Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-61923-185-6
Contemporary Romance, 2015
Strictly Business is the first book in Sheryl Nantus’s Hooded Pleasures series. The name of the series refers to this very discreet company that offers a selection of partners for those who wish to do the BDSM thing but cannot exactly waltz into a club in case they get recognized. With Hooded Pleasures, it’s all bottoms up action in the comfort of your own home. Okay, you may be thinking, “Wait, so it’s like a hooker hotline for people who are into BDSM?” Come on, where’s the poetry? Let’s pretend that this whole set up is something elegant, beautiful, and payment is made in the form of heart beams and flasks of true love.
So, we have Alex Hanson, a computer game guy who is intrigued by the notion of being dominated by a masterful woman. You see, he may have led what he calls “a masterful Alpha male life”, but he finds fascinated by magazines, fiction, and non-fiction that feature men “letting go”, and now he wonders whether he may be a submissive. I hope he’s reading more authentic books on BDSM and not Fifty Shades knock-offs and cash-ins because I understand those things can portray a rather inaccurate picture of BDSM, one in which true love and rose petals fly out of one’s rear ends when it is being flogged by a masterful dominant who looks just like one’s current favorite movie or pop star. Hmm, it is probably a good thing that I have no idea how accurate this one is when it comes to BDSM, since I am not into that kind of thing in real life, or else this may end up being one of those stories that the hero shouldn’t be reading too, and then things would start looping upon themselves and become really confusing.
Hence, Hooded Pleasures. They send Kate Dubois, a Domme who is currently bored of her well-behaved subs and, in her free time, likes to dwell upon her failures with her past submissives and wondering whether she will ever true love. I’m not sure why she’s described by the boss as an excellent Domme if all I hear of Kate’s mad skills are her failures, but maybe the boss is just buttering her up as she wants Kate to focus completely on whacking Alex’s rear end until he is delirious with joy. After all, that guy is a noob and he’d probably never know the difference should Kate go all Bridget Jones in the middle of a session.
Alex immediately takes to the sub life like fish to water – no, really, he does, because this book can only have so many pages so things have to be sped up a bit, and realistic arc may as well be the one that is sped up. After all, we certainly can’t speed up the sex scenes or readers will revolt upon finding that Alex is a one-minute man. He also starts sighing longingly after his new mistress, while Kate starts flailing some more about her past relationship failures – like Bridget Jones with extra alcohol. Alex starts coming on strong, and Kate is like, eek, see her flee as she hasn’t stopped dwelling on her past failures yet.
Alex is willing to wait for her to come to her senses, so I am then subjected to seven bloody chapters – seven! – of Kate doing you-know-what. I feel like drinking myself just following her around. For goodness, just see a shrink or pop some happy pills already, that tedious whining bag of air. Finally, she decides to open herself up to love and they live happily ever after, in what seems like a pretty mundane vanilla kind of life aside from Alex wearing a collar now and then to remind everyone that he’s still a sub.
My hundred dollar question is this: why have a Domme heroine – which is still a pretty unusual thing to find these days compared to all those tedious emo Doms in business suits – and then have her wailing and moping about the desolate state of her love life instead of flogging her subjects with glee? If I want such stories, I’d pick up any random contemporary romance, not one with a Domme. At any rate, this one is not what I’ve signed up for, and it feels like a wasted opportunity. It’s well written enough, so I guess you may like it if you know what you are getting into and you have more patience for a miserable woe-is-me accordion of a heroine. I’d just keep looking for stories of happy Dommes that rule their world.