Published: November 5, 2013, Sourcebooks Casablanca
My rating: 5 of 5 ⭐️
It's been fifteen years since Claire Ryan has engaged socially without her ex-husband by her side. A year since he finally gave up on her. A year she spent mostly shielded from the world, only accompanied by her one trusted companion, her dog Chester. Scared as she is, Claire is ready to start living again. She is thirty-five years old and without direction, without fulfillment. Having spent most of the past year reading, a book club seemed like the least threatening way to venture out among people again, without exposing herself too much.
'Bibliophile' was a dream Evan Lang realized after his years in the military. A comfortable and somewhat eclectic bookstore, where one could quietly browse through the shelves, sit in a comfortable chair and read or join in one of the book clubs hosted there. Evan's life is content. After losing his wife years ago he doesn't expect anything more, since he hasn't stopped loving her. So when a small fragile woman walks into his store and suddenly stirs up his long dormant Dominant instincts, Evan is not pleased with the disruption.
Oblivious to Evan's response to her proximity, Claire is greeted by a very handsome but surly man, who seems to have focused his foul temper on her. Almost enough to make her turn tail and not return to the book club. But the store holds some interesting books Claire would like a closer look at. Erotic books about BDSM that have her body responding in a way a she is not used to. In a way she has always craved. And when she imagines herself in such scenarios, it is the grumpy Evan she sees dominating her.
Evan has observed Claire's response to the book on BDSM and it confirms his suspicion that she likely is submissive. He is concerned however, for her to start experimenting on her own and decides to try and 'guide' her education. At first he does this by leaving appropriate books for her to find around the store, but eventually it becomes too difficult to keep his distance and he reluctantly offers to train her as a submissive. He makes it very clear that there will be no emotional relationship, nor will there be intercourse.
Claire, already half in love with Evan, despite his attitude toward him, trusts him and is excited to be shown down this path. On the other hand, Evan is barely holding on to his control, with his body threatening to betray his heart at every step. With every liberating step Claire takes on this new path, Evan loses the ability to resist.
Oh wow......... This book gave me a real buzz.
Not just because of the incredibly sensual writing, but because of the self-discovery taking place. Whenever I read books about characters stuck somewhere in their life, for whatever reason; be it pain, grief, fear or complacency, and then I see them struggle their way out of their immobility and start searching and finding, it motivates me. In the past two days I have read two books that have been a kick in the pants for me, and this is one of them.
Claire deals with a childhood that was filled with denigration and verbal cruelty, leaving her feeling unworthy and causing her to lower herself to the standards imposed by others. This leaves her filled with self-loathing for what she has allowed herself to become and the damage she has inflicted on the way. So uncomfortable with and untrusting of her value, she is in a constant battle to hide inner self, only able to release that part of her when pain and/or pleasure strip all of her defenses away leaving her exposed and open.
Evan has shut himself down emotionally after his wife passed away. As a Dominant it was against his very grain to sit by and watch his wife wither away at the hands of cancer, unable to keep her safe, rendering him impotent in his role as her Dom. Symbolically, in the years since her death, although physically able, he has mentally shut down his dominant and sexual instincts to a point where his body no longer had natural sexual urges. In his mind, he was not over the love he felt for his wife, when in fact he had never dealt with the failure he personally felt at her passing.
A beautiful emotionally complex story, which challenges you to broaden your mind. Encourages you to think about the deep emotional implications a Dominant/submissive interaction or relationship might have. What one might see as the total giving up of control, might actually be the grabbing of the ultimate freedom to think, say, feel and be who you really are, knowing that sharing all of you will only be treasured, not judged. Pretty heady stuff, when you think about it. Powerful.
I'm a sucker for stories of people who fight to live instead of be satisfied with existing. AWAKENING gave me two such heroes.
✨Haunting, erotic, compelling and fiercely provocative!✨
**ARC courtesy of NetGalley and Sourcebooks Casablanca in return for an honest review.**