After falling head over heels in love with Amèlie and Olivier’s story in The Deep End, I could not wait to return to the tantalizing world of the Honey, but this book blew my ever-loving mind to smithereens. In what can only be described as another stroke of creative genius by an author who never seizes to amaze with her ability to weave some of the most engrossing and unforgettable love stories to be found, Kristen Ashley delivers an extraordinary tale that overflows with intense erotic imagery, yet remains full of the kind of depth and emotion that we’ve come to expect from her. With the author’s unique tone of storytelling ever-present on every single page and in keeping with the series’ main premise of building romantic relationships through hot, kinky sex, this story titillated my senses from the get-go, while filling my heart to the brim little by little. And once more, Kristen Ashley proves that when she chooses to stretch her wings in a genre, she doesn’t tinker around. She slays.
“Got a sub for you.”
“Perfect for you. No strings. No boundaries. This guy is not looking to connect. He’s not looking for a relationship.”
As one of the city’s most experienced and sought-after Dommes, Evangeline Brooks has always known what kind of man she hopes to find and keep (tied) in her bed, but when an incident at the Honey leaves her injured and reeling, she decides to walk away from the BDSM lifestyle indefinitely, no longer trusting herself not to make the same mistakes again. She throws herself into her work, keeping busy just so that she wouldn’t have to face her fears, but when a very unique challenge suddenly lands in her lap, without even requiring her to step foot into the Honey, Evangeline simply can’t resist the temptation. And nothing can stop her from going after it.
She was going to hunt that big boy down and she was going to tear him open and then she was going to shatter him. He liked to be pushed to the edge? She was going to take him there. Shove him right over. And go over with him. And when they landed, they both were going to explode. All over the place. And love every bit of it.
Branch Dillinger is a man with no past and no ties to the life he now lives. As sole survivor of a highly skilled team of field operatives working for the government, Branch had to become a living ghost in order to walk away from his former life, but watching all his teammates die has also left him with a severe case of survivor’s guilt affecting all aspects of his life. Choosing to remain emotionally detached from everyone around him, sex is the only place where Branch allows himself to feel, but in order to feel anything at all, he needs extreme sexual scenarios free from any emotional connection whatsoever.
“This guy is unbreakable. There’s no edge for him any Domme can get anywhere near to push him off and that’s what he’s looking for. Being taken to the farthest edge and shoved right the fuck over.”
An alpha male by nature but a sexual submissive in the bedroom, Branch is immediately attracted to the dark-haired Domme he has been set up with, but no matter how easily she seems to read his body or how much he enjoys losing his self-control with her time and time again, he never stops fighting her pull. Because loving Evangeline is the one thing Branch can never allow himself to feel.
“Don’t hate me when I’m gone.”
But his Mistress is no stranger to challenges and her heart knows from the very beginning that a man like Branch is worth all the ups, the downs, and the crazy, wild ride in between. The more time they spend together—in and out of the bedroom—slowly getting used to sharing their lives with one another, the more Evangeline begins to hope that the man she’s fallen in love with might one day begin to feel the same way. And the more she gets to know the man behind the crumbling façade, the harder she fights to give him all he won’t let himself have.
“I’m hurting you.”
“I know the score.”
“Baby, it isn’t right.”
“It’s absolutely right, Branch. And I’ll take what I can get of absolutely right for as long as I have it, fighting to earn more along the way, rather than not ever having it and never knowing how beautiful it feels.”
While the love story between Amèlie and Olivier develops mostly within the formal confines of a sex club—the setting itself adding an almost ‘ritualistic’ aspect to the sex scenes between them—the relationship between Evangeline and Branch evolves entirely outside the Honey, and that shift creates a very different dynamic between them. This time around, Kristen Ashley gives us a hero who is set on drawing a very clear line between sex and every other aspect of his life, but she also gives us a strong-willed heroine who is dead set on blurring that line for him, until he no longer needs it to feel in control. The day-to-day scenes between them pack a punch just as much as the ones between the sheets, their mundaneness offsetting just perfectly the intensity of their more intimate moments, and making every second between them count. A gripping tale of recovery and determination that I am already dying to re-read, a terrific addition to a series that is knocking my socks off.
“You’re everything. It’s like I wrote out a wish list and whatever powers at work who got hold of it made you just for me, ticking off all the boxes.”