A guest review by Leslie
By day Cooper Miller is a bland paper pusher, a health and safety inspector who does everything by the book. Deciding he needs some excitement in his life, he sheds his off-the-rack suit and tan raincoat and signs up for an introductory session at a BDSM club. His welcome mat turns out to be Nando Arenas, the man who owns the new tattoo shop Cooper inspected just that morning. At first glance, Nando seems like forbidden territory, but when Cooper discovers a taste for being tied up and dominated, the enterprising tattoo artist delivers all the excitement Cooper could want.
The main character in this story is described as bland and that would be the adjective I would use to describe this novella, which really did nothing for me. I felt like I was reading words on a page. There wasn’t much of a plot and the main characters were completely inconsistent—saying one thing and doing another—which made them totally unrealistic. Without a plot or interesting characters, what’s left? Not much, unfortunately.
Let me give you a few examples…
The story opens with the scene described in the blurb. Cooper is waiting in the lobby of the BDSM club for his “welcome mat” (a term I’ve never heard before in relation to a person, but whatever) who turns out to be the guy from the tattoo shop that Cooper had inspected just that very morning. Now, if you were in this situation, don’t you think you’d have some sort of reaction? Surprise, perhaps? Maybe a twinge of anxiety? For Cooper, none of that. He’s completely blasé, as if this sort of thing happens to him every day. Nando is equally nonplussed.
Cooper suddenly turns all whisper-y and shy. Nando manages to get him to say what he wants during their time together—his “ultimate fantasy” (which in the big scheme of things was a pretty tame and boring fantasy)—and they head to a private room. After a not-very-exciting build-up, Nando delivers the goods, giving Cooper “a mind blowing orgasm beyond all belief.” Then suddenly, Nando, who is supposed to be the tough Dom, is holding Cooper, kissing and caressing him, and apologizing for “screwing up.” I actually went back and read the scene three times, trying to figure out where or how Nando had screwed up, and never found it. Anyway, in the face of this, Cooper, who had been shy and submissive, suddenly takes the assertive role, reassuring Nando that he was “terrific” and “great” and that he had given him something that none of his previous lovers had ever been able to do. It was at this point that I seriously considered this book to be a DNF but I plowed on.
Two weeks pass. Cooper can’t get Nando out of his mind and he starts lurking around the tattoo shop at closing time. After three nights, he finally gets his courage up and accosts Nando as he is coming out of the shop. Nando is a little baffled by this (who wouldn’t be?) but agrees to go along with Cooper to have “a talk.” Now, realize that their sole interaction had been one scene at a BDSM club with a bizarre ending, so what exactly they need to talk about is a mystery to me (and Nando, too) but again…whatever.
Nando comments that he is hungry but it’s late and they decide that the only place open at this hour is McDonald’s, which is right across the street. In they go and Nando orders two coffees and a hot fudge sundae. Hello? I thought he was hungry? Don’t they sell hamburgers at McDonald’s? Even more bizarrely, when they sit down, Cooper announces that if he had known that Nando was hungry, he would have taken him to a late-night restaurant that he knows about (in another part of the city) and bought him dinner. Nando says no, he’s not really hungry and then proceeds to devour his ice cream sundae. Then they have a dopey conversation and the next thing you know, Nando is sitting on Cooper’s lap and they are making out.
See what I mean about inconsistent?
I chuckled at this conversation, however…
Cooper shrugged. “I showered.” Nando’s only reaction was to give Cooper a questionable look. “Even ‘positive’ people are ‘clean’, Nando.”
I wondered if the author had been visiting this site and read the lengthy blog post on the issue of using clean versus positive when discussing HIV status. For those who might not remember, it can be found here.
The story continued on, with various inane conversations peppered by not-terribly-exciting sex scenes and eventually I reached the blessed words, “The End.”
I thought long and hard to see if there was anything in this book that I could suggest for a recommendation and I came up with…nothing. Maybe fans of the author will like this but beyond that, I suggest giving this one a pass.