hard timesRating: 2.75 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | All Romance | Amazon UK
Length: Novella

Ace Freeman is serving out a fifteen-year prison sentence. He’s also the leader of the Prison Masters club, a group of gay men who are serving time but embrace the BDSM lifestyle. Tyler Chase is his cellmate, and the man he’s come to love in the past six months. Tyler wants to submit, and Ace wants to be his master. But there’s also Paul Ryder, one of the guards at the prison, who has turned to Ace for domination previously and is in love with both Ace and Tyler.

They are in an untenable situation. While Ace and Tyler can, if they chose, have a relationship, Paul is on the outside. Getting involved with them would mean his job. But he loves them both and needs what they provide. All three men want a commitment, and to be able to give each other what they need. Tyler wants to be dominated by two masters. Paul wants to both give and receive submission. And Ace wants to dominate, protect, and love his two men.

When a quick session ends with hurt feelings because they can’t give each other the time they need, Ace knows he has to do something for his men. He calls in a favor with the prison warden so that he can get some time with his men. Forty-eight hours and privacy is all they need to cement the beginnings of their triad. It’s not enough, but it’s a start.

This story had a lot of potential, and going into it, I expected an interesting dynamic between the three men. Considering we had a Dom, a switch, and sub, I thought it would be a story about how they navigated that relationship. And it was, to a certain degree. But ultimately, there were too many problems with style and the writing for me to really enjoy this story.

The story started off rocky, and the writing had a choppy cadence to it and I found difficult to get into the groove. We are thrust into the middle of action at the beginning, without much background. Right off the bat we know that Ace is in love with Tyler, and that Tyler loves him back. Over the first chapter, we get a couple of flashbacks that flesh out the story, and some paragraphs bordering on info dump that fill things in. I found this a little odd and had trouble getting all the information in order. At a certain point I just had to roll with it and accept it as is, even though I was confused. Then Paul is brought into the mix, and the declarations of love for him and from him are given even before we truly understand who he is. So here’s my first problem: I didn’t really feel the connection between all the characters because I didn’t see any of the lead up. Their chemistry, what there was of it, wasn’t enough to carry the relationship for me. I just had to go with it and assume they were in love like they said.

The characters weren’t really fleshed out enough for me either. Ace was supposed to be a bad boy with a heart of gold, but honestly I didn’t see much bad boy. In fact, it was made clear the reason behind why he was locked up in the first place was because he was trying to do something good, so it totally took the wind out of those sails. Tyler, too, was incarcerated for reasons that weren’t so bad. So they were supposed to be sympathetic characters, I think. And while we’re on the subject to characterizations, I have to say that I was mostly just confused about their motivations. Not one of the three men was consistent, and all the dominance and submissive tendencies got mixed up, each man acting out of character for who they were supposed to be. There was a passing explanation as to why, but it just didn’t work for me.

And that leads us to the other big problem I had with this book. When the men were intimate with each other, there wasn’t a lot of heat. But for me, that was due to two things. First the scenes seemed awfully fast paced, and just as things were heating up, everyone was finishing. But on top of that, when the three men were together, I found things very unclear. With Ace calling both Paul and Tyler “Pet,” and Tyler calling both Ace and Paul “Master,” things just got way too confusing. If I reread a sex scene, I want it to be because of the chemistry between the characters, not because I was trying to figure out who was saying and doing what to whom.

So on the whole, this story didn’t work very well for me. I could see what the author was trying for, but it lacked in the execution. The potential this story had was lost in choppy writing and undeveloped and inconsistent characters. The good moments were mired down in confusion. This is the first book in the series, and while the ending ties up the main plot points of this book, it’s clear that these guys will continue to navigate their relationship. I’m just not entirely sure I want to follow along. I’ll leave you to make your own decision if you want to give this book a try.

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