his submission that I found captivating at times. I particularly liked that he knew what he wanted and wasn’t afraid to go after it. Chris knows he needs strict guidelines and wants them. I loved this about him. But I sometimes found his motivations a little unclear. Even when we were in his POV, I wanted a little more explanation at times as to what he was thinking. I felt that sometimes, just as we were getting to the heart of it, the author flipped to Julian’s POV and we missed something important that could have been shown about Chris.
I thought the plot flowed really well. There were a few spots where I would have liked to have seen a little more showing and not as much telling. I also would have liked to see more about Chris’s struggle with his eating disorder. To me, it felt like this was a missed opportunity. It was brought up and it was a thread through the first half of the story. And then it was…well, not dropped exactly but it was supposedly resolved behind the scenes. I thought it would have played a much bigger role in the story line, and felt it was dealt with a little too neatly.
The other thing I had a small issue with was the ending quarter of the book. A lot was packed into the story, and it felt a bit rushed to me. Chris’s life is put in danger, and just as I was feeling the urgency of the situation, it was resolved. And then the aftermath of the ordeal has him inside his own head. One well written scene in which Julian helps him work through it was not enough. The scene was brilliantly done, but to then have an epilogue and ending left me a little bit wanting. I would have loved to see some more of them working through it so I could really feel that Chris was healing. It felt too quick and I wanted more.
So this is one that I really liked. Good characterizations had me engaged from the start and invested in the story. While there were a couple of small stumbling blocks, overall this story was really good. I loved the dynamic between Julian and Chris, and that, couple with some nice writing, makes this one easy to recommend.