Reviewed by Tori
Kennedy’s emotional and erotic Dirty Little Secrets series is based on four men who are bound together by friendship, business, and BDSM. Cuffed By His Charm is the fourth story in this series and deals with the last man standing-billionaire Gabe O’Keefe. Book three revealed who has been selling Gabe and his friends’ out to the tabloid Gotcha. Now he has to figure out why and how to stop them. A spin off the Club Sin series, each story in here focuses on one couple with a strong ongoing arc. While you don’t have to read the Club Sin series to understand this one, I do recommend reading this series in order.
Kennedy opens on a tense scene with Gabe storming the castle (actually his pub) to confront McKenna Archer, the supposed person behind the bugs and tabloid stories. Gabe is heartbroken and angry that this woman whom he trusted has betrayed him. He uses their sexual attraction against her, engaging in rough sex as a way to punish her, before demanding she confesses. Her repeated denials only further anger Gabe more so he forces her to go to with him to Blackstone Security, hoping Ryder can break her. Only, while there he learns that he was wrong.
Very, very wrong.
McKenna is shocked, hurt, and confused. She can’t believe Gabe thinks she would betray him. At Ryder’s office, she learns of the bugs and watches a security tape only to learn that it’s her brother has been using her. Again. He is the one selling the information to the tabloid. Literally her brother’s keeper, McKenna agrees to help Gabe and Ryder locate Evan as long as they don’t hurt him.
I have been looking forward to Gabe’s story. The multimillionaire owner of a popular chain of Irish pubs and an exclusive BDSM club, Gabe has it all except for the woman he wants-McKenna Archer, his employee. Gabe has a strict policy of not dating employees but McKenna tests his resolve every day. His quiet yearnings had me curious to see how Kennedy would overcome his obstacles. The beginning showed great promise. Heavily character driven, Kennedy builds on the tense romance with it’s forbidden vibe as it unfurls against the mystery of Evan and his connection to the tabloid. Emotionally fractured, Gabe and McKenna try to find a way to repair the damage to their relationship and start anew while looking for Evan for answers.
Unfortunately, this story peaks way early and never recovers. Gabe and McKenna never move beyond a superficial level and frankly, they’re boring. The emotional connection I was looking for never fully develops. Intense sex scenes and repetitive erotic dialogue showcase the sexual chemistry between them but completely overwhelms the romance. Kennedy tries to make us believe they are falling in love but for the life of me, I couldn’t see why. I think a large part of this is the very short time span this takes place in. Less than a week, I believe. It doesn’t help that a majority of the mystery takes place off scene through a third party. So we spin our wheels listening to them have sex in between McKenna giving excuse after excuse for her brother’s actions while Gabe beats himself up over his actions. And yes, I had a hard time getting over Gabe action myself. Even though he told her to tell him if it wasn’t what she wanted, he is still her boss, he still grabbed her demanding sex, and it felt abusive.
Various familiar faces drift in and out of the story with no real purpose beyond pushing the story forward. Manufactured drama and outrage wear on you as you struggle to reach the end. Evan and the tabloid were the most positive aspects of the story and Kennedy only spends about 10% of her time on them. She pushes the main conflict and arc to resolution only to leave some parts unexplained and unbelievable. McKenna’s actions towards the end made her unreliable in my eyes as a strong partner for Gabe relationship wise and I ended the book disappointed overall.