Gould still hasn’t gotten over his grief at the death of his friend and former lover Hal. Hal died tragically during a scene at a BDSM club, and Gould is still furious at Bill, the man whose negligence led to Hal’s death. Gould is also still angry at club owners, Kel and Greg, for allowing Bill to return to the club after what he did. But despite all of this, for the past year, the couple has also been mentoring Gould as a sub, and he has developed a strong connection to both of them.
Gould wants to experiment with some more intense submission, including a 24/7 master/slave relationship, as well as some more extreme play, like humiliation kink. Kel has trained as a master and she and Greg are willing to try to take things further with Gould. Gould’s feelings for Kel are very strong, and he has an intense bond with Greg as well, and the three are moving toward a more significant relationship. But Gould is not fully opening up to Kel and Greg, and he is still struggling with figuring out exactly what he wants and needs. On top of that, Gould can’t shake the lingering resentment for Kel and Greg’s seeming forgiveness of Hal. And even worse, he still has some extreme pain at Hal’s death, as well as anger at Bill for what happened. Gould hopes to build his relationship with Kel and Greg, but the ghosts of Hal’s death are still holding him back.
24/7 is the fourth book in J.A. Rock’s Subs Club series and one I have been really anticipating for a number of reasons. The series focuses on four best friends and so I have been curious to see the story turn toward Gould. We have learned in previous books that he has been playing with Kel and Greg, as well as that he is still in deep mourning for Hal. So the conflict here is really a strong one, and I was eager to see how it all resolved. Not to mention this is not your typical gay romance relationship (or really a gay romance at all) and so I was curious about the dynamic between these three.
So starting with the last first, the relationship dynamic is really interesting here. Kel and Greg are married and own the BDSM club where Hal died. They have been mentoring Gould for a year, doing scenes and playing off and on at their house, sometimes for as long as a weekend at at time. Kel is a Dom, as well as having trained as a Master. Greg is a switch, acting sometimes as her sub and sometimes as “second-in-command” over Gould. It is pretty clear that Gould has very strong feelings for Kel; I’m not quite sure if he is in love with her, but the connection is clearly intense. And as the story continues, we see that she shares those feelings in return. And obviously Kel loves Greg. But Greg and Gould are definitely not romantically involved, although they have sex during the book as part of their BDSM activities. The guys have more of a “really intense friends” relationship, and Greg considers himself straight, though quite heteroflexible.
So that was a lot of background, but I want to give folks a sense of the dynamic here, because this is not your typical romance relationship. And definitely it is not a gay romance. There is sex between all three of them in various combinations, but I would consider the story to have a more MFM vibe where Kel is the sexual focus, rather than a MMF where they guys are getting together too. I am usually not a fan of this dynamic, as I have a hard time with the idea that there can be a three-person HEA when there isn’t mutual love and attraction among all of them. And I will say that I still have some reservations here. Greg is clear he wants Gould involved with them and is on board with their relationship, but at the same time he has some jealousy issues that are not fully resolved in the story. But Rock does a really nice job exploring the dynamic between the three of them and poking around the facets of their relationship. We aren’t getting a madly in love, forever HEA threesome here, but the relationship is explored and developed really well.
On the kink side, Gould is interested in taking things further with more extreme submission, and this is something the three of them explore over the course of the book. Gould is our POV character, and we are inside his head as he tries to figure out what he really wants and how to articulate it, as well as he deals with his grief over Hal. It seems clear that to a degree some of what Gould wants kink-wise is affected by his feelings over Hal’s death. At times I struggled to really understand Gould’s feelings and desires, which I found a little frustrating, but he is struggling to understand them as well, and things do get more settled as the story resolves.
At the root of all of this is the issue of Hal and how Gould feels about his death, about Bill, and about Kel and Greg’s role in allowing Bill back to the club. Gould has anger and resentment at them, at the same time he cares about him. Gould still hurts for the fact that he broke up with Hal, and in a small way he is punishing himself by playing with Kel and Greg. But at the same time he truly cares for them, trusts them, and is building something new with them. So this is a really complicated dynamic and again well explored here. I will mention that the tone here is darker than the other novels in the series, particularly than the most recent book, Manties in a Twist. Also, Gould is exploring humiliation kink and there is an intense scene that is kind of difficult to read. I think the tone works for this story given the intense grief Gould is still experiencing, but want to make sure folks know what to expect.
Overall I found this a good way to tie up these four stories of the Subs Club and these best friends. The book not only gives us Gould’s story, but also brings some closure on the issue of Hal’s death, as well as reaffirming the connection between all the men. It is a little more intense than the earlier books, and the relationship dynamic is clearly different from the rest of the series. But I still found this one enjoyable and the issues really thoughtfully explored. If you have enjoyed the other books in the series, I definitely would suggest giving this one a try as well.
P.S. In case it wasn’t obvious, this story and the characters are tied to earlier books in the series and it is best to start from the beginning with Subs Club to get the most out of the relationships and backstory.