Note: This ARC was provided by St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review.
I admire any author who leaves their comfort zone and ventures into an untapped genre, at least untapped as far as they're concerned. Kristen Ashley has written several series in the past, most of which I've enjoyed by varying degrees. With her new series, Honey, she tries her hand at erotic romance and her series starter, The Deep End, has a title that seems apt because this is a risk for her, especially if you base it on the mixed reactions that readers and fans have had since news about the book broke. To be fair, I think that a lot of readers have set expectations when it comes to their favorite authors or authors whose work they've read and loved in the past. But it's not as if Kristen Ashley has only been writing one particular kind of romance novel, which makes me wonder why there are some quarters who seem so shocked by her decision to try her hand at erotica. Remember, familiarity breeds contempt, so I'm cool with an author who's willing to try their hand at something different. It makes for a far more interesting selection of books to choose from and I believe it helps authors stretch past their perceived limitations.
The Deep End introduces readers to an exclusive sex club called the Honey, and it's there that we meet Amélie, a dominatrix, and Olivier, a firefighter who joins the club. Amélie takes one look at Olivier and sees him as a magnificent beast waiting to be tamed at her hand. She doesn't hesitate to push him beyond what he believes he's capable of giving up. Submission is something she demands of her submissives, and in Olivier, she wants the alpha male to be on his knees for her and to give in to her, seeking only to give her pleasure and trusting that he will receive his in return. But submitting isn't as simple or as easy as it may seem, especially for someone like Olivier, who has never surrendered to anyone or anything his entire life. However, he wants to please his Mistress, and soon, he's experiencing things he's never imagined possible before. The more time they spend together, the more they fall for each other. Feelings come into play. But can there be any kind of viable future for them beyond the confines and rules of their sex club, beyond Mistress Amélie and her own chevalier to simply being Leigh and Olly?
I love a well-written story about a Domme who takes on an alpha submissive-in-training. I've read a few before, and there's only one that really stands out among the limited crowd: Tiffany Reisz's Nora Sutherlin. Unfortunately, Amélie is a woman I have a difficult time believing is a dominatrix or that she's even someone who should be allowed in a sex club that caters to BDSM. Why? Because when a submissive informs a dominant or dominatrix of their limitations, those should be respected and taken to heart. How many books have pointed out that the actual power is in the hands of the submissive because they control what can and can't be done and when that isn't taken into account, then the so-called Dom or Domme isn't about the pleasure but about something else. When Olivier, who is new to the scene is asked by his mistress what his limitations are, he gives three, each of which was shoved to the side. Yes, Amélie went ahead and did exactly what Olivier asked her not to do because those were his limits. I get wanting to push, but he was new and there wasn't any trust there yet. It wasn't a good beginning to the story.
If it were just about the overall story and Olivier, I would have given this series starter five stars. But a male main character can't be the only basis nor is how the story was generally. The sex was stellar and I'm saying that as someone who isn't the type to shy away from things that make other people feel uncomfortable or bashful. Kudos to men who push beyond their boundaries when it comes to sex. The romance was rather sweet as well because this being nothing more than erotic and kinky sex wouldn't have made it a Kristen Ashley book. She does romantic scenes well and her stamp is all over this novel even with the new, far dirtier sexual encounters. However, I was simply not a fan of the female main character, though I confess that she was far more easy to tolerate when she was Leigh than she was as Mistress Amélie. This book had a host of good points and one glaringly not-so-good point, but I salute Kristen Ashley for a rather promising plunge into erotic romance. Four stars go to The Deep End. ♥
Release Date: 07 March 2017
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