We started the Subs Club to make the kink community safer for subs. Except now the others are so busy chasing their happy endings, it’s like they’ve forgotten what Bill did to Hal and the fact that he got away with it. They used to think I was betraying Hal’s memory by hooking up with the owners of the club where he died. Now they don’t seem to care about any of it anymore.
Maybe I am sometimes angry with GK and Kel for giving Bill a second chance, but they’ve been mentoring me for a year now, and whatever else they’ve done, they make me feel incredibly safe. So I want to try something: I want to offer them my complete submission, 24/7. To serve the people who forgave Bill. That’s the way I want to hurt.
Except I’m starting to care about them in a way I never meant to—and I think they feel the same way. But after Hal, I don’t know if I want to be in love again. Because what I really need, more than anything, is to see Bill brought to justice. Even if I have to do it myself. Even if it means losing GK and Kel.
Contemporary, BDSM erotica, M/F/M
283 e-book pages
The Subs Club, book 4
June 4-6, 2016
Ratings are 1 to 5 stars and based mostly on GoodReads standards.
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For the most part, this series has been a lot of fun. I’ve looked forward to every book with anticipatory glee. Not all of them have been super-faves, but they’ve definitely entertained in their own ways.
This last is Gould’s story and is the heaviest of all the books in the series. He’s the most shattered over the tragic death their friend, and his ex, Hal. He’s turned to some unlikely folks in an attempt to move forward and lessen the pain by embarking on a three-way submissive relationship with Greg and Kel.
Greg and Kel are a straight, kinky married couple who own the BDSM club where Hal died. For kinky reasons, they took Gould on as a third — Kel being dominant, Greg her submissive husband, Gould submissive to them both.
Gould isn’t quite sure of exactly what he wants, just knows that everything about this is right for him. After a year of playing with them on weekends, he comes to realize he wants more — a 24/7 Master/slave immersion into service and submission. He feels he gets the most out of submission through humiliation that edges on absolute cruelty and degradation of epic mind-fuck proportions.
This is…not so much romance. I never got the feeling that this was a full and loving polyamorous triad where all three were stronger together. They’re each getting something emotionally and sexually satisfying out of this. But, for me, it never felt completely whole — or that it would last forever. Instead, it felt like they’d all continue to play their kinky games for as long as it worked. And that’s…okay, I guess.
They do all seem to love each other. But it feels far more like the love of friends with kinky benefits than an all-consuming soul-deep romantic love. So, for that, I was left wanting so much more for Gould.
Gould’s grief runs deep. Deeper, I think, than any of his friends understand. In the years since Hal’s death, they’ve all moved on; their hearts have mostly mended, their anger is mostly gone, they’ve found love and relationships. Everything is changing in this group of pals as time marches on. Gould doesn’t quite get how this is all happening, but he longs for the same sort of salvation from his guilt and heartache.
While I appreciated some of the discussions and introspections of deeper subjects that arose — religion, bisexuality and bi-erasure, weight, just to name a few — I missed the humor that was so much a part of the other books. Well, two of the other books. This was just heavier all around and way lighter on the sexy times…just as well because of the overwhelming, crushing grief. Humor didn’t have much of a place here.
As for the kink factor of humiliation and degradation, I had a really hard time going there and understanding what Gould got from this. He wanted it, craved it, needed it on some level, and Kel was able to give that to him. While I can sincerely say: to each their own, this was not a kink I could identify with at all. I can’t wrap my head around what positives or strength a person can find in being broken down on a psychological or emotional level so completely that is not ultimately damaging. Believe me, I wanted to understand and had high hopes that Gould’s insights would get me there.
The other books in the series were gay pairings. This, not so much. Gould is bisexual, Greg identifies as straight, even though he is attracted to Gould and doesn’t balk (much) at this attraction to just one other man. Kel, well…she’s open but pretty straight leaning, a highly dominant woman to two men. So for those who don’t want girly parts in their M/M books…just know this isn’t an M/M book, but very much M/F/M with a little M/M action and a little pegging.
One great thing I’ll say is that this series has put a light on some kinks that don’t often find their way into the mainstream BDSM Erotica. There’s way more than flogging, nipple clamps, and spreader bars. Some of it is uncomfortable, and some sounds downright painful and scary as fuck. But, I’ve appreciated the experience and am grateful to J.A. Rock for taking a big step out of the typical BDSM toybox.
I’m grappling with why I can’t give this all the stars. It boils down to the overall arc of the series being a roller coaster that gave me whiplash instead of a wild ride-o-thrills.
The first book of this series set a very specific tone for me, and I thought I had a good idea of what to expect in subsequent books. I don’t recommend reading the series out of order because of the need for background information that’s fed in breadcrumbs throughout. But, each book is vastly different with varying levels of humor, angst, seriousness, kink, and emotional depth. The only the common threads are friendship, grief, and BDSM. Ultimately, the vast differences in personalities and perspectives ended up being a bit of a let-down from the absolute high and humor of the first book.
This review also posted on GoodReads.