Talk about first impressions.
Rob has just gotten his dream job at Castle Silicasystems as a personal assistant. When the chief technical officer, Greg, suggests Rob join the gang at the boss’ birthday party as a way to get to know the people he’s going to be working with, Rob, of course, agrees. He doesn’t expect that the few drinks he enjoys will mix so poorly with the motion sickness pills he’d taken, or that he’ll be introduced to Nick Castle at a leather bar (as Nick’s birthday present, no less) where he, and a good portion of the senior members, get roofied and end up having an impromptu drugged orgy in front of his new boss. Fortunately, no one thinks it’s Rob’s fault, especially when he — and several others — end up in this hospital.
Take two, then. Rob is pretty sure he’s going to be able to impress Mr. Castle since he knows what he’s doing and he’s good at his job. Fortunately, all is forgiven and Rob now not only has a job, he’s actually having a good time and making friends. Work friends, that is. His actual friends, like Brandon, are the people he hangs out with outside of work. Rob is a member of the kink community, and it’s at a munch where Rob learns that Nick comes to Brandon’s sometimes, which opens up all sorts of thoughts in Rob’s head…
Rob is an extremely voicey character, and you’ll figure out pretty quickly if you want to follow along with his story since he’s not shy with his either his opinions or his personality. Rob is socially awkward, insecure, and hyper focused, and he’s constantly in his own head. Even when giving head, he’s thinking all manner of thoughts, lost in his own nerves and observations, trapping himself in loops and snarls until Nick breaks him out of it. Rob is more benign than good-hearted, and so eager to please it’s easy to take advantage of him. Fortunately, his crush is Nick and not someone else.
Nick Castle — or rather, Mr. Castle, in Rob’s thoughts — is driven, arrogant, patient, and more empathetic than Rob. He knows his new assistant has a thing for him, but he’s wary of getting involved with an employee. However, when the chance comes for some flirting, and Rob manages to flirt first, Nick finally gives in and gives Rob a chance. When Rob makes mistakes, Nick’s forgiving. When Rob is uncertain, he’s comforting, and when Rob is hurt by something Nick inadvertently says, does, or allows to happen, Nick is quick to apologize.
Perhaps it’s due to Rob’s perspective, but there’s not much emotional connection in this book between the two characters. I wondered if Rob might be demisexual because even when other people are flirting, and he finds them attractive or friendly, he doesn’t honestly respond all that quickly. He thinks of the nice Dom who gently flirts with him and keeps him company while he’s waiting for Nick as a Plan B; not in the sense of he’s hot and I’d hit that, but he’s nice. I could do worse. That’s not to say there’s no romance; it’s just that it’s all filtered through Rob’s somewhat clinical viewpoint.
Story-wise there are two things that didn’t sit well with me. While it’s not necessary for the roofie incident to have a resolution — they made their report to the police and not even a month has passed between waking up in the hospital and the end of the book — but it was a lingering thread that never got neatly tied up. The other problem I had is that Nick is very, very quick to buy Rob a collar. Less than a month from taking him as an assistant, and less than two weeks from their first night together, and he’s already locking a collar on Rob’s neck.
Also, one point that just made me go WTF is that Nick’s mother apparently had him when she was 12, then left him with his grandparents and wandered off. While I get not every character wants to go into great detail about their pasts, and the situation isn’t unique or unheard of, the 12 years old part just really caught me by surprise and I wish we got more information.
Other than those points, the writing is good and the author manages to explain certain facets of the BDSM lifestyle without dramatizing or fetishizing them. (I know it’s a strange choice of words, but sometimes people seem more entranced at the idea of the lifestyle than the lifestyle itself, and it’s nice to see an author treat it with understanding.) I very much enjoyed the story and I’m looking forward to more work by this author.