AUTHOR: EDEN BRADLEY
Details: Received from Black Lace
“Are you ready for the dark side of love…?
The moments when Ava Gregory feels her most beautiful and complete are when she is tied up and bound.
Then she meets Desmond Hale, a master in the ancient Japanese bondage art of Shibari. He takes her to the very edge of ecstasy. But having learned the beauty of surrender, dare Ava risk her heart?”
Before I start my review of the story in this book there are a few thoughts I want to get out of the way first; thoughts that are more about the way in which this book was published than the actual story.
For starters, according to the description on Amazon this book counts 320 pages. And, to be fair, it does. However the story itself is over on page 240. What follows is an interview with the author and previews of two other, yet to be published, titles by Eden Bradley.
And then there is what I referred to as “the story”. This is not so much one novel as a bundle containing two stories. The stories are connected, both through subject matter and characters that make appearances in both, but they are two different stories with two separate titles. And the blurb as shown above only refers to part one. In keeping with the way the book was published, I will review the two stories separately below, and conclude with a few comments on the whole book.
“Make it as much an inner journey as it is a physical experience, and you’ll reach the deepest levels Shibari can take you to.”
- Serving the Master: Desmond and Ava (128 pages)
Ava Gregory finds peace and fulfilment when she submits and is bound tightly. While her sessions with Marina have been exhilarating, they haven’t been able to bring her the peace and release she’s been longing for. Something is holding Ava back from completely surrendering to the experience, and Marina knows that she isn’t the person who will break those walls down.
“You might finally get what you’ve wanted, and that can be terrifying sometimes.”
When Marina introduces Ava to Desmond Hale, a Shibari Master, the connection between the two of them is instant. But while Ava has life-long issues with allowing herself to give in to what it is she needs, it is Desmond who can’t bring himself to commit to anyone.
“Maybe what was really bothering him was the dark suspicion that this girl was the one who could actually make him lose control for once in his life.”
And if there’s one thing Desmond fears it is losing control. If he isn’t in control he can’t keep those he loves safe. And if he can’t provide that safety, he can’t allow people to get too close to him.
While Ava finds everything she’s ever dreamt of in submitting to Desmond and his ropes, he grows more scared as his connection to Ava becomes ever stronger. In the end it will have to be the submissive who challenges her Dom to conquer his fears and face an uncertain but very promising future.
“You are stronger than I am, Ava, do you know that?”
- Soothing the Beast: Marina and James (105 pages)
James Cortez, a six feet plus, tattooed and dangerously handsome journalist is looking for:
“A way out of my own head, maybe.”
He needs to find a way to get a handle on the memories that haunt him; memories of the horrible scenes he has witnessed all over the world. He thinks, hopes that submitting to Marina and her ropes might take him there.
Marina Marchant is a Shibari specialist with very powerful reasons for not wanting to work with male subjects. Having lost the man she loved once she is not prepared to risk the pain again. She’ll stay in control of her life and her emotions even if that means ignoring the obvious chemistry between herself and the beautiful man asking for her help.
But, as Marina soon discovers, it is one thing to rationally know that staying away from James might save her from heartbreak in the future, it is quite another to actually ignore her feelings. Especially when it causes heartbreak in the here and now.
“Marina, there are no guarantees in life. I can’t say I won’t get hit by a truck tomorrow. But God damn it, how can you do this, manifest the loss you’re so afraid of? You’re making it happen. It’s not fair!” – James
And while James is battling darkness and numerous fears, he is smart enough to realise that the connection – love – he feels when he’s with Marina is not something he can or should walk away from.
“I never thought it could be this good, and this torturous. I never understood until I met you. Until I loved you. But I’m not stupid enough to turn away from it. To turn away from you. I can’t do it.” - James
Like I said, there are clear connections between these two novellas. It is Marina who introduces Ava to Desmond and it is Marina to whom Ava turns when she needs advice in the first story. Just as Marina turns to Desmond when she finds herself in need of someone who will listen.
“Don’t we tell submissives that they learn the most about themselves when they push their boundaries? And shouldn’t that apply to us as well?” – Desmond to Marina
And, here is another example of that continuity; two cases in which the Dom(me)s have to admit to their own weakness:
“You’re so much braver than I am.” – Marina to James
I really liked that these two stories showed that even in a D/s relationship it isn’t always the Dominant partner who has all the strength, all the power and all the wisdom. I loved the way it showed that having the need to control can be a handicap just as much as it can be a delight. Those who submit in these stories aren’t weak, just as those who dominate aren’t the stronger party in the relationship. There is a difference between the dynamic that plays out when one partner submits to the other and the feelings that such a dynamic might arouse. It was wonderful to see that so beautifully portrayed in these two stories.