Reviewed by Tori
When Amery Hardwick enrolls in a self defense class at a local dojo with her friend Molly, she finds herself under the heavy perusal of of the owner. Amery, a small town girl, is soon caught under his spell of sexual delights as he gently but firmly strips her defenses to unveil the sensuous woman he suspects lurks within her.
Ronin Black, the sensei and owner of the Black Arts dojo, wants to possess Amery in every manner and form. An intense contained man, he holds his emotions close to his vest. His time spent with Amery only intensifies his need to possess her. As their relationship grows beyond a sexual nature, Ronin’s secretive nature begins to chafe at Amery. Secrets she needs to uncover if she is ever able to give him the complete trust he demands.
When I was given this for review, I was thrilled. I am a huge fan of Ms. James’s Rough Riders and Blacktop Cowboy series and though I knew this would be different, I was looking forward to reading. Lorelei James has a distinct and addictive voice for erotic contemporary romance. Her stories are a wonderfully crafted balance of plot and romance. Each couple she brings before you is a delight in contradictions and complications; tempered with humor, wild sexual temperament, and an innate dominance that hooks even the most jaded of readers.
Bound is definitely a different path for James. Though still in the erotic genre, its storyline and characters are quieter and more subdued than James’ normal offerings. Subtle with textured nuance and subcontext, there is much going on under the actual words. It is unusual to see a couple whose issues aren’t immediately presented. Its only as the story reveals that we learn Amery grew up in a fundamental Christian home. Taught that desire in any form is an affront to God and punished most harshly for her supposed transgressions, Amery’s sexuality is buried deep inside her. This is not to say she is a pushover because she’s not. She owns her own business and is quite vocal in her likes and dislikes. But I couldn’t help but feel her easy submersion into submission was more by product of her upbringing and need to please than a true need to let go.
Ronin remained an enigma throughout as this is from Amery’s point of view so all our information is gleaned from her thoughts and opinions. We learn he is half Japanese and is a former MMA style fighter. He owns a dojo, is most assuredly dominant, and likes rope play. He pushes, in my opinion, for Amery to trust him and like her, I was cautious. He has secrets and goes to great lengths to avoid directly answering Amery about his life. I could empathize with Amery here. How can you give complete trust to someone can’t or won’t reciprocate?
The story moves fast and smooth with a heavy hand on the romance. There is character development though I felt we didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of Amery and Ronin’s psyche. The dialogue is stilted at times; especially with Ronin’s monochromatic replies. The BDSM is contained to the art of Japanese rope play and light bondage. No real D/s exploration or power exchanges though I was dismayed by the lack of information from Ronin to Amery concerning his obviously lifestyle and needs relationship wise. Indulging in wax play on the third date, out of the blue, doesn’t cut it. Informed consent should always be practiced.
Intriguing scenes and an interesting look into dojos and martial arts held my interest. Amery and Ronin explore their sexual compatibility through a series of interactions and intimate endeavors that push Amery’s boundaries. I was never truly convinced Ronin felt anything beyond sexual attraction to Amery, though. It’s as if she is the perfect medium for his art but he doesn’t see the person beneath. The chemistry is hot and their love making scenes are incredibly written but it was a matter of seeing all the right moves and hearing all the right words but never feeling the connection. When Ronin would shut Amery down as she struggles to break through his shields, I didn’t get angry at him. I didn’t get indignant for her. I just shrugged it off and kept reading.
Certain aspects of their personalities also felt off. Both were guilty of assuming things, flouncing off in a huff, then apologizing and falling into bed. Ronin especially with his anger issues that when combined with his sexual proclivities, made me wary. They were both juvenile at times. There was one scene where Ronin shows Amery his playroom and her first thought is he is going to kill her due to the ceremonial knives on his wall. He accuses her of not trusting him but I found that telling in her perceptions of him. That goes beyond lack of trust. I also had issues with him placing her blindfolded and tied up in the room then disappearing; giving her the impression she was alone. That is not how you introduce someone to your lifestyle for the first time and definitely not how you garner trust.
A defined cast of secondary characters entertained but no one stood out as invaluable. They were plot devices. Used to expand and elevate certain scenes and our main character’s emotions. Amery’s bff’s were almost caricatures in their “mean girl” approach to Amery and her new romance. Though Ronin is close to some people in his life, we are made crystal clear that Ronin has no true friends which serves to remind us of his secrets and emotional shields.
The plot elements were predictable in setup and push the issues that circle our couple to a head. An ex girlfriend, jealous friends, and a demanding family all come into play to push Amery and Ronin into directions that could tear them apart. The ending, dramatic and a wee contrived, leaves readers wondering where Amery and Ronin can go from here. Luckily readers won’t have to wait long as book two, Unwound, releases March 25, 2014. Unwound will be presented in Ronin’s POV. I do believe this is duology though I could be wrong.
Though I wasn’t blown away by this one, I much prefer her dirty, loud, adorably rambunctious cowboys, it held my interest overall and I am curious to see how Ronin and Amery will address all the elephants in the room. I will be reading and reviewing book two-Unwound.