Master of Solitude

Master of Solitude is the eighth book in Mountain Masters / Doms of Dark Haven series by Cherise Sinclair.

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Since childhood, Mallory McCabe has dreamed of falling in love with a hero. And then one saves her life. He’s honest…and blunt. Deadly, but filled with pain. Overpowering, yet ever so gentle with her. Oh yes, she’s found her hero. Taking him to her bed is simply…right. As is losing her heart.

How could she have known he’d want nothing more to do with her?

His indifference hurts. She vows to forget him…then he buys the land next to hers.

Released early from prison, all Sawyer Ware wants is to put his life back together. His police detective brother houses him while he makes plans. But when a violent gang targets his brother, Sawyer puts his future on hold. He’ll have to take on the gang first. After a decade as a Navy SEAL, he won’t–can’t–walk away if someone he loves is threatened.

His mission is likely to prove bloody. He sure can’t afford to get involved with a woman, especially his captivating neighbour. He hungers to be near her, to enjoy her clear laugh, her easy friendship, and the peace she brings wherever she goes. A relationship is absolutely out of the question.

Why won’t his heart obey orders?

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Master of Solitude is the newest book out by hot erotica and bdsm author Cherise Sinclair. It came out last week and I read it in 24 hours, per usual.

Mal is the most patient woman and forgiving known to man, I swear! It is genuinely nice to see that she doesn’t have huge hangups that she has to get over in the story – finally, a heroine who isn’t severely traumatized by her past, and she is a real sweetheart. Definitely not a pushover, but she forgives Sawyer when I would have been hitting him upside the head with my work belt if I were in her circumstances.

Sawyer has his head completely up his ass for the beginning of the book. He has the complete wrong idea about Mallory due to a couple of misunderstandings, and is determined to keep her at a distance. Due to an abusive childhood, a career in the Seals, and a stint in prison, he doesn’t expect much of other people and looks for alternative motives behind Mallory’s initial welcome and neighbourly friendliness.

One point that is notable about this book is that it has a much slower pace to the sex-capades than a regular reader of Ms. Sinclair might expect. The couple start off as neighbours and client/contractor, before developing into friends and then lovers, and finally into serious, romantic I-like-you-you-like-me relationship status. I found this to be enjoyable and a nice departure after recently re-reading the whole series, but it was unexpected.

I also enjoyed the fact that Morgan Masterson received so much attention in this novel as a single secondary character. It definitely points to the fact he will probably have a book at some point, which is awesome since I’ve been hoping for a while that he would!

Unfortunately, there were a few plot-holes in Master of Solitude. For one, the Aryan Hammers, a gang that has been terrorizing Bear Flat since the previous book, is again wrecking havoc. It is full-on war between the cops / Vigilante Sawyer and the gang. Sawyer keeps a running tally of how many have been arrested throughout the story, noting that their ranks are dwindling and hoping that when they run out of members, the crew will give up on Bear Flat and retreat back to LA.

But his logic is fallacious. Most of the members wouldn’t have been held without bail for the crimes they were arrested committing, so in reality their numbers wouldn’t have really declined.

Finally, there was a lot of talk about the third Ware brother, Hector, moving down to the area from Idaho. He moves over the course of the book and the characters have interactions with him, but it always occurs “off-page”. While technically not a plot-hole, this irked me.

Ms. Sinclair is an exceptional author and one of my favourites to one-click, but the last two books in this series have been “off” for me. A part of this book teases that Sir Ethan from Club Dark Haven is likely the next in the series to get a book, but I hope that the author takes a break for awhile. At the end of the day, there are 8 books in this series and 12 in her Shadowlands series … it is hard to keep a world fresh after so many stories! I hope that she takes a break from them to focus on her kinky romance-fantasy shifter stories (The Wild Hunt) and expands the worlds for both of her standalone books.

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Master of Freedom

Master of Freedom is the seventh book in the Mountain Masters / Doms of Dark Haven series by Cherise Sinclair.

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Detective Atticus Ware gave up his beloved Idaho to start again in the mountains of California, close to his imprisoned brother. He has a rewarding job and friends, but the experienced Dominant wants more than the Do-Me submissives who flock around him. He needs a woman who will give her heart as well as her body.

Virginia, “Gin,” is damn good at her challenging career as a prison psychologist. However, one problem inmate is mired in misery and unable to overcome his guilt at causing a friend’s death.
To clear her mind, she joins a friend’s kinky backpacking excursion, planning to hide in her tent during the evening BDSM pursuits. But Atticus lures her into the activities. She’s read about BDSM, but submission under the hands of a powerful Dom is beyond anything she’d imagined. She doesn’t trust men, doesn’t want a relationship, and yet…wants more from him.

Finally, Atticus has found the woman he wants in his life. In his bed. In his cuffs. But she’s not only his brother’s therapist, but also works in a prison. How can he tolerate his woman walking into danger every single blasted day?

Gin knows she has no future with Atticus Ware, but still, hope is rising in her heart.

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Master of Freedom is a solid addition to the Mountain Masters series, but it isn’t one of my favourites. The plot-line felt like it was mostly recycled from some of the previous novels and I really didn’t like the intrusion of LA gangs into my picturesque escape in the Yosemite Mountains. Hopefully they will be all heading out of town now that half the gang has been arrested.

The other thing that prevented me from falling in love with this book was the heroine Gin. She is pretty, sweet and good-hearted, but annoying as hell at some points. At the beginning of the story, she doesn’t even believe bdsm is something that happens in real life and this type of naivety drives me up the wall, especially since she is supposed to be a licensed shrink, with experience working in a family practice and is currently working in a state prison. She is a well-educated, independent woman who has lived all over the United States. One would think that alternative lifestyles and romantic partnerships is something she would have been exposed to, despite her Bible Belt upbringing.

I did love the introduction of Sawyer Ware, the hero’s brother who is incarcerated in the state prison I mentioned above. Having an “outlaw” supporting character is unique to this author and I loved that it made our band of LEO/military heroes a little more well rounded.

Master of Freedom is a good edition to the series, and it introduces the concept of suspension bondage into this kinky world we all love so much on this blog. I enjoyed it but I don’t recommend it as highly as the others in the series.

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Master of the Dark Side

Master of the Dark Side is the fourth book in the Mountain Masters / Doms of Dark Haven series by Cherise Sinclair. It is a novella that was originally published in an anthology.

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Real Doms terrify her, so Summer plays with lightweights only. And only in the safety of her club, Dark Haven. But on Western Night, the tough cop who wins her in a sub-roping game is as powerful as they come.

Virgil’s first taste of BDSM was disturbingly enticing. Hoping to burn out his interest, he visits an infamous San Francisco club, where he wins himself the prettiest little submissive he’s ever seen. He’s in a quandary. A man shouldn’t render a woman helpless, let alone spank her ass. But the nervous little submissive clearly loves being in his ropes. Her need to be controlled is as powerful as his need to control. So he indulges himself, and her.

That one night could be the beginning, but instead it’s the end. She won’t play outside the club and he lives too far to visit often. He’ll just have to find a way to forget her…or get her in his ropes to stay.

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Master of the Dark Side is the second novella in this series so far. Normally I don’t like novellas because I feel like too much of the story is missing, and the relationship doesn’t progress as naturally as it should because of the contracted timeline, but I have yet to dislike any book by Cherise Sinclair! She is that good.

My favourite thing about this story is that the dominant, Virgil, is completely new and his submissive Summer, while not exactly an expert, has been in the scene for a couple of years. Most of the D/s stories I come across feature a female submissive who is obnoxiously clueless about the lifestyle, many even believing that it is something imagined by romance authors to sell book, rather than a practice that actually happens in real life.

*face palm*

In the modern world of high-speed internet and sky-high erotica sales, I find it difficult to believe that most people are THAT naive.

So it is completely refreshing to watch as Virgil explores his dominant side, discover what he is comfortable with, and learns the art of bdsm. Virgil is a cop with strong protective instincts, especially for women, and he has to reconcile those instincts with his need to dominate, to control, to push.

Summer had a traumatic and abusive “scene” in Simon Says Mine when a shoddy Dom did not respect her safeword and literally beat her bloody. Thankfully she was rescued by Simon and Rona, but she hasn’t recovered emotionally from the scars. This creates a minefield for Virgil to navigate in their relationship, especially since bdsm scenes require trust and vulnerability – both physical and emotional.

I loved this short story and am glad that the author writes updates on previous couples into all her books, so we will get to see some more from Virgil and Summer sometime soon!

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

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Well I finally finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  I had read part of it years ago as a pre-teen, when I was lured in by this evocative cover, but it was too heavy and intellectual for me at the time.

I was motivated to read it again now because of the tv show airing on Bravo. Once again, it was the visuals – in this case the trailer – that drew me in, but book nerd that I am, I had to read the book first. I read it in two sessions, but those sessions were a couple of months apart.

I loved the premise behind this story, the post-apocalyptic world that Atwood imagines, and its beginnings eerily reflect some of the current news circling the world.

Unfortunately, I didn’t love her writing style. And I really detested the end of the book. This story was largely character-based, but it is the plot that drew me in. In effect, essentially nothing happens throughout most of the story, and the ending felt like a huge cliffhanger. I felt as if I should only be halfway through the book when in actuality I was finished.

If you are a reader who likes to delve into the nuances of a character and reader the minute internal emotional journey they undergo, this is probably a great book for you. If you are more of a plot-based fan who wants things to move along at a faster clip, try the show instead. I am loving it much more.

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Edge of the Enforcer

This is the sixth book in the Mountain Masters / Doms of Dark Haven series by Cherise Sinclair.edge

One sadist. One submissive.
One extraordinary love.

WELCOME TO DARK HAVEN
AND MAY ALL YOUR DARKEST WISHES COME TRUE

Fleeing false murder charges, Lindsey lands in San Francisco. There she builds a satisfying life until, in the notorious Dark Haven BDSM club, she encounters deVries. Moth, meet flame.

A security specialist and occasional mercenary, deVries needs an adorable submissive like a knife to the gut. Hell, she’s not even a masochist. But here she is, all big brown eyes and sweet body and sassy mouth. Loyal. Tough-minded. Honest.

Or maybe not, considering her ID is forged. If she thinks to lie to him, she’ll learn better. He’s the Enforcer of Dark Haven—his discipline is absolute, his punishments harsh, and his heart untouched…until now.

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Ok, so Edge of the Enforcer is only the second book I’ve ever read where the hero is a sadist. I was slightly nervous about how I would like this hero who has always set my heart racing in the past (and not always in a good way) but I have read so many Cherise Sinclair books before that I trust her completely at this point. So that was reassuring and I was excited to jump back into the Mountain Masters/ Dark Haven world.

And I loved it!

Lindsey is so sweet and sassy and resilient. She is the perfect blend of heroic gumption and vulnerability and she and deVries are honestly a match made in heaven. I just finished reading this story a few days ago and I already am ready to start it all over again.

deVries (I refuse to call him Zander) is definitely the strong and silent type. He has a lot of hangups about his ex-wife that he lays on Lindsey at times, but he works through those issues over the course of the story. He doesn’t come across as sweet as some of the previous doms Sinclair has written, but I like this extra edge of danger to him. It fits his personality and mannerisms. And I always like to push the envelope of a hero / anti-hero.

Edge of the Enforcer introduces a few new kinks to me, particularly edge play (or knife play). While deVries is a sadist, Lindsey is NOT a masochist and it takes her a little bit to trust that he will stop at her limits, even though his go much further. It ups the intensity level in their play, but deVries always puts her needs and aftercare first.

I will say to any reader that is worried about the level of pain or “squickyness” in the book, you shouldn’t need to worry. If you liked other things I have recommended, you should also like this book. Ms. Sinclair always keeps safe, sane and consensual at the forefront of her scenes so everything is consensual, obviously, and you know the book will end happily ever after.

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My Liege of Dark Haven

My Liege is the fifth book in the Dark Haven / Mountain Masters series by Cherise Sinclair. This is an erotic romance series that is set in a bdsm club.

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Threatened by university cutbacks, Professor Abigail Bern’s only hope is to publish a provocative research paper–soon. Planning to covertly observe behaviour in the notorious Dark Haven BDSM club, she takes a receptionist job. When the owner calls upon her to assist in a demonstration, she’s appalled. Then fascinated. Under the unyielding hands of the master known as my Liege, she discovers a need to be more than an observer.

His late wife had been the center of his life, and Xavier Leduc wants no other. But when his new receptionist does her utmost to keep an emotional distance from him, he’s intrigued and digs deeper. She’s adorable. Intriguingly intelligent, beautifully submissive, sweetly vulnerable. He soon realizes her defenses are keeping her on the fringe of her sexuality–and her life. As he draws her into fuller participation, she unconsciously does the same for him. She begins to fill his world.

Ever since the night she met my Liege Xavier, Abby has questioned everything she believes about herself. She’s falling for the stern owner of Dark Haven and thinks he’s beginning to care for her…until the day he learns why she’s in his club.

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Xavier is the owner of the BDSM club Dark Haven, which is set in San Francisco. He is basically the most alpha of all the alpha Doms who frequent the establishment and he needs all of that commanding presence to dominate Abby.

While very sweet and well-meaning, Abigail avoids conflict and any emotional outbursts at all costs, to the point that she has trouble even identifying her feelings during stressful or painful moments. As a result, she purposely wanders mentally during emotional bdsm scenes – and they are all emotional – trying to maintain the distance that is comfortable to her. This makes it hard for a Dom to keep control of the scene but Xavier is a master. Pun intended.

Abigail is exceedingly book-smart, but not very in tune with herself. After advancing ahead of classmates so many times growing up – she earns a doctorate by the time most people her age are finishing an undergrad – she is a little socially awkward, especially in romantic relationships.

Abby had no real intentions of ever joining into the play at Dark Haven. As far as she was concerned, she was attending the club to observe for research purposes, and to hopefully discover enough about the practices of D/s interactions to decide whether it was something she could attempt when her ex Nathan returned from a summer abroad. Her very first night there, Xavier blows this plan up, and he never stops drawing her into the scene after that.

Reading the chapters where Abby’s intention to write a published paper based on her observations at Dark Haven becomes known to her fellow kinksters – plus the fallout of this – are painful.

Reading from Abby’s POV, she feels so awkward and ashamed of herself and is afraid that she will lose Xavier and all of her new friends as a result. She feels misunderstood, and a little hurt that everyone immediately thinks the worst of her – that she is a spy on the inside determined to out them in public. Essentially, she needs to make restitution to Xavier but also to the general club membership in order to earn their forgiveness and trust back.

And this is very difficult and painful to do.

I won’t ruin the scene, because it is definitely something to read for yourself, but Abby’s punishment is very public within the club and something that I personally would dread as much as she does. It does make for very compelling reading though : )

I loved My Liege of Dark Haven just as much as I have loved the other books in this series and am excited to consider re-reading each as we get closer to the end of May and the release of the latest!

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Master of the Abyss

Master of the Abyss is the second book in the Mountain Masters / Dark Haven bdsm series by Cherise Sinclair.

On the mountain, the watcher seeks out evil women. And then they die.

Two years ago, when Jake Hunt uncollared his slave, she committed suicide. Guilt-ridden, he will commit to a woman for one night only, devoting his energy to a mountain lodge that caters to a BDSM crowd.

Kallie Masterson is tough. Unwanted as a child, she worked hard to become a wilderness guide. She’s proud of who she is, and hurt that Jake frowns on her for acting like a man.

After rescuing the macho guide from a bar fight, Jake is stunned that the ugly men’s clothing hides a warm, responsive woman. A submissive woman. When guide business brings her to the lodge on BDSM night, and she is obviously aroused by the play, Jake takes the little sub right into his world of pain and pleasure. He warns her: one-night-only. But she responds so beautifully–so joyously–under his command, that one night soon becomes two, then three…

Then a missing hiker reminds Jake of his past lover, and he realizes he’s become too involved. He pulls back.

Meanwhile, the watcher on the mountain has rendered his verdict: Kallie Masterson is evil. The sentence: Death.

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Jake was introduced in the first book about his brother. And he is just as hot as I thought he would be! Kallie is not at all the type of woman that Jake thought he was looking for but it turns out that they bring out the best in each other. He gives her the confidence to seek out the dom-sub relationship that had been missing in her love life while she in turn pulls no punches in making Jake face the BS he had been telling himself since his old girlfriend’s death.

Most of this book takes place in Yosemite National Park, so it is a fun “country romance” set in a beautiful landscape. Jake and Kallie are both working as guides, so the secondary characters tend to rotate in and out of the book, without taking too much focus away from the primary characters. It is nice that the Bear Flat community is expanded upon a little bit, with the introduction of some of the other residents, including Kallie’s three cousins, whom she lives with (and who all have the potential to be hot future heroes at some point!).

I have noticed that some other reviewers seemed to be a little annoyed by Kallie’s particular hang-up. After essentially being orphaned and dumped by her stepfather when he remarried, she bounced from family member to family member before ending up with her widowed uncle and three boy cousins. Afraid that she would lose this home too, and not understanding what she had done to be so unlovable in the past, she was a teenager determined to fit in with the boys and never rock the boat. Because of this history, Kallie always doubts her own self-worth and puts her needs last. She has major trust issues and doesn’t believe that she can ever count on another person long-term.

I had no problem with Kallie’s hangups and didn’t feel like they over-powered the book. It flowed well for me and I felt that it was balanced between the two main characters. To some extent, any positive example of a D/s relationship is going to be more focused on the submissive’s needs, not because the Dom doesn’t have them or is less important, but because the relationship is focused on the one who is giving up power in the exchange.

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