what they deserve coverRating: 4 stars
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Length: Novel


Jade has gone through their share of Doms, but never found anyone who is right for them. Everyone seems to like Jade well enough for a while, but no one wants to keep them for anything long term. Jade finds themself adapting to what they think someone else wants, never feeling quite confident that they are enough as they are. When yet another Dom ends things with Jade, they don’t react well. The owner of the club, Steve, is worried enough that they want Jade to take a break from doing scenes at the club until they feel better able to handle things.

Angelo has long admired Jade when he sees them in the club, and he can admit to having an attraction. When Angelo realizes Jade hasn’t been by Desires in a while, even just to hang out with friends, he can’t help but be worried. He manages to get Steve to agree to let Jade back to do scenes at the club if Angelo serves as their Dom. At first, Jade isn’t so sure, not really believing Angelo could want them. But as the pair spend time together, they realize they are such a good fit for one another. Angelo’s unconditional support and determination to be there for Jade helps pull them back from their more self-destructive path and give them more confidence in being themself. And Jade is everything Angelo could want. He can’t help but hope that Jade could want something more when their contract is over. But as good as things are between them, Jade can’t help but be wary that it will all fall apart like their past relationships. Now, Jade has to believe in themself and the relationship they have built with Angelo, and maybe they can finally find their true happily ever after.

What They Deserve is the third book in E.M. Denning’s Desires: New Beginnings series. I think this story works fine as a standalone, though we do see other characters from the Desires gang appear here. Jade has been an intriguing character since we met them in What He Learns, so I enjoyed getting their story here. Denning does a nice job really showcasing where Jade struggles in terms of the confidence to believe they are enough with a Dom. There is a sense of growth and character development for them that works really well. As we start the story, we see Jade safeword and then refuse to really communicate with the Dom, leaving Steve concerned enough to ground them from playing for a while so they can sort themselves out. Things improve when they are with Angelo, but Jade’s first instinct for a long time is to just keep quiet when there is a problem and try to adapt, rather than be open about their feelings. Then, by the end of the story, we see Jade trust enough in their relationship and connection with Angelo to be honest and feel confident that sharing their true feelings isn’t going to derail things. The pair are super hot and sexy together, with a really nice caretaking vibe from Angelo.

I did struggle with the set up here, however, and it took me a little while to settle into the relationship as a result. We know Angelo has long been drawn to Jade, so when Jade is put on restriction to play at the club, Angelo can’t help but be worried when they stay away completely and aren’t talking to anyone. Angelo offers to “take full responsibility” for Jade and Steve agrees to let Jade come back sooner to do scenes at the club only if they take Angelo as their Dom. However, it really bothered me that Jade is now in a position where their choices are either no chance to submit or play at the club, or else they must have Angelo as their Dom. It just felt wrong to me to hold this out in front of Jade with no other options. What if they didn’t like Angelo or want him as their Dom? What if the pair were not a good fit in terms of interests or limits? Steve hasn’t ever even see Angelo in a Dom role to know if he is any good at it, nor does he have any reason to believe Angelo in particular has the ability to help Jade work through these major emotional issues, versus any other Dom. I’ll admit, I am not versed in the lifestyle, but I can’t help but think this type of months-long partnership requires some chemistry and connection, and I didn’t like that it felt like Jade was told accept this offer or get nothing. Let me be clear that I never felt like Jade didn’t want Angelo, that they were forced into something they weren’t comfortable with, or anything else to suggest this doesn’t end up being entirely consensual and a great fit for both of them. But I just didn’t like the way it is all presented. It bothered me that Steve and Angelo made these decisions about what is best for Jade, rather than even involving them in the discussion, and gave them such limited options for how to proceed.

As we settled into the story, however, and I got to see this pair together, my concerns smoothed out a lot. It is clear that Angelo and Jade are a good fit and that Angelo’s steadiness helps Jade find the belief in their own self worth. I enjoyed the two of them as a couple and found the story sweet and sexy and very engaging.

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