Rating: 3 stars
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Braden lost the love of his life five years ago. Now trying to somehow put the past behind him, he agrees to go on a cruise—despite his phobia of open, deep water. What he does not expect to find is the very man who has caused him so much pain over the last several years. Rafe is determined to win back his ex. He has a plan and if all goes well at the end of the three-week cruise, he will have won back the heart of the only man he has ever loved.
While What About Now by Grace R. Duncan began well, with Braden truly nervous and almost angry with Rafe, the change in Braden’s thoughts about not opening himself up to pain turned rather swiftly. There had been a devastating breakup, yet in a matter of a few days, Braden was already considering getting back with his ex. This rapid capitulation then led to Braden worrying over the other reason for their initial breakup—the dominant tone to Rafe’s lovemaking. After confiding in a friend, Braden had pulled away from Rafe sexually and that led to their relationship beginning to falter. However it was something else altogether that finally shattered Braden’s trust in Rafe. Without giving that important plot point away, the revelation that all was not what it seemed five years before allows Braden to begin to open up his heart once more. Unfortunately, here is another place where what should have been gradual reconnecting leaped to both men declaring that they loved each other way too soon—again in just a few days. Realistically, after five years apart, these two should have taken a bit more time to figure out what they still meant to each other.
The BDSM scenes in the novel were important to the plot and well written. However, I was a bit taken back when after going through a rather extensive checklist to determine hard limits, the two men jumped into a rather intense scene that included using a belt for whipping, clamps, anal beads, plugs, and cock and ball rings. That was a pretty big load of toys to use all in one setting with a partner who was reluctant to begin with and certainly unsure of how BDSM works. Again—the scene was well done, but a bit over the top for where these two were relationally.
But the most confusing aspect of the novel had to do with Braden’s intense fear, read phobia, of open water. Yet, here he was on a cruise ship and we were supposed to believe that after nearly two weeks aboard he had never really seen open water? When the climatic scene came up almost near the end of the novel, Braden’s absolute frozen terror over glimpsing open water was just unbelievable. He was on a cruise—how did he manage not to see the water for two weeks? Also, while on shore excursions, the two of them played in the surf—not venturing in too far but in the water nonetheless—so did Braden not fear the great expanse of water then? It was only when he was on the ship that his phobia took over? For me this was the strangest aspect of the novel; how this guy ever got on a boat to begin with just stupefied me.
Despite these plot problems, Braden and Rafe were so very likeable—as I read I found myself rooting for them—to see them fully commit to a D/s relationship and rekindle the deep love they both remembered from their past. However, time after time, this novel pushed limits—forcing the partnering to a more sophisticated place then it rightly should have been and each time that happened, I found myself pulled from the story in a negative way. For me the scene right after Braden froze in fear at seeing the water was the most farfetched. Going from not being sure if he even liked BDSM, to being tied down and blindfolded after mind-numbing terror was just too much–too unbelievable.
In the end, with a virtual repeat of what had happened to Rafe five years before, happening to Braden as well, I was done. Surely after all his counseling, Rafe would understand what Braden needed to get over the same situation? Surely he would not simply be willing to throw in the towel and call them quits? Where had the Dom Rafe claimed to be gone too now? This story had so much potential; unfortunately it unraveled quickly and began to jump from one over the top scenario to another, leaving me shaking my head in dismay.
Despite these problems, What About Now by Grace R. Duncan is still a good story—with some really nice relational moments. Unfortunately, there were just too many instances of quick fixes to problems that were very serious in nature and should have resolved much more slowly. However, I do feel that this author can definitely tell a good story. The bones of this novel were solid—the execution was just too fast—too easy for the fairly hefty emotional roadblocks these guys had in place after five years apart. All in all, this was a flawed story that had a good premise. That alone leads me to investigate more by this author and I look forward to reading more of her work.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.