Reviewed by Kini
Blurb: He needs to be a better man for her sake, but she makes him want to be so bad…
Keyne O’Connell leads a charmed life. She has a caring family and a terrific boyfriend. Her senior year is about to begin, and her future looks bright. But one dark summer night robs her of everyone she loves, thrusting her into the care of her boyfriend’s intimidating, much older brother.
Dark and brooding, Jasper Andersson is not a good man. His business dealings are barely legal. He’s a womanizer and a casual drug user. He has no interest in becoming Keyne’s guardian, although given her limited options, he doesn’t have much of a choice. He knows he must protect her at whatever the cost.
But living in close quarters soon stirs up feelings inside them both that are far from platonic. Keyne needs a firm hand to keep her in line, but what she desires could lead Jasper into trouble…
I have never read a guardian/ward story, the only book I’ve read that is even remotely similar is The Island by Tracey Garvis Graves. As a general rule, books that have an underage main character feel like they might be squicky and not my thing. But because I have learned that I should trust Tamsen Parker, I said I would read this. She definitely pushed some boundaries and I felt slightly uncomfortable at times, but I was not disappointed in the story.
Keyne, pronounced like Cain in case you were wondering, is seventeen when the story opens. She has just lost her parents, her longterm boyfriend and his parents as well in a boating accident. Jasper is 31 and grieving the loss of his family and godparents. He doesn’t want Keyne to be sent off with her aunt and uncle that she doesn’t know. He petitions to become her guardian. Jasper and Keyne were like family, no previous romantic or sexual feelings prior to the accident. Jasper’s determination for her to stay with him comes from a place of not wanting either of them to experience more loss.
Jasper is dark and intense and domineering. He has been in the kink scene for several years. He doesn’t set out to get involved with Keyne or to dominate her. The way Parker slowly builds on the dom and sub roles in the first half of the book was amazing to me. It really drew me into the story. With things like Jasper setting a bedtime for her and picking out her clothes to stave off decision fatigue, it set the stage for their D/s roles.
Nothing sexual happens between Keyne and Jasper until after she turns 18. There is definitely some tension between them leading up to that. The story is told from dual POV’s and he definitely starts to notice her as more than the much younger friend before she notices his dark handsomeness.
“She’d been so fucking gorgeous it had been all he could do to not drag her to her room and lock her in there until she was of an age he could reasonably and respectably have her way with her.”
The second half of the book really delves into their physical relationship. The sex is hot in this book. I would say the BDSM is in the middle of the spectrum. Because of their history and the nature of what brought them together, there are some intense scenes in this book.
Jasper behaved badly toward the end with how he treated Keyne and tried to take away and doubt her choices. It didn’t feel inauthentic, I just didn’t like it. Keyne’s time at college and the ending also felt a little rushed and perhaps could have been better told in a follow up novella. I liked Keyne fine, but I felt this was really Jasper’s story and how hard he fell for Keyne.
“Without trying, she’d made him a better man. He’d needed to be, to be worthy of her and the trust she put in him. That would be his goal for the rest of his life. To earn the love Keyne bestowed upon him so freely. He had to protect her from herself even in that. Something so precious and she’s hand it over to a man like him, no questions asked.”
Overall I really enjoyed this story. Parker continues to write things that might seem slightly questionable yet I read and enjoy them. The sex was hot. The emotions felt real. The few things I had minor issue with were not enough to not enjoy the story.