So there are two intertwined stories here, of the two friends. Both have aspects of D/s. The Leah and Brandon story is F/m, the Kate and Dix story is M/f. I found from Megan Hart's website that she wrote the story of Leah and Brandon. That makes sense to me, as I've liked Megan Hart's books before. There's also a note that originally, it was going to be two novellas. That also makes sense, because that's how it reads - like I got two novellas for the price of one book - and I didn't like one of them. Whenever I'm really getting into Leah and Brandon's story, it stops and resumes with the other couple. (That's always the problem with those 2 for 1, or 2 in 1 book deals isn't it? One is good, the second is rubbish.)
So, Leah and Brandon's story. Leah has just split up with her boyfriend - that morning in fact. She's fed up with being his submissive slave and an early morning blow job demand was just one thing too much. Brandon is the bar manager and comes over to see Leah and Kate when they're having a drink. When Brandon begins to just do what Leah demands, no questions or hesitations, it wakes something up in her that she had forgotten. She wants to be in control and Brandon allows her to take control. Neither of them have ever been in a F/m power dynamic. They gradually realize that what they want is each other and a D/s dynamic, with Leah in control. Brandon's submission is just sublime. Leah grows into her desires in a realistic way, with conflicts, doubts, confidence and so much hotness. I can feel Leah's buzz as she tells Brandon to get to his knees and lick her out, and he does it.
There is also a very sweet aspect to the story that Brandon's knees are bad from an old football injury, how they work around it, and how it comes to symbolize that you can have power over someone and still care about them. Leah works around his injury without compromising and it makes the whole thing more real and more tender. The whole thing is just magic, with a great balance of tacit communication and pillow talk that isn't stupid or cliched. And the belt scene, ohh......
As for the other story, Kate and Dix have been working together and what started off as emails and flirting has turned into fucking occasionally. They're both ready to take it further and the story details how they figure it out, around his possessive ex wife and her need to be seen as not screwing her way to the top.
My problem with this half of the book is Dix. His name is just too appropriate. He's arrogant, inconsiderate and oblivious. He belittles Kate, bosses her around, persuades her into a compromising situation and hasn't noticed that his secretary is a corporate spy and potential bunny boiler. I don't like him, I think he's a dick. Singular. It doesn't help that he's a stereotypical alpha male: dominant, bossy arrogant, a high flyer. I'm sure I can think of some more cliched adjectives. Suffice to say, if you like Harlequin Presents arrogant tycoon male characters, you'll like Dix. (I don't need to say that I loathe Harlequin Presents do I? No. I thought not.)
The Kate/Dix story also suffers from some inconsistencies in character portrayal. Dix says to his ex wife:
"Beautiful, intelligent, you run a successful business, there are many men who would love to snap you up."This is the same woman who, we are told constantly, couldn't open a jar of pickles and phoned her ex-husband to come and do it for her. I'm sorry, but there is no consistency of character there at all, she's just a plot puppet to create conflict between Kate and Dix. There are no women who run successful businesses who can't figure out on their own (or maybe with google's help) how to open a stubborn jar of pickles. It also irritates me that since running your own business is the sort of romance 'gold standard' for being an independent woman (who knows why), by comparison Kate and Leah seem like corporate bitches. It also makes Dix look like an idiot too. In seven years he hasn't figured out that his ex wife who runs a consulting business (not a flower shop or something fluffy, oh no, a consultancy) could probably change her own car wiper blades and arrange her own house repairs.
So I have a difficulty. I LOVE the half of the story about Leah and Brandon. It's all kinds of good, and if it were just that, this would be an A book. But I got more and more bored and irritated with Kate and Dix. Especially Dix. I must add to be fair, if you like a romance dynamic of a domineering man and a heroine who stands up for herself (mostly) then you probably won't mind Kate and Dix. I just seem to have a very low threshold for putting up with dominant male characters at the moment.
Overall, I did enjoy it. I thought the two author's voices worked well together, and though you could clearly see the delineations of each author, it was very readable. Kate and Leah are both good, strong female characters, the kind of women you'd want to have as friends (I wish I'd had a friend like that when I was young and tied up a guy with her. So hot.). Brandon is great character too, realizing his submissiveness whilst being a competent and confident guy as well. It's definitely worth a read if you can manage not to be irritated by