Impacted

ImpactedTitle: Impacted
Author: Mickie B. Ashling
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary BDSM
Length: Novel
Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn

THE BLURB

On his way home from vacation, Scott Gregory, a closeted sub, hooks up with the gorgeous Red, a flamboyant dom, for a thrilling one-off at a BDSM bar. They part ways after a satisfying scene… but meet again when Robin Kennedy—Red—arrives at his new job as a dental hygienist and discovers one of his two bosses is Scott.

Robin and Scott embark on a journey of exploration into their kinkier sides and discover they’re more than compatible—they’re a perfect match. But keeping employer/employee and Dom/sub separate at the office presents difficulties, and to make matters even more complicated, the owner of the dental practice is an acknowledged homophobe.

They fall in love, but Robin chafes at all the secrecy, refusing to live in the shadows. Scott isn’t as brave; he’s desperate to protect his job and his future. Will they be able to find some middle ground… or will their entire relationship fall apart because of fear?

THE REVIEW

Impacted is this author’s second novel and the first I’ve read. I had high hopes based on the blurb and that fabulous cover, but from inconsistent characters to time continuity issues to a completely outrageous reveal and abrupt ending, this angsty story was a big miss for me. Please read on for my reasons.

Sub Scott stops into a BDSM club in San Ramon, CA, on his way home to San Francisco to check out the scene and see if there is anyone there who piques his interest. Attracted to bartender/Dom Red, they have quick, hawt smex in Scott’s car and it seems that he is not to see Red again. But fate intervenes and Robin (Red) shows up as the new hygienist at the dental practice where periodontist Scott works. Both men are pleasantly surprised and agree to begin a secret relationship. See, closeted Scott is in the process of buying the lucrative and well-established practice from soon-to-be-retiring Dr. Ron, a serious Bible-thumping homophobe, and he would never tolerate teh gays working for him much less have one take over when he’s done. Scott figures that he can keep his orientation hush-hush from Ron for the remaining six months or so before the sale of the practice goes through, something Robin is very unhappy about. While Scott and Robin discuss contracts and negotiations, fight over living in the closet and the folly of mixing business with pleasure, and have lots of hawt BDSM smexxin, a longtime friend of Scott’s, Susie, decides to pick up her life and move to San Francisco to be a hygienist in Scott’s office as well. She has romance issues of her own, needing to come to terms with her love-‘em-and-leave-‘em style and figure out why she is so bored in the bedroom. Before long, it all comes to a head and secrets are revealed that impact all of their lives and threaten our heroes’ HEA.

I’m not sure where to begin to describe the problems I had with this book so I’ll just jump in with the biggest:

I saw the situation leading to the final reveal a mile away, which was one thing, but the reveal itself was so incredibly over the top, incredulous and absurd that I can’t see my way to rate this story any higher for that alone. I actually screamed out loud “What?!” and startled all the pets and my partner. If this had been a print book I would have thrown it against the wall. “Sounds like a really bad soap opera,” Susie says during the reveal. Truer words had never been spoken, Susie.

Told from at least five POVs, Impacted is a difficult story to follow because with the shift in POV often comes a shift in subplots. Two of the five POVs are Scott and Robin, and generally they follow one plotline of their lives as Dom and sub, how to deal with the shift in dynamic from work to home, where Robin should live, how Scott should be true to himself, come out and get as far away from Dr. Ron as possible. But then we have Susie and her romantic and personal issues; in fact, I was surprised that Susie gets a POV before Robin, who is one of the protags, causing me to immediately suspect a ménage to be coming, but thankfully that’s not the case. Then there is crazy Dr. Ron and his quest for more money for his trophy wife, and finally Jenna, a long-time hygienist in the practice, and her suspicions about what Scott and Robin were up to. Because of the seemingly constant shifts, I found I could not immerse myself in the story, and I believe the story would have been much more effective without these confusing narratives.

I never really connected to either protag. Scott is supposed to be this confident professional who knows what he is and has learned to embrace his submissiveness, yet his issues around abandonment reduce him into a weeping mess at the mere thought or mention of Robin leaving him, needing almost constant reaffirmation of Robin’s love and devotion as the book progresses. Add that to his behavior with Dr. Ron at the story’s climatic confrontation (Robin’s description: He was enraged by Ron’s power over his lover, turning him into a pathetic mess, denying who he was, pushing Robin away for a contract that was written in blood, as far as he was concerned.) and I was turned off by the inconsistency.

I had less of a problem with Robin, but there were some issues, the biggest being that at the end, the complete turnaround in his emotions around his anger and frustration with Scott and the situation they were in was so quick that I blinked and had to re-read several paragraphs to see if I missed something.

Carrying that thought, I thought the ending was so abrupt that I looked further for another chapter, and when I saw none, even considered that I had an incomplete copy.

I thought the inclusion of negotiations and contracts was very interesting — and not something I’ve often seen in the BDSM books I’ve read so far — and the story included some pretty steamy smexxin scenes, but after a while, I felt they became repetitious, with similar scenarios and dialog over and over, and found myself skipping scenes.

There were little things, too. There were several convenient coincidences starting with Red just happening to be the new employee, Scott just happening to have another hygienist position for Susie, and others that I can’t include without spoiling the story. As such, much of it felt very contrived. Robin’s use of the endearment “baby” wore on my nerves. I found numerous time continuity issues, the biggest being one day Scott thinking that he had “another six months until Ron Morris no longer ruled their lives,” and literally the next day saying to Robin “It’s only for three more months, Red. Surely you can deal with it until then.

Last niggle: San Francisco districts and neighborhoods are capitalized. “He was close to the mission district, but not quite. Very close to the Castro area, but still many streets and paychecks away.” In this case, “Mission District” should be capped, as should “the Tenderloin,” as she mentions later in the book.

OVERALL

As always, I am simply one reader and one opinion of many, but from inconsistent characters to an unbelievable reveal, this story was a complete miss for me. I welcome comments and differing views.

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