Reviewed by Tori
Alexandra (Alex) Ryan is a woman with many secrets. By day, Alex is a hard working Acquisitions Manager for a large corporation. At night though, Alex becomes Ms. June, a dominatrix whose clients pay her top dollar for her services. Services that she herself needs in order to push back the darkness that rages inside her.
Cade Brannon is a jack of all trades and whose services are very much in demand with the Dallas Underworld. When his business intersects with June’s, he is intrigued and wants to know everything about her. He soon bullies his way into her life and begins to tear down her barriers when he learns her demons are being exploited by her so called best friend who’s also the local drug czar.
Alex is drawn to Cade and the safety he represents. She is ready to lay June to rest but there are people out there who want June to stay in business and will do whatever it takes to keep her in line.
Killing June wasn’t at all like I expected though I’m not complaining. This author’s debut dark romance is far more nuanced and layered than I suspected; highlighted by a cast of intriguing and flawed characters who live in the gray area between right and wrong. More than just a BDSM themed erotic romance; it is a journey of one woman’s self-discovery as she learns about forgiveness, salvation, and redemption. Bridges does address some heavy and dark subject matter so some readers may want to proceed with caution.
Heavily character driven, the arc itself is interesting-one woman with two distinct and opposite lifestyles must find away out- but the characters are the stars in here, even when it doesn’t serve the storyline best. Bridges set the stage as we are immediately introduced to the main players and we get a hint at what’s to come. Intriguing narrative popped me easily right into the story as a strong forceful voice and smooth pacing kept me hooked. Even though Bridges switches between Alex and June regularity, the transference is very smooth and organic.
Alex/June isn’t the victim of a split personality but rather the shame of enjoying pain with sex. Having discovered this as a teenager, Alex and her best friend Robert explored various kink clubs in their search for gratification. A series of assaults in Alex’s past fractures Alex, blurring the lines between consent and force and forcing Alex, in her mind, to create June. Alex uses June as a tool to deliver and receive punishment. She also uses her as a bargaining chip. Robert helps Alex find clients and takes a cut in exchange for helping her locate someone from her past. As time passes, Alex struggles to keep herself and June separate. Especially when she has victimized again and learns that Robert hasn’t been honest with her.
Bridges does well in her development of Alex and June and highlighting their contrasts and similarities. The psychology behind it all is fascinating. Alex is an intelligent, well liked business woman with two loving parents whom she goes to church with once a month. In contrast, Ms. June is a mysterious dominatrix who offers her clients the pain and pleasure of the whip for a steep price and her own gratification. Their contrasts seem extreme until you get to know them. The crossovers in their personalities slowly emerge and we see how much Alex’s past reflects on the decisions June makes.
Cade and Robert are both interesting characters though not as dark as the blurb leads you to believe. Both are deep into the criminal underground. Robert is the local drug czar and loan shark while Cade is a freelance enforcer. We meet them both in violence. Cade bursts in on June during a session as he has been paid to collect her client for an overdue debt. We soon learn Robert set it all up when June goes to confront him. Cade, though styled as an anti-hero, isn’t really a bad person though he is extremely comfortable in his lifestyle. He sees the maelstrom surrounding Alex and does everything he can to try and help her, even when he discovers the extent of her issues and learns the hard way you can’t force someone to change. Robert, in contrast, comes off somewhat sad and pathetic. You don’t doubt he loves Alex but his love has become corrupted and he has been controlling her through June. He’s like a little kid who has it all but is always unhappy.
Sexually, Alex and Cade are as explosive as unstable dynamite. Their chemistry is off the charts and Bridges makes sure to explore that chemistry while slowly developing their romance. Cade tries so hard to be what Alex needs and is more than able to satisfy her both physically and emotionally though he pushes her constantly in an effort to help her heal. I love that the BDSM is not made a flaw and interweaves with the romance flawlessly. It is an essential part of Alex’s sexuality and while her methods are suspect, her being a masochist is not.
The drama and suspense all boil together softly, increasing its roll till we reach the end and its climactic finale. I did feel it took way too long to get to the cusp of Alex’s issues. I knew what it was right off the bat. Also, Alex’s blackmail problem was more an annoyance and she could have nipped that in the bud from the onset. The longevity of the conflicts felt a bit manipulative to the storyline. The ending felt rushed but I did appreciate the thorough clean up of plotlines and settling of the romance. This is the first book of the series and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I am looking forward to reading more from May Bridges in the future.