AUTHOR: Fallon Blake
PUBLISHER: Ellora’s Cave
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 29k)
GENRE: Contemporary BDSM erotic romance
Plus-sized fetish model Indie Hartley doesn’t look like the rest of the girls for her latest assignment as a living platter for a sushi dinner, but that doesn’t seem to bother Chef Banner Faust. In fact, he seems to really love her curves and distinctive look, enough to surprise her with an offer of three days as his submissive. With no strings attached, it seems like the perfect way for Indie to finally satisfy her curiosity…
This is actually one of the few times I bought a book for its cover. The woman as Indie (which, by the way, is a pretty good representation of what she’s supposed to look like) reminds me of a couple friends, and I was eager to see how a plus-sized heroine with tats, attitude, and unusual looks would fare in an erotic romance. The answer is not too bad.
Indie (short for Indigo) gets a last minute gig as a living platter for a special sushi dinner being thrown by top chef Banner Faust. With her tattoos and blue-streaked hair, not to mention that she’s not the size two all the other girls are, she doesn’t fit the usual profile, but as she’s being hustled off to make-up to airbrush away her tats, she runs into the chef himself, who insists she be left as she is. Not only that, he wants her as his centerpiece, and so she is put on display right where he is working. The two have a brief exchange which ends with Banner making an offer for Indie to think about over the night – the next three days with him as his submissive. He’s been without for a long time, and Indie pushes all of his buttons. She, in turn, has always been curious about the lifestyle but never acted on it. Getting to learn something with a guy she admires – she’s going to culinary school, too – as well as wants seems like a win/win situation. So she arrives right on time the next morning to begin three days of bliss.
Though I can’t say that everything about this novella worked for me, it does have some shining features. Without a shadow of a doubt, the single best part of it is the careful and loving detail given to all the culinary aspects. Since it starts out immediately in a food setting, it provides a strong anchor for the rest of it to build on, with specific details to convince me of the world these characters live in (not to mention really sparking some serious sushi cravings). Some of this attention to detail extends to the BDSM scenes as well, specifically the figging scene the two undergo the first day they’re together. While I have a hard time accepting two veritable strangers undergoing such an act so quickly, it was written with a keen eye for realism (like the freezing of the ginger prior to using it).
Indie is another joy in this. It’s exciting to read about heroines who don’t fit the usual stereotype, and Indie breaks a lot of those molds. She’s got a Dita Von Teese flair to her style, though not nearly as sultry kitten in temperament. Indie uses her clothes, make-up, and tattoos to hide behind, a fact Banner picks up on almost right away. I liked her a lot, though I found her a little too quick to trust Banner and not always as non-bratty as she claimed to be. Still, she was strong-willed and resourceful, while still being submissive for him, and lends the story more verisimilitude as a result.
Where the story doesn’t work as well for me rests in two distinct areas. First, I didn’t fall for Banner. He was charming enough on the outside, but the man I met at the beginning of the story often disappeared throughout. He’s not into dominating through rules but rather through emotional control, and ends up coming across more than once as domineering rather than dominant. It’s a fine line, especially when a character is professed to be so otherwise tender and caring. His quickness to fall for Indie, too, suggests a more obsessive personality than I think the author intends. He makes the three-day offer specifically because he’s afraid of scaring her off by asking for more. For a man who has been out of the scene as long as he is, consumed by his work (even when it’s not as satisfying as he wanted it to be), it never felt realistic or organic that he would be so willing to fall head over heels for her so fast. And figging less than twenty-four hours after meeting a girl who has never been in the scene before? I don’t think so. He has no idea what kind of boundaries or barriers she might have. He’s still learning about her. In my opinion, it’s too soon, especially since they hadn’t really talked about what was going to happen in their time together by that point.
My other disappointment was in the BDSM aspect itself. Considering the daring personalities of both protagonists, I expected something explosive in their coming together. There’s hints of it early on, but too quickly, it boils down into what I consider more BDSM-lite. It’s all so very tasteful. Mannered, even. I never felt it combust, which is what really well written BDSM does. I do wonder if this stems from my failure to appreciate Banner as the romantic hero. Without falling for him, it’s too easy to become more aware and critical of other aspects. In the end, though, the result is the same. I didn’t react to the erotic portions of the story nearly as strongly as I’m sure the author intended.
At this point, I wouldn’t actively seek out more work by this author, but on the other hand, because of her clear research and love of unconventional heroines, I won’t dismiss it, either. Perhaps I won’t have the same difficulties with her next romantic hero.
7/10 – A quick read, its biggest strength is its love of the food
5/10 – I didn’t buy the quick development of his feelings, and he often crosses the line between dominant and too bossy
7/10 – Very real, a welcome break from the stereotypical heroine
6/10 – I kept expecting more from the BDSM scenes, and my mistrust of Banner didn’t help
8/10 – The food scenes sparkled with authenticity, and I was pleased to see the same care taken with the figging scene