Shibari, the ancient art of erotic restraint…Its finely knotted ropes are a turn-on, a sexual experience…and, for some, an absolute necessity.Published by Random House LLC on 2009-10-27
Serving the Master: Desmond and Ava
At a San Francisco sex club called Pinnacle, Ava Gregory seeks something she cannot quite describe. But of one thing she is certain: the moments when she feels her most beautiful and complete are when she is tightly restrained in the Shibari ropes. At Pinnacle, she’s paired with a master: Desmond Hale, who thrives on control. But something surprising happens when Desmond binds Ava’s willing body and takes her to the edge of ecstasy. And now the two are taking their relationship out of the shadows of the club, sharing secrets unleashed and bodies unbound.…
Soothing the Beast: Marina and James
An art dealer and Shibari master, Marina has never hesitated to dominate anyone. Until she meets James, a dark, gorgeous, towering journalist who’s survived horrors around the world. James confesses that submission is the only way to clear his troubled mind, but Marina is instantly overwhelmed by his strength and magnetism. To share the pleasures of bondage, something must change between them. When it does, it will come with an explosion of unexpected pleasure—and a relationship that neither could ever have imagined.…
Genres: BDSM Erotica, BDSM Romance, Erotic Romance, Erotica, Romance
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I’m afraid to report that my quest for BDSM erotica that doesn’t make me want to throw the book (or, I should say, my Kindle) across the room continues. What started off as a somewhat promising premise in the first of two shibari-centric stories – a younger woman, Ava, seeking out a professional, older male dom, Desmond, in order to deepen her bondage experience – very quickly devolved into a series of ridiculous decisions on both people’s parts all in the name of love. In fact, the second story that involves a mutual friend of the couple in the first short who is also a domme ends the same way. They even follow the same pattern of events, just with the situations slightly changed and the genders of the characters flipflopped with generous doses of angst, dom(me)s who just can’t bear to be vulnerable, and people who fall madly in love within the span of a week.
If my comments sound like I’m repeating myself, that’s because it was like I read the same story twice.
Serving the Master: Desmond & Ava
Where to begin with this one? Out of the two stories, this one pushed my buttons the most because of Desmond’s downright creepy and questionable behavior. He is seemingly obsessed with Ava’s innocent, doll-like appearance and his thoughts of owning her make her sound like something he wants to keep as a toy rather than thinking of her as a human being.
He moved the rope over her body, and soon he found his rhythm, with the music, with her breath, with his own. Around her torso, between her beautiful breasts. Her flesh was like satin.
That, unfortunately, is not the only instance where “babyskin” is used. I feel unclean just typing that word. The Creep Factor just shoots up to eleven at that point because it’s preceded by the supposedly professional Desmond breaking his own new submissive protocol by absolutely having to see her after their initial meeting. He made a point of saying that he always has his new subs fill out a questionnaire about themselves and what kind of play they’re into or not into, and yet jumps right past that with Ava. That is a major red flag for me.
He also orders her not to touch herself prior to negotiating anything else. Perhaps they’re working under some kind of blanket understanding that after the first meeting, he tells her what to do, but it is not presented as such and just feels like he’s overstepping his professional boundaries. Something else that bothered me was the fact that he needed her to be tied up before he could open up about why he shuts down on her and distances himself. She has to ask him more than once to be let out of the ropes as he’s admitting his sad backstory. This makes absolutely no sense and, frankly, makes me worried for her safety. Then there’s the kicker – after he bails on her because “uh oh, feeling slightly vulnerable, can’t have that! I’m a dom,” Desmond threatens to break down her door if she doesn’t let him in to apologize.
Are you kidding me? This sounds like an abusive boyfriend more than some guy you’re supposed to be rooting for in the story. Personally, I would not feel safe if I were in that situation, I don’t care if the guy has amazing hair and a Scottish accent. Given Ava’s backstory with an emotionally abusive ex and her immediate panic when she thinks that Desmond is displeased with her, it felt like a cycle of abuse was starting over again. She comes off as very unstable and far too eager to please him even outside of play. The only time she shows some sort of resolve where I thought foolishly that she would just tell him to fuck off, she just falls back into his arms and they have amazing sex and talk like they’ve been in love for years, not a week or two.
The only positive things I really had to say about the story is that there were instances when Desmond did seem like a professional dom and checked Ava’s hands for circulation when she was bound. Some of the sex scenes were okay, albeit relied on the word “sex” far too much to describe Ava’s vagina. That’s more of a personal dislike on my part, but it did seem repetitive.
Soothing the Beast: Marina & James
As stated earlier, the second story’s plot bears a pretty strong resemblance to the first one. Unlike Desmond, Marina seems to be slightly more forthcoming about her hesitance to dominate a man. This doesn’t seem to matter to James, who just keeps wearing her down until she agrees to work with him (because men who don’t accept “no” for an answer are just so sexy).
However, she does immediately begin to fall for her new sub and have to get off after their first meeting – just like Desmond does in the first story. She eventually pushes him away after they have sex because, as she asserts, she cannot show even the slightest vulnerability because dom(me)s aren’t like that. Okay, I get that the author wants to show that both characters are natural dominants, but this constant internal monologue about remaining stoic and shutting down on these people that they’re supposedly madly in love with is not how you assert that.
While it seemed like Bradley is either experienced or did some research with the rope bondage aspect of this book, the character development and interactions fell completely flat. None of the characters were likable, and frankly, sounded emotionally unstable. I would have preferred more focus on the Shibari itself instead of the constant “struggle” of each person’s attraction to the other going on in their minds. Had the characters just started realizing their feelings towards the end of their respective stories, not just falling in love at the drop of a hat, I would have probably enjoyed it. At the very least, it would have been far more believable.