taming Dante coverRating: 3.75 stars
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Length: Novel

Dante Jung is the lead singer of the hugely popular band, Dante’s Infernal. He has been famous since he was a kid and now lives a wild life full of constant drugs, random sex, and never-ending debauchery. Dante is barely hanging on, never sober, and rarely functional. At this point, he is one step away from disaster.

When Cash is brought in to be the drummer for Dante’s Infernal, he can’t believe how much of a mess Dante is, or how little concern people have for his well being — particularly Dante’s father/band manager, Drake. When Cash confronts Drake over caring more about the bottom line than his son who is spiraling out of control, Drake tasks Cash with dealing with Dante. Cash knows it won’t be easy, but given that no one else seems to be helping Dante, he agrees.

With the band’s tour put on hold, Cash gets Dante somewhere secluded and peaceful where he can get cleaned up and back on track. Going through withdrawal isn’t easy, particularly since Dante pushes his limits whenever he can with Cash. When Dante suggests the two consider a Daddy/boy dynamic, it is more to scare Cash off than anything else, but to Dante’s surprise, Cash agrees. Even more surprising is how well the relationship works for both of them. With Cash’s support, comfort, and structure, Dante manages to get through withdrawal and start living a calmer and less crazy life. The two men begin falling for one another and both start to imagine what a life together might be like.

However, the demands on Dante’s life mean that they can’t stay secluded forever. Now Dante needs to see if he can stay sober and on track when faced with the craziness of touring and the constant pressure from Drake. On top of that, a stalker that has been following Dante for years seems to have ramped up his attention, and the threat is greater than ever before. Now Cash and Dante need to figure out if their relationship can survive in the real world — and if Dante can stay safe enough for the pair to have a new life together.

Taming Dante is the first book in Joel Abernathy’s new Dante’s Infernal series. I enjoyed the style and tone of the story. There is some playfulness here and the writing is good. I also liked the redemption we get for Dante and watching him start the story as a total mess and slowly find his way back to happiness. Abernathy does a nice job really giving us a sense of how rock bottom things are with Dante. He is out of control and no one in his life either cares enough or has enough power to intervene. When Cash comes in, he is the first person to really stand up for Dante and to put him first. There are some nice scenes where we see both men realizing how much they are coming to mean to one another and there is a great, sexy intensity between them that I liked. The stalker story is pretty mild in intensity for most of the story, and is largely backburnered until the end. But things pick up nicely later in the book and there is some excitement that helps round out the story, bringing it away from the focus just on Dante’s recovery and expanding to another level.

This is a book that I think I would have enjoyed more if there weren’t some gaps in realism and areas not fully developed that frustrated me and pulled me out of the story. The first deals with Dante’s recovery from addiction. This is a man who is a severe addict and has spent literally every waking moment high, stoned, drunk, or otherwise addled for years upon years. Dante is described as barely functional and one step away from death. He has seen numerous therapists and been in rehab countless times. Yet all it takes is some time locked away with Dante and he is magically fine. He has a few hard days where is he is going through withdrawal, but once Dante steps in as his Daddy, Dante is basically totally recovered. It just seemed way too far fetched for me to believe that this serious drug addict never relapses, never has cravings, and just totally adapts to a life of sobriety within days. I realize there is an element of romantic fantasy here, but it just felt too much like recovery by way of the magic dick than any realistic sense of the journey to sobriety. Particularly since Cash has no experience at all in working with addicts, aiding people into sobriety, etc. The “cure” comes essentially because of Cash’s firm hand as Dante’s Daddy. I also wondered why no attempt at therapy or follow up treatment by a professional is even considered.

I also wished for more development in general surrounding the Daddy/boy dynamic. It seems clear that Dante suggests it as a lark to rile up Cash, and Cash surprises him by agreeing. Neither man appears to have any experience with this lifestyle prior to this conversation, nor is it clear they have ever even been interested in it. We do see that Cash takes time to do some reading about Daddy/boy dynamics, but he somehow knows exactly what to do with no training or experience. The men also have no discussion about the rules, limits, and other aspects of their dynamic, which feels like a big oversight. For example, at one point, Cash wants to lay down the law about a decision Dante is making regarding the band and his performing. The men struggle here with who is making this decision, which isn’t surprising because there is never a discussion of whether their Daddy/boy relationship is limited to the bedroom, or if Cash has the authority to make decisions on Dante’s behalf with the band, etc. I’ll also note here that this story includes some age play as part the Daddy/boy dynamic. This wasn’t clear to me from the blurb, so I’m just mentioning it here. It is pretty low key, but Dante does have a “little” persona where he wears kids’ pajamas, plays with toys, and drinks from a sippy cup.

One other note, it really bugged me that the guys have sex with no condoms and no discussion about it. I get that in real life people use condoms a lot less than in romance. But Dante has been addled by drugs for years and had near nightly sex with random strangers while impaired. He clearly would be at risk for STIs and the fact that this never comes up seems an oversight.

So as I said, I feel like this is a story that would have worked better for me if these issues had been addressed. I think some readers may enjoy the romantic fantasy of leaving some of the practical details out of the book, so not everyone is going to be bugged by this stuff like I was. But it did pull me out of the story. That said, I still found this one an enjoyable read and I really liked Abernathy’s style. The story kept me engaged and interested, and I liked both Dante and Cash. I am curious to see where future installments will take this series.

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