by Lila Dubois, fantasy (2009)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 978-1-59578-535-0
Bound sees Lila Debois returning to the fantasy world that she introduced in Forbidden, but the world has since changed significantly, and as a result, you a can read this one as a standalone story without worrying too much over recurring characters or plots that are carried over from previous books.
In this one, we have the King and Queen organizing a grand ball for all eligible young ladies and their families. Why? Because High Lord Moregon, the Minister of Agriculture, needs a wife. This isn't just Cinderella-gone-BDSM, though, it's also like The Bachelor, because Moregon is going to pick the ones that catch his eye to stay in the Palace for subsequent, er, inspection.
Our heroine, Aketa, is considered ugly by her family members. The poor dear becomes the butt of their unkind attempts at "wit". In fact, the only reason her father drags her to the ball is because he wants the free food. Her Southern Foothills family would be considered hillbillies if they happen to be living on Earth. Therefore, even when a chance encounter with a stranger (whom we know is Moregon) sends her feeling as if firecrackers have been launched in her loins, she doesn't hold much hope for finding a nice guy in the ball to help her get away from her current life.
Little does she know that the bachelor in question to pick her to move on to the next rounds - a test designed to challenge the ladies' intelligence. Aketa passes that one easily, of course. And then the bomb drops. You see, Moregon isn't just an emo chunk of beef - he needs a wife who can play rough with him. Some ladies may go, "Eeeuw!" but for Aketa, it is all she can do not to faint from the sexual excitement arising from visions of the naughty things she imagines being done to her by Moregon. If she passes the next few tests that will challenge her sexual inhibitions, she will get to become Moregon's bride. Is she up to the task? Of course, things don't always go as planned.
Bound is... an interesting read, let's just say, but a very uneven one. The first half, when it is all fun and games, works better as an erotica than a romance, because the two characters barely have any actual contact and instead, the reader gets to enjoy various "educational" scenes of people in various BDSM situations that are meant to educate the ladies in the competition. During these moments, I find myself wondering why the ladies need to be trained to submit to the flogger when Moregon's interactions with the Queen sees him being the submissive. Is he a closet Dom or something? I like the idea of physically intimidating but chivalric yet socially awkward man being a happy submissive, so I'm quite disappointed that the author opts to stick to the trend of having the male in the dominant position in this story.
The second half is more psychological than sexual, as emotions come to play, often with pretty dramatic and interesting results. However, because the characters are so underwritten in the first half, the sudden outpouring of emotions in the second half is disorienting. To appreciate these moments, I need to have a firm grasp of what makes the characters tick. Unfortunately, the first half of the story focuses more on sexual antics than emotional drama, so I end up struggling to make sense of the characters' emotional turmoil in the second half. By the last page of this story, I still feel as if I'm missing a few crucial pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that is the characters' psychological profiles. As a result, Bound is a pleasant read that is at the same time a very disappointing one.
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