Newlyweds Jay and Adriana had a happy marriage and a spectacular sex life—until tragedy struck. Wounded in a car accident, Jay spent a year recuperating while Adriana worked overtime as a chef to pay their bills. Though he's made nearly a full recovery, some aspects of their intimate play will never be the same. It's a small price to pay, all things considered.But when a long struggle with the insurance company results in an overdue payout, Jay has a plan. He'll take some of it and hire a high-end rent boy who specializes in sexual dominance. Not for him, but as a gift for Adriana, for taking care of him for the past twelve months.Paul is the handsome stranger they choose…and the one who changes everything. What starts out as a onetime session to fulfill a fantasy turns into something bigger than all of them. But when the money runs out and Paul's dangerous past resurfaces, the sacrifices required to stay together may end up tearing them apart.Series: LA Doms #2
Published by Carina Press on 2014-03-24
Genres: BDSM Erotica, BDSM Romance, Contemporary Romance, Erotic Romance, Erotica, LGBTQ Erotica, LGBTQ Romance, Romance, Threesome/Ménage à Trois
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I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.
How much did I love this book? A polyamorous couple, both of whom are people of color, bisexuality being portrayed as something totally natural, sex work being dealt with as a complex issue… And that’s not even getting into how hot the sex scenes are. To put it simply, I loved this book. It’s a lot of the things that I complain about not seeing enough in erotic romance all brought together into a believable ménage romance.
Jay and Adriana, the married couple at the center of the story, are both Latino. Jay is bisexual and a little femme, Adriana is curious about submission. I really like how absolutely normal they are; Jay is recovering from a serious car accident and has to deal with both his physical limitations and the psychological aftereffects of his injuries. Adriana is the more emotionally solid one in the relationship just by nature; she’s been in rough situations, and she has always felt that it’s her responsibility to make sure things work out right. Their marriage is very good, but they both want something more, something that their partner can’t provide.
Enter Paul. Paul is a bisexual rent boy who does sex work both to pay for tuition at architecture school and also to pay restitution for something very illegal he did a few years back. They negotiate a deal that Paul will give Adriana the rough treatment she wants as well as servicing Jay (and both of them together), but from the beginning, it’s obvious to everyone involved that they are affecting each other far more than you’d normally find in a client relationship. When Paul proposes that they start actually seeing each other, no money involved, they’re all left trying to find their footing in this new relationship. And when Paul’s secrets come out, their newfound affection for each other is put to the test.
I think part of what I like most about this book is the variety of characters. Paul is white, but Jay is Mexican-American. Adriana is also Latina (though it’s never specified if her family is Mexican or from somewhere else). Jay’s family and friends play a pretty large supporting role. Paul’s friends are varying flavors of queer: Ebony is a black transwoman, his ex-boyfriend Evan is a gay porn star, and other friends, even those in opposite sex relationships, are involved in the BDSM scene. I have to admit, I’d like to have seen more lesbians and bisexual women, but you just can’t shoehorn everything into a single story. And I really appreciated how normal everything was portrayed. It wasn’t “oh WOW look at Jay, he’s bisexual!” It was just part of who he is, which is wonderfully refreshing. A person’s sexuality is just that: part of who they are, and it was great to read a romance in which characters are comfortable with their sexuality.
The sex scenes are very well-written and were very hot. The story jumps between scenes with all three characters, scenes with Paul alone with each of the couple, and scenes with Jay and Adriana, so you definitely get a different feel for each of the pairings and how they all interact with each other. Some of the BDSM play between Paul and Adriana didn’t quite float my boat, but it wasn’t jarring enough for me to dislike the scenes. I just skimmed over the stuff that made me uncomfortable, and the fact that Paul is constantly making sure that Adriana and Jay are with him every step of the way was really reassuring. I like seeing healthy BDSM in a romance novel. Consent is important, and so is respect, and the characters all respect each other.
I found myself really liking Jay and Adriana more than Paul (though I like Paul! don’t get me wrong; just not as much as I like the other two), mostly because I could empathize more with the two of them. Jay’s injury and resulting depression were handled very well. He has to be careful with his body, and he’s working his way through the PTSD left over from the accident. I like how he has to reassure himself sometimes, remind himself that he’s capable of doing things. Adriana is a chef, and like women in the cooking industry, she has to put up with a lot of sexist bullshit and sabotage in the restaurant where she works. This wasn’t exactly the focus of her part of the story, but it does play a huge role in determining her moods and how that relates to her relationship with Jay and Paul. Paul is a bit of a mystery, even in the chapters written from his point of view. He can very easily turn his own personality off and become what his clients need, and it was interesting to see how he dealt with being himself for Adriana and Jay.
My only criticism is that sometimes Ames’s prose is rather opaque. There were moments when the characters would trail off mid-sentence, in an argument for instance, and I honestly couldn’t figure out what it was that they were trying to express, though the other character obviously knew. This issue popped up several times and left me a bit frustrated that I couldn’t figure out exactly what they were thinking or saying.
But that quibble aside, I thought this was a really great erotic romance, and I was pleasantly surprised to find the queer elements in it. The summary from the publisher doesn’t mention that Jay also gets involved with Paul, so it was like a delightful gift as I read along. If you’re looking for a good, healthy portrayal of a BDSM relationship or a polyamorous romance, check this one out.
Content warning: The characters talk about past attempted sexual assaults, and some of the BDSM play is rough and deals with consent. Note that the characters all consent to all sexual activity that takes place, but if you’re sensitive to consent issues, please take heed.