tl;dr: fascinating setting for drawn out forbidden romantic tension
There was already plenty of buzz about this book by the time I got my hands on it. And for good reason. The premise is titillating and unique, and has a forbidden romance that promises lots of sexytimes. Andie Lincoln has decided to get submissive training at an exclusive BDSM school, which is so exclusive that there are only ten spots for students. Her Hollywood boyfriend had to pull strings to get her in. Of course, her professor is sexy as all get out and things heat up between them fast.
Under his tutelage, she begins to learn a lot about herself and what she actually wants. Her initial questions are answered (yes, being a submissive works for her, really really works), and she begins to question whether or not her Hollywood boyfriend is really the man for her, after all.
Master Fulton Matthews, the professor in question, seems to be able to read Andie in a way that is unnerving, and becomes the first chink in her defenses. She can’t help but compare the two men, since she and Fulton are paired for play during class after one of the students drops out, and one of the largest discrepancies appears to be how in sync she is with Fulton as compared to Terrence, aka, Mr. Hollywood. He can read her body language, and anticipate her nervousness and fear, and also what turns her on. He finds himself pushing past school-sanctioned boundaries, leading to both student and teacher feeling confused about their growing feelings.
The biggest drawback for me in this story was how it started. The story begins on her first day at the school, so we don’t get to meet Terrence and see how he interacts with her outside of phone calls and text messages until the final half of the book. That can be because the author doesn’t care about Terrence and Andie, and therefore, neither do we. So there is no conflict really; since we’ve only seen Andie and Fulton interact, it’s the only relationship we’re invested in. I do appreciate that Fulton himself questions why Andie comes to this training school rather than be trained by her boyfriend, and also why she opts to go at all, but her answers are unsatisfactory. The set up was not as solid as it could have been, introducing the relationship between Andie and Terrence more fully in the opening chapters would have set the scene for WHY she decided to go to this school. My personal thought is that the author thought the set up was so unique and great that she opted to dive straight in (which, I can sort of see: it’s a great premise!) but I want to know why Andie felt so strongly that she needed to submit to Terrence, why it was so important for her to get it right.
(And, side note, we never find out why or how Fulton become a professor at a BDSM training school. That could be an interesting tale!)
Aside from a few places wording was a little confusing, I found the prose to be very good. Sometimes it was too earnest and made the characters seem too perfect. In particular, during the end conflict, Andie acts hurt and confused, but her internal monologue states that she knows the hurtful things that Fulton has said isn’t how he really feels, but yet she’s still acting like she believes it. It’s a little off-putting. Does she believe him or not? She sounds too clinical in her assessment of his words. Is she sad and hurt, or calculating? The reason that Fulton says what he says also isn’t clear; I expected to get more explanation of the why there, too, but it never came.
There’s a lot of story to be mined from the this premise; however, I hope that future books start more believably. This book series is sort of similar to many sports romance series that I’ve read, in that you have a particular institution (in this case, a BDSM training castle, but in others, a sports team) and each segment of the series addresses a different couple or aspect of it, so they all intertwine but from different viewpoints. I personally think that starting with the owner of the training school would have been the best choice, really giving a sense of history to the place. Obviously, there’s a story there, and I hope the next book addresses it (because heck yeah, I’ll be reading it!), but I think starting the series from the foundation would have been really great.
Find this book at your local library!
Interested in other BDSM? Try Tiffany Reisz’s Original Sinner’s series, starting with The Siren.
More teacher/student relationships? Try Jenny Trout’s novella Choosing You.