Another one of the novels sent to me for review by Xcite Books, this time concerning BDSM as the main theme.
Warning: SPOILERS ahead!
Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5
“When this novel first arrived in the post, I was sceptical. The synopsis on the back was sort of interesting and I was intrigued by the fact that it was a winner of a Festival of Romance award but the blatant allusions to Fifty Shades of Grey were quite off-putting. I understand that it is easier to make things sell if you imply they’re like another hot property but there have been far too many books marketed like this in the past year. I’m bored of this type of marketing; it seems lazy and uncreative, especially when the book you’re talking about isn’t much like Fifty Shades at all.
The cover of this novel is mainly done in blues, purples and whites. The photograph used is of a woman’s hands bound behind her back by a business tie, which I didn’t like very much. Coincidentally, the novel itself has no scenes in it involving neck ties at all, so it is pretty obvious that this cover is used as a cash-in only. It proudly displays a badge that says “Winner of the Festival of Romance”, though it doesn’t say which award or which year it won. On the back it has a quote from one of the judges comparing it to Fifty Shades. As with all other Xcite Books novels, the font is the same as usual and so is the layout.
This is the story of Claire Ryan and Evan Lang. 35-year-old Claire joins a local book club for romance readers in order to get over the breakdown of her 10-year relationship, there she meets book shop owner Evan, a dominant man who has never recovered from the sudden death of his submissive wife.
As their relationship develops and they embark on the path of Claire’s submission, it becomes harder and harder for Evan to keep his emotional distance. Claire is open and responsive and he wants her badly, but refuses to let himself go.
As Claire falls deeper in love with Evan, she realises that he is holding back and decides to end their relationship, forcing Evan to confront his own past and his feelings in order to save his new love. ⏎
Before I let rip about all the things I liked and disliked about this novel, I just want to mention that there will be spoilers. Then again, I’m not sure how much of a spoiler the two main characters getting together is in a romance novel. If you picked this up and assumed they wouldn’t get together or that they wouldn’t enter a BDSM relationship at some point then you are kinda naïve. If you consider this paragraph a spoiler, then you probably won’t want to read further though I do suggest skipping to the overall section.
As with pretty much all other erotic novels, this one had phrasing I didn’t like. Certain ones were repeated over and over which frustrated me because they weren’t that good to begin with. It also had some contradictions regarding the bra of the main female character, Claire. At one point it says that she is too embarrassed to leave home without wearing a padded one but for basically the rest of the novel her breasts are always free. There was also a lot of descriptions about the main male character, Evan, being the most attractive man she had ever seen. I know it’s a romance novel and I understand that you want your characters to be sexy for your audience but him being the sexiest man ever made my eyes roll. Shockingly, people don’t always go out with people who are more physically attractive every time they get a new partner!
I also didn’t like how Claire learned to masturbate ‘properly’ in one go. There were a lot of reasons for this; it takes a long time to get to grips with the inside of a vagina, her hand probably would have cramped because she wasn’t used to the actions she was doing and finally, there is no ‘proper’ masturbation method for women! It mentioned earlier that she used to get off via clit stimulation through her underwear and I really didn’t see what the problem was with this. A lot of women get off this way (including myself) and it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong with them. It wasn’t the only time something sexual magically clicked either.
Throughout the novel there is a lot to do with Evan’s inability to control his physical reaction to Claire. I both liked and disliked this; I know that penises can have a mind of their own and I think that is very funny but Evan’s overall lack of control otherwise put me off. It’s one thing to be unable to control a boner, but it is certainly something else when you cannot control your own actions. I understand that he needed some sort of kick to sort him out, but I don’t think this was quite the right way to do it.
Despite this, there were also a hell of a lot of things I liked about this novel. The portrayal of Evan’s struggle to get over his dead wife is touching and it was rather lovely how he was determined to stay loyal to her. In particular, the photo albums he keeps and how he reacts to them is one of the highlights of his character. The way the novel has Evan act as a Dom is wonderful as well; he clearly knows what he is doing and this is explained to the reader properly.
His concerns for Claire’s mental and emotional well-being, the tasks he asks her to do, the fact that he asks her to write a journal and their safe word system all combine to make him a genuinely good Dominant. He even tells her to carefully consider the idea before giving him any sort of answer. There is none of that “just do as I say” bullshit you find around the internet in here. The fact that BDSM is portrayed as both a beautiful and dangerous thing that shouldn’t be done with just anyone truly won me over.
There was a small shout out to one of my favourite fetish websites called FetLife as well, and whilst it didn’t go into detail about the site itself it gave readers the opportunity to find it for themselves. I thought this was kind of awesome because it felt like the author was trying to be responsible for her readers’ progress after they finished her novel. The way Claire was treated on it reminded me more of CollarMe though.
Also (and you should have known this was coming) the dream sequence between Marianne and Evan at the end was very heavy-handed. I didn’t feel much emotion for it at all. It felt very forced and while I know Evan needed another kick up the butt I didn’t like Elene Sallinger’s decision on how to do so. Of course, I must add that I’m not an overly spiritual person and I’ve never had a person close to me die. You may well read this section yourself and love it.
In all honesty I found the chapter after a bit heavy-handed as well. I knew on some level that discussion had to happen but it was a bit of an eye-rolling experience to read. The sex scene was kind of bland; it was loving and there was definitely D/s going on there but it just didn’t click for me. I felt somewhat embarrassed reading it, and not in the good way which was a shame.
Finally… I felt that the epilogue spoilt it. I won’t go into much detail because I don’t know what to say; it just felt rather tacked on and awkward, considering Evan’s hang ups through the novel. It happened in another book I read years ago now, called The Ninety Days of Genevieve and I really disliked it then too. ⏎
I enjoyed this book much more than I expected I would. I think the way the characters were introduced and fleshed out was done very well and the fact that the two main characters took half the book to figure out they were interested in one another was great. The BDSM aspects were handled extremely well but I didn’t really enjoy the sex scenes or the tone the novel ended on. It was hard to rate it for this reason. On one hand, there was a lot I didn’t like but on the other it handled the things I care about relatively well.
If you like reading novels about BDSM, then I suggest that you give this one a go. It does a wonderful job of explaining to readers what BDSM actually is and how to stay safe, which I think is a rare thing to find in most erotica. Moreover, the characters are actually kind of interesting which is obviously a plus.”
You can buy Awakening from Xcite Books by clicking the image.
About SubReiSkyeMOwner of Thoughts of a Growing Sub. I've been blogging for a year now and still loving it! Check my blog for reviews, blogger memes and BDSM talk!
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