Mischief and the Masters (Shadowlands #12)

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She wants a short, sweet Master. One Master.

The two devastatingly dominant Drago cousins have other ideas.

Her life destroyed by a stalker, Uzuri Cheval starts anew in Tampa and joins the exclusive Shadowlands club. Unconvinced of her claims that she can overcome her fear of big men without help, Master Z gives her a time limit. And she is improving–until she hears the stalker is out of prison. Now her time limit is up, and the Masters will intervene, which is okay–as long as whoever helps her is short. Okay, sweet and gentle would be good, too.

But two Doms? Dangerously experienced and dauntingly powerful cousins? No way.

Having volunteered in every hellhole in the world, Dr. Alastair Drago is ready to settle down. Detective Max Drago has joined him and, once again, the cousins share everything. A house, lives, problems…and whatever submissive catches their interest. One mischievous submissive has definitely caught Alastair’s. However, having been burned by a woman, Max remains detached…until little mischief’s troubles turn deadly.

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Uzuri refers to her Doms as “Dragon Doms”, a play on their last name of Drago, but I kept remembering Sally’s preferred phrase, “Demon Doms” and using that instead. These two definitely keep a girl on her toes!

The first time that I read this book I wasn’t overly thrilled with it. I read it last summer while there was lots of racial BS going on in the US. I am not American and although racial tension can be found everywhere in the world, where I live, we don’t seem to have problems like the US does. Regardless, American news dominates everywhere (especially in the Trump era) and I was damn tired of reading about racial issues. I definitely wasn’t happy to find it addressed in my erotica.

But time is a sweet cure for all things.

Media coverage of this issue isn’t bombarding me 24/7 anymore and on a second read of Mischief and the Masters, I realized that there isn’t as much “lecturing” in it as I felt on the first read.

Uzuri and Alistair are both biracial with white fathers and black mothers. Alistair’s cousin Max is white. The three enter into an exclusive DDs polyamorous relationship (similar to how it works between Sally and her doms in If Only.

I did enjoy this book much more on the second take. I appreciate the author have biracial characters and relationships in her books and although I still feel that certain sections were written with the political climate in mind, I can get past that and just enjoy the story at this point. Ms. Sinclair is currently writing the 13th book in the Shadowlands series, and has announced it should be out in Spring 2018. It’s February now so I’m thinking an April release date sounds about right. Can’t wait!

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Show Me Baby (Shadowlands #9)

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A Masters of the Shadowlands Novella

After his last lover chose her career over him, Jake knows he wants a woman who will put him at the top of her priorities—as he would with her. One of the trainees, Rainie, has caught his attention. Lush body, a gift for living life to the fullest, always laughing or smiling. Yeah. She trips all his switches. But she’s never given him a second look and that’s damned annoying.

Rainie has been burned enough times that she’s not going to get serious about any man. Sure, the BDSM club trainees are supposed to be looking for a permanent Dom, but no harm, no foul—they don’t need to know she lied. Trainees get to be involved in everything—and with everyone. But there’s one she avoids. Master Jake is always frowning at her. No matter how gorgeous he is, she doesn’t need any disapproving Dom up in her business.

Unfortunately, her best friends are having a double wedding. Little hearts are floating in the air. Every breath is filled with romance. Rainie is doomed.

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Show Me, Baby is supposed to be a novella but it is too long IMHO. I’d rate it more of a short novel which is great because I hate romantic novellas – they are too short for the love to unfurl and blossom.

Oh God, I’m waxing poetic.

Rainie is a BBW. I love that the author includes heroines who are a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Any woman reading these stories will be able to find someone who matches their body type.

Jake and Rainie have both been on the proximity of past Shadowlands stories for a while now, so I am glad that they are getting their stories told. I would also love to read about Uzuri, Anne, Saxon, Holt, Karl and Edward if anyone happens to have the author’s ear.

I reviewed the tenth book in the series, Servicing the Target, back when it was first released, so my next post will be skipping ahead to #11, Protecting His Own and then I will almost be caught up in this series!

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To Command and to Collar (Shadowlands #6)

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Working with the FBI to capture human traffickers, Master Raoul scores an invitation to a slave auction. To his surprise, one slave is the kidnapped friend of a Shadowlands submissive. Although Kim’s body is scarred, her spirit is unbroken, and he can’t leave her behind. Ruining the FBI’s plans, he buys her.

Kimberly’s freedom has come at a devastating price: the other women are still imprisoned. Desperate to help the Feds locate the traffickers, she agrees to pose as Master Raoul’s slave. Although wearing a collar again is terrifying, Kim starts to heal and then to blossom under the powerful Dominant’s care.

“Submission.” It’s what she’s been drawn to–and fled from–her entire life. She has escaped the slavers who captured her body. Escaping the Master who has captured her heart will be far more difficult.

—                         —                        —

To command and to collar is one of my favourite books in the Shadowlands series. Although I would never be interested in a fulltime master/submissive relationship as the leading couple engage in, I love Raoul’s character and personality and have a mighty book crush on that man. I also share a number of personality traits with Kimberly, including her need for clear cut rules and expectations.

Something constricted inside him—she feared his control yet wanted it. How deep did her need run? Light submission…or complete? “The only consistency in the relationship is this: the master decides.”

“But—” Her shoulders hunched defensively.

“That makes you anxious, gatita. Why?”

“I won’t know… I need to know what—”

Did she fear arbitrary punishment? “We’ll go over what I expect from you. The rules. I will never punish you for something you didn’t know or didn’t understand, Kimberly. That isn’t my way.”

Some of the worry faded from her eyes. But not all. Her gaze was focused on the floor.

He considered what he knew of her. Not nearly enough. “I need to know…” she’d said. Needed to know what to do? Some people—and a high percentage of submissives—wanted clear-cut rules. Preferred their duties laid out, liked schedules and lists.

Sinclair, Cherise. To Command and Collar (Masters of the Shadowlands Book 6) (Kindle Locations 1029-1036). VanScoy Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Ms. Sinclair did an AMAZING job taking the hero/ine through such a difficult emotional journey. There was never any point that I felt she was rushing Kim’s recovery to the point that it was unbelievable or “too easy”. Although the pace was pushed by the plot timeline – which was the point of this undercover mission after all – I felt like Raoul and Kim were able to work through a number of her issues and understand the limits of BDSM in healing emotional abuse. Raoul had to walk a tightrope of emotional pitfalls by topping her during recovery and he did an amazing job, proof that he is a top Master, worthy of his Shadowland’s designation.

The sexiness in To Command and to Collar starts slower than is typical for this author, and that is expected because of the subject matter. The relationship between Raoul and Kim has to build emotionally before they become physical. But once the sexy times become, they are hot! I especially loved the fire play scene (this is one kink I have to try) and was giggling over Raoul’s “pervertables”.

The only qualm that I had was at the end of the book. Raoul was deeply wounded by his ex-wife and is reluctant to trust Kim’s assertions that she is able to live a full-time Master/submissive relationship. Raoul knows from experience that he can accept nothing less in his wife, and pushes her away because of this.

I felt that Raoul exhibited SO MUCH patience with Kim throughout the majority of the book, during the worst periods of her recovery, but then was unable to risk his heart and allow her the additional time to try his lifestyle for real, without the pressures of being undercover in an FBI investigation. Maybe he was just burnt out at this point, but it felt a little out of character and cold. I wish that the author has addressed his reasons a little more deeply if this was the case.

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Lean on Me (Club Shadowlands #4)

 

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Andrea wants to submit, but not to just any so-called Dom. He has to be tougher than the slum-bred bullies she grew up with. She’d given up finding a true Dom when her friend finagles her a place as a trainee in an exclusive BDSM club with the powerful Shadowlands Masters. Andrea’s thrilled…and terrified.

Forced to accept an unknown submissive into his carefully run trainee program, Master Cullen is furious. Not only is the young woman new to BDSM, but she’s unsuited to her role–armoured in leather like a Domme, she’s more liable to punch a Dom than kneel. He decides to push her right back out the door. But as he ruthlessly intimidates her, punishes her, then cuddles her, his glimpses of the woman inside the emotional armour intrigue him and her utter surrender captures his heart.

Although Master Cullen is famous for his unfettered lifestyle, Andrea believes he might be interested in her, until she discovers he’s not just a bartender–he’s a cop. Maybe he’d overlook her past brush with the law, but when another trainee accuses her of stealing money, Andrea knows she’s lost the Master she wanted with all her heart.

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Lean on Me is the fourth book in the Club Shadowlands series that I love so much. This is the first full length book in the series, and I am SO SO SO thankful that the author has made this switch, even if we do have to wait longer for a new book now. I feel like the longer stories enable her to include more complex plot lines, and let the romance between the hero/heroine unfold more naturally, although it is still a romance with a typical compressed timeline for falling in love.

Another benefit to longer books is that there is space to update the reader on the previous couples we have fallen in love with 🙂

At first, Andrea comes off as a super tough, butch female, but she has some definite insecurities that bring out all of Cullen’s protective Dom instincts. I love romance novels where both the male and the female develop and work through issues, and this is one of those books where I felt like their needs and growth were balanced.

Andrea struggles to submit, to trust, to not react with aggressiveness. Cullen has a rather ingenious method for helping her learn to control her aggressive reactions by setting her up with the other Masters in the Shadowlands.

*minor spoiler ahead*

The only concern that I had with this book was how quickly Cullen wrote Andrea off after she fell off the ladder, due to her inability to lean on others and ask for help. I understand why this is such an emotional trigger for him but I felt like he didn’t give her enough time to work on overcoming this or explain well enough why it was such a big deal to him. Even though he was there for her that night, he was so remote and closed off the next day, all “relationship over, no discussion”,

Kudos to Andrea that she was able to overcome her fears and reach out to him from the auction block because I don’t think that I would have been able to at that moment if I was in her place!

As always, an excellent story by Ms. Sinclair and I am definitely starting the next one tonight (I don’t “need” to sleep before work in the morning).

Breaking Free (Shadowlands book #3)

The Shadowlands series should be read in order. The first book is called Club Shadowlands and the kindle version can be acquired for free from Amazon : )

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A sadistic husband left Beth scarred, inside and out. Only at the Shadowlands BDSM club does she feel like a woman. But her fears limit her to Doms who won’t overwhelm her–the very ones who cannot arouse her. The Master of the Shadowlands gives her an ultimatum: accept the Dom he assigns or lose her membership. The last thing Beth wants is a ruthless, powerful Dom, but that’s just what she gets.

Asked to take on a problem sub, Nolan sees the issue immediately–although truly submissive, the little redhead is too scared to relinquish control and her Doms have let her get away with it. That will change right now.

As Master Nolan takes Beth under command, compelling her submission, she’s terrified, but the experienced Dom brings her pleasure, not pain. His only demand is that she never lie to him. Under his capable hands, her body comes alive, and she begins to heal. As he pushes her limits, she learns to trust…and then to love. And she realizes he is beginning to care for her in return.

But now her cruel husband has found her, and Master Nolan discovers she’s been lying and lying and lying.

—                         —                         —

I love Master Nolan. He is my very favourite Dom so far, and that’s saying something because every Dom in the Shadowlands is hot, attentive and genuine!

Breaking Free is about Beth’s overcoming past abuse but I LOVE that this isn’t a simple hero-rescues-heroine story. Beth escaped her powerful and influential abusive husband before the book begins, going into a self-styled witness protection plan. She started and built up her own landscaping company to make a new life for herself – a far cry from the financially-privileged house wife role she played before.

Even more impressive, she joins a private BDSM club in this new life, trying to overcome the physical, emotional and sexual abuse to regain her control over intimacy and engage on an interpersonal level with another kinkster. Although this is something she is seriously struggling with, I am so thankful that the author didn’t paint Beth as a wilting flower, afraid to try again.

“She’s a good person. Honest, full of enthusiasm. But when she gets here, she turns into a mouse. She’s not just submissive; she’s terrified. She comes to the club because she requires more than the vanilla world can offer, but we’re not meeting those needs.”

Nolan studied the scene some more. Pretty obvious what the problem was. She was too scared to give up control, but she needed to give up control to get her needs as a submissive met.

“She wouldn’t be an easy sub to top.”

“Exactly.” Z tilted his head. “You up to the challenge?”

Sinclair, Cherise. Breaking Free (Masters of the Shadowlands Series Book 3) (p. 5). VanScoy Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Breaking Free is another short novel, like the first two in the Shadowlands series, but it is self-contained. I am super thankful that the author evolved into writing longer novels after this one, and also that she later wrote a novella that follows Nolan and Beth, updating up on their future life and relationship. I look forward to reviewing it soon!

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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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