Okay, first impression? I feel like I got whiplash from those first few chapters, not gonna lie. Everything started so quick. There were no slow introductions like there usually are in New Adult novels. It’s all straight up action (not that kind of action) (okay maybe a little bit of that action) from the very first page and it grips you til the very end.
The main reasons why I loved this book more than others of its genre:
- The characters had so much raw chemistry it gave me chills. Shep and Claudia have this incredible banter that makes you laugh and also appreciate them as characters. They’re also incredibly romantic with each other in a healthy way. Their relationship is built on communication, consent and trust and I respect that.
- THE SMUT. Listen, I’m kind of a smut connoisseur of sorts and I know good smut when I see it and this? This is straight up filth and I love it. Everything was straight to the point (without blurring the lines of consent); there’s also no dolling up the descriptions with a bunch of adjectives; it’s just pure explicit sex. Safe sex too! I was so happy to see that play out as well, even within the whole BDSM lifestyle. Still, while it is very graphic, you can tell there’s a connection between these characters. Also, n0 slutshaming amongst them. I’m always down for sex-positive stories!
- The healthy portrayal of a BDSM deal! I’m so tired of seeing problematic and borderline non consensual “BDSM” erotica out there. This book explains the proper terminology and etiquette pretty well and we see that CONSENT is the base of a good Dom/Sub relationship.
- A black heroine! FINALLY! I don’t want to generalize but there is A LOT of Romance books out there and most of them (the popular ones at least) only feature white couples. I was pleasantly surprised to see an interracial relationship in this book without it being the explicit fetishization of black women. Claudia is fierce, her comebacks are epic and I loved getting inside her head. She is a breath of fresh air, honestly. I can see why Shep is so smitten LOL.
- I really felt like I was on a trip while reading this novel. It made my heart swell, made me giggle like a schoolgirl; I even teared up at times. It was just a pleasant read overall which is what I look for when I read Romance.
I don’t know if we’ll ever know what happens after (I really hope there’s a novella coming up because I can’t wait to see more of these two) but Rebekah Weatherspoon has officially made it to my list of auto-buy authors.
Haven absolutely ruined my life. So I’m here to ruin yours.
It starts off really intense and traumatic for our protagonists (trigger warnings apply, I’ll list them at the end of this review). This book uses the “trauma brings them together” trope but there’s actually a healthy and non-dependent relationship between the MCs. One of the things I liked the most about this is that yes, they met because of the incident, but they didn’t fall in love because of it.
This is told in alternating points of view from our protagonists: Claudia, and Shep. First of all I’ve got to say how authentic their voices were. I was never confused as to which protagonist was narrating because their voices were very distinct. I easily fell in love with both of them because of the honesty with which they were written. Claudia was unapologetic and badass and strong, but she was also sensitive and with a lot of emotional baggage. Shep at first glance could seem intimidating and scary, but he was the absolute sweetest person. Both of these characters are more than just your average mediocre cardboard stereotype, and the author really developed them incredibly.
“Then let’s make one more deal. Tonight you hold me and then tomorrow, after I’ve gotten some sleep and a chance to stretch, you dominate me.”
Of course, what really makes this book is the romance. WHAT A ROMANCE IT IS. Shep and Claudia are brought together by trauma/tragedy, but they find solace in each other because they’re the ones who really understand what happened. Shep introduces Claudia to a dom/sub relationship, and together they explore that. I LOVED this aspect, because many times BDSM relationships are borderline abusive, but in this book everything is about consent and discussion. Shep is a dom in the bedroom, but he’s always very respectful of Claudia and her boundaries. Outside of the bedroom (and sometimes inside, heh), they banter and bicker with each other as if they were a married couple. We get so many domestic scenes between Claudia and Shep! They watch Netflix together, go on walks, talk with each other, walk the dog, etc. I LOVED these two doing whatever together. Having sex or not, they had amazing personalities and you could see the chemistry between them.
“I want to earn your trust. I want you to know that I will never hurt you. As rough as we get, I will always take care of you.”
The relationship between these two is what skyrocketed this book to one of my favorites reads of the year. It was a healthy BDSM relationship that had no illusions of “curing” or “fixing” anyone’s issues. They just both tried their best to be there for each other, but without overt romantization of the situation that brought them together.
In terms of diversity, Claudia is a black woman (Caribbean from Grenada) who isn’t fetishized by her love interest. This is an interracial romance, and I’ll have you know there were no silly food comparisons to describe skin colors. Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised by the incredible rep since the author herself is black. Claudia has an incredible job, and is in a pretty big position of power. I liked that she wasn’t portrayed as this frigid career obsessed caricature we see of professional women in media sometimes.
While this book draws you in because of the smut, the spectacular and emotional writing keeps you hooked. The characterization is incredible, the smut is to die for, and the romance is SO wholesome. I LOVE this book and I feel like you would, too. I really hope we get to see more of Shep and Claudia later on; I can’t imagine letting go of these characters any time soon.
Trigger/Content Warnings: (open spoiler to view) [spoiler]Blood. Guns. Corpses. Gore. Panic attacks. Graphic sex. Ableist language (multiple uses of cr*zy) [/spoiler]