Wednesday, August 21, 2019

#TBRChallenge 2019: Bound To You
The Book: Bound to You by Shawntelle Madison

The Particulars: Contemporary romance, first in series, 2016, In Print, Self-published reprint, originally published by Loveswept (check your digital TBRs folks!)

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: I have an autographed copy I picked up at RWA 2018.  I cannot recall specifics, but I think I may have purchased this at the Literacy Signing.

The Review: Books like this one depress me. Look, part of this is Wendy being Wendy.  There are BDSM themes in this book and anyone who has been reading this blog for any stretch of time will know that I was over BDSM by the time That Trilogy got a hold of the public consciousness.  So some of this on me.  But the rest of it?  There are bones of a good story here, one I think I would have really enjoyed - but the execution, what was focused on and what was not?  Oh, what might have been...

Sophie Ashton lives in Boston and is a personal concierge.  She's used to dealing with demanding clients who have more money than good sense. Her latest client is Xavier Quinn, a tech start-up hotshot visiting from the west coast.  He's trying to land a deal with a Japanese firm, and getting rebuffed as an "upstart" at every turn. His fish is currently in Boston, so Xavier makes the trip to hopefully get a sit-down and close the deal.  And for that he needs Sophie.  The problem?  They're both attracted to each other.  Xavier is cognizant of that fact that Sophie is his employee (even if only temporarily) and Sophie has been burned before by mixing business with pleasure - a relationship that ended poorly and that she's still not quite over.

So where does the BDSM fit in? Well, Sophie is "kinky" and a sub. Xavier is "kinky" and a Dom.  And naturally Sophie has a BFF and roommates all with various leanings - because, of course.  As far as how heavy the BDSM is?  It's pretty light.  Sophie is still wearing the leather cuffs given to her by her former lover and likes to be tied up in bed, given orders etc.  That's about the extent of it - and that's probably what my problem was.  It didn't always feel organic.  Like it was tossed in for "kinky flavor" but not really delved into too deeply as part of the character development.  Where it was interesting was in relation to Sophie's and Xavier's past relationships but the author only gives us teasing glances which added to my frustration.

Given the way the relationship ended, and WHY it ended, a "showdown" with Sophie's ex is inevitable.  When it arrives on the page?  It's a couple of pages.  That's it.  Oh, Sophie's part in it is great - she pretty much verbally slaps the guy into next Tuesday, but it could have been so much more.  And Xavier's ex?  She got ill and died.  It's teased that Xavier is still haunted by her death but the extent of that revelation was epic disappointment.
I was one of the richest men in the world, yet I couldn't even save a woman who didn't love me as deeply as I loved her.
THAT'S IT?!?!?!  You drop a bomb like that and don't go into any past history of why Xavier felt like his ex didn't love him as deeply as he loved her?  HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO PROCESS THIS?!  And this isn't the only way Xavier's character gets short-changed.  He has a strained relationship with his family.  He was once the golden child, something happened, now he's no longer the golden child.  The author dashes of an explanation at the end, but it's weak sauce and not delved into very much at all (an injury ended his athletic career which was apparently a big deal to his mother? I guess? Why? Who knows!).  Xavier's family doesn't come into play until the last couple of chapters and frankly that dynamic was just screwy and interesting enough that I felt like the author ended up short-changing it by not spending more time developing that angle.

Look, I get that the author was aiming to create a world and that a lot of romance readers get frustrated when the hero and/or heroine lack friendships.  But those friendships shouldn't come at the expense of the meat and potatoes of the romance. You know...the thing we're all reading romance novels for. Just when I thought I was going to get a deeper dive into the characters, their pasts, their complicated relationships with family and exes, the author veers left and skates around the edge of it.  It ends up being fairly surface and teases of so much more that never really pays off.  At only 263 pages (I read a print copy), I alternated between wanting a red pen to cut out filler or wishing this was beefed up to 300+ pages to flesh everything out.

Which makes it sound like I didn't like this book.  I did like it, but I could have loved it and that's my issue.  I was all geared up for some emotional heavy lifting and it just didn't bear fruit.  Oh well.

Final Grade = B-

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