Needing Harte

Title: Needing Harte
Author Marilu Mann
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
Genre: contemporary m/m, BDSM
Length: Novella
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

A Guest Review by Feliz

Summary Review: Once you’ve accepted this is a fantasy of the purest order, it’s a nice enough, sexy story in which, for once, the Dom doesn’t have all the answers and needs to be taught by his sub.

* * * Possible spoilers ahead * * *

The Blurb: Harte Donovan has a problem. A murder leads to him wanting a sexy stripper bound and naked in front of him. He can’t let his secret desires ruin his career as a detective. But when he’s given a mysterious business card, Harte discovers a side of himself he intends to fully embrace.

Ramey Nichols strips for a living and he’s not willing to pretend to be something he’s not. When this sexy submissive meets the closeted cop and unwitting Dom, something has got to give. That something might just be Ramey. Ramey knows what he wants, and more than that, finds himself Needing Harte.

This story is part of the 1-800-DOM-help series.

The Review: Don’t expect a murder mystery from this story only because it starts with a murder investigation.  Once Harte, the investigating cop, has taken his first look at Ramey, the murder victim’s ex roommate, the plot turns into a quintessetial figment of the author’s imagination, focused mainly on the relationship between the two men. This story stretches credibility quite a lot; if you’re flexible enough to go with the flow, you might enjoy it for the decent escapism it provides.  If you’re looking for realistic, even plausible, this book isn’t for you.

Harte Donovan and his partner McKenzie are sent to a gay strip club for an interview with Ramey Nichols, a witness in a murder case. While McKenzie talks to the bartender, Harte, who is not out at work, is distracted by the particularly sexy stripper who is currently performing. It turns out this stripper is the very same man they are there for. During the ensuing interview, Harte feels more and more attracted to Ramey. Everything about this man calls out to Harte: his beauty, his polite manners, his submissiveness.  The attraction is mutual: Ramey senses immediately that Harte is a Dom, and learning that Harte is unaware of this fact makes him all the more irresistible to Ramey. The interview ends with a kiss that neither man can forget although both try to.
They haven’t gone unnoticed, though: The strip club owner, Jason, is a Dom himself and Ramey’s friend, and thus protective of the unattached sub. In order to make sure that Ramey doesn’t get hurt, Jason calls a meeting with Harte the next day. During their talk, Jason hands Harte a business card with 1-800-DOM-help written on it, which turns out being a helpline for Doms. At first, Harte thinks the card a joke and throws it away. But when he comes home that night, weary and unable to get Ramey out of his head, the card is right there on his kitchen table, and in the end, he calls the number.
On the other end of the line a Master Thomas tells Harte a lot about what being a Dom means. Thomas even seems to know that this is about Ramey and encourages Harte to get together with Ramey. With Jason’s help, Harte and Ramey meet again in another club. When Ramey’s flogging by another Dom goes wrong, Harte takes care of Ramey, and they end up having a tentative, yet very intense scene and fulfilling sex together. But Ramey is afraid that Harte, as a cop, can’t be serious with him, a stripper, and so he backs away. Harte, on the other hand, is afraid that being with a stripper will interfere with his job. Their issues are soon fixed when Harte, after being involuntarily outed to his colleagues, finds himself widely accepted by everybody, and Ramey realizes that Harte is just the Dom he needs and that he doesn’t want anybody else.

Usually it is the Dom who sniffs out his previously clueless sub, introduces him into the lifestyle and trains him. This story takes the new angle of the Dom being unaware of his nature and needing the sub to open his eyes. Ramey is a well-drawn, multilayered character, submissive only when it comes to relationships and otherwise well capable of looking after himself, and a very convincing “pushy bottom”. I liked this about him. Ramey is no doormat, he’s a man in his own right who happens to be a submissive by nature.
Harte, on the other hand, is more internally inconsistent. Although he is said to like being in control, he’s often passive, allowing others to make his decisions for him. On the other hand, once he embraces his role as a Dom, he shows due responsibility, trying to learn as much as he can about the lifestyle in order to be what Ramey needs.  Both men were plausible enough to work as a couple and to make their HEA satisfying.

The secondary cast was small but fine, particularly Harte’s partner, McKenzie. The scene where McKenzie outed Harte at the station house was one of the best in the entire book. Jason, the club owner, is a wholehearted Dom, fiercely protective of Ramey and enigmatic like a true Master.

The BDSM scenes here are rather light, only a little spanking, and there is also not much of the usual power play. It is really mostly about the relationship, about Harte accepting what he is and Ramey helping him with it.

All in all, an entertaining, unusual D/s story which works well enough for the pure fantasy it is.


Aside from owls, I love all kinds of birds, particularly the odd ones. Also dogs, Queen (the band), motorbikes and books.


Thanks for the review; I’ve been considering this book and appreciate having more information. I do like BDSM-themed books where the sub is presented as an adult (e.g., “Uneven” or “Truthful Change”) as opposed to the top acting like the bottom’s babysitter/therapist (“A Russian Bear”, “Bound and Determined”).


Hmmm it does sound promising, but it always irritates me a bit when “plot” gets put permanently away in favor of the romance/sex. Don’t include it in the blurb.

Great review! You got me intrigued!

%d bloggers like this: