Rating: 4.25 stars
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On the surface, Simon Vessey appears to have it all. He is handsome, brilliant, wealthy, and is CEO of the company he founded with his late best friend. However, underneath Simon is insecure, anxious, and lonely. He has an inner Dom he is longing to let free, but his limited sexual experience has all gone badly and he is too nervous to even really try anymore to find a fulfilling connection. Simon gets by with hired escorts when things start to feel really dire, but even with them, he can’t let himself relax or feel comfortable. Given that Simon is currently looking for a new house manager, he decides to look into hiring a houseboy — someone who can live in and manage his home, but that Simon can also have as a sexual partner. He hopes that having someone who lives with him and he can get to know will get him over his nerves and awkwardness over time.
Colin Caldwell is a graduate student who is struggling financially. He makes do with assorted gig jobs, like ride services, but Colin’s temper and frustration often gets the better of him at work. He is also busy with graduate school and the irregular work schedule and inconsistent income is particularly challenging. When a friend of friend mentions to Colin that one of his former escort clients is looking for a houseboy, Colin is wary at first. But he needs the money and so he gives the interview a chance. It turns out that Simon feels like a perfect match for Colin, right down to their shared interest in kink. And Simon is offering Colin a salary that exceeds his wildest expectations. So Colin takes the leap and accepts the job.
Things start off well for the men as they get to know one another. There is a mutual attraction on both their parts and they seem to be very compatible. The pair have some growing pains as they figure out how to make their relationship work, but as they move past that, both men start to find a happiness together. But Simon still struggles with self confidence and learning to ask for what he wants. He has trouble speaking up or sharing his feelings with Colin. Simon often just sits back and lets things happen when they seem too overwhelming to handle. For his part, Colin still is quick to anger and his past with his mother and stepfather has left lasting scars that he has never really addressed. When he feels anxious, Colin’s reflex is to lash out. So when demons from both their pasts arise and things get complicated between them, neither man really knows how to handle it. Colin and Simon love one another and want to make things work. However, that may mean first working on themselves so that they can be ready for the long-term love they can find with one another.
Domestic Service is the first book in Ella Fenn’s Living Situations series and I really enjoyed this one. Fenn is a new-to-me author and one I wasn’t familiar with, so I really grabbed this book because I was intrigued by the blurb. I ended up really enjoying Fenn’s style and appreciating how the author develops these characters and has them do the work to get themselves sorted out. Both of these guys start out the story having some issues they need to work through, yet both are sort of ignoring it all and powering through. Simon has so little confidence that he tends to avoid confrontation or difficult situations. It plays out at work, where he tends to fall back when he should be speaking up. But it also affects his sex life, as he has Dom tendencies but is anxious about sex after some experiences gone bad and worries about his lack of experience. It has him keeping everyone at a distance, including Colin at first. For his part, Colin has had a rough past and tends to overcompensate by getting angry and fighting back whenever things start to go badly. He often overreacts before thinking through a situation. So they are both coming into this relationship with personal issues that play out both in their sexual and personal relationship. While they manage to break through the barriers to the sexual side of things fairly early, the larger relationship hurdles rear up when they hit a conflict and neither man is really emotional equipped to work through it.
What I loved here is that we see Colin and Simon take the time to figure themselves out. They aren’t magically cured by love and being in a relationship doesn’t fix all their problems. Both of these guys need to do some self reflection and have their personal growth before they are ready to fully move forward with one another. So often stories skip over this part of the journey and I really loved that Fenn addresses these issues head on and we see Colin and Simon work to figure themselves out and get themselves in a place where they can be good partners to one another.
As I said, the sexual side has a few hiccups early on, but they figure that out faster and Simon and Colin are really fun together. I loved seeing Simon find his inner Dom and learn to let it out, as well as to gain the confidence he needed to find fulfillment with Colin. The two are an appealing pair, with Colin having just the right amount of brattiness to fit with Simon’s more uptight personality. This story has a BDSM thread running through it, but I would definitely call this BDSM light. There is some spanking and a little bit of Simon directing Colin’s actions, but it is very low key and I think the story is very accessible for those who might not read BDSM regularly.
Overall, I quite enjoyed this one and was happy to have found a new author with such a great style. I am glad that I picked up Domestic Service and look forward to following along with the series.