Release Date: March 31, 2014
Published by Riptide Publishing
Review Copy from NetGalley
If you’re looking for someone to rip your heart out, I highly recommend L.A. Witt and Aleksandr Voinov. If you want it done properly, they’re professionals and know just how to inflict maximum pain and suffering. I challenge anyone who thinks Market Garden is simply an erotica series to read this story without getting emotionally involved. It’s the one thing I can always count on from these authors – whatever expectations I have going in, I always get infinitely more.
I was so ready for this book! Red Tie, or James as I should probably call him, is back as they promised he would be after If It Fornicates. His past encounter with Nick totally piqued my curiosity, although I was more focused on Nick’s character at the time. It’s a nice change of pace to shift attention solely to James. Now that Nick’s no longer at Market Garden, what would he do? Who would he hire? Red Tie’s not your typical vanilla client – he has some pretty hefty submissive needs, so not just anyone will suffice.
Things are complicated from the very beginning when James’s driver, Callum, shows more than a passing interest in him. Cal wants to know everything: why his boss goes to the Garden, what exactly he does with his rentboys, and if Cal could ever fill that role. Okay, I’m pretty sure Cal knows WHY James goes to Market Garden, but the fact that James needs that outlet doesn’t sit well. When James gives Callum an opening he never expected, it’s like a dream come true and he can’t refuse. At first I was willing to believe the connection could be purely physical, because let’s face it, their chemistry is off the charts. Navigating the Dom/sub dynamic is tricky, and while the basics can be the same, the execution is unique to each pair. I wondered if Cal was just learning to unleash his repressed Dom and playing to James’s submissive needs, but after several encounters that’s definitely not the case.
It quickly became clear Cal was in dangerous territory. He cares an awful lot more for James than someone who’s just in it for the sex, otherwise why would who James lives out his sexual fantasies with even matter? That first encounter is a kind of point of no return – from that moment pretty much all bets are off and things get extra messy. I have to give him credit – Cal’s determined to make this work, but his desire to fulfill his boss’s fantasies slowly evolves into something more complex, rooted in trust and respect. Cal is falling. HARD. His feelings are fully engaged, and it happens seamlessly. The nature of the game they’re playing is that even when you’re in control you’re exposed, and this is definitely about more than duty or mutual pleasure. Cal’s naked vulnerability appealed to my fiercely protective side, especially when James seemed rather oblivious. I wanted to shake him for all the ways he was unknowingly hurting Cal and making him question his self-worth. One minute Cal’s elated over giving James what he needs and the next ashamed at being cast aside. Ultimately one thing’s abundantly clear: Cal wants something James does not. Or does he?
The emotional load in this book was a little unexpected. Don’t get me wrong, Witt and Voinov are always great at conveying depth and pushing all my buttons, but I wasn’t prepared for the heaviness of it. These guys aren’t emotionally bankrupt, but at times they’re pretty damn close. They’re lonely, guarded, and in need of things even they can’t seem to identify. Their inner personas rival who they are outwardly – even Cal points out that it’s tough to reconcile the sub Red Tie with power executive James. Witt and Voinov manage to maintain the delicate balance necessary to intricately weave the various parts of this story while allowing them to also function as mutually exclusive. It’s truly brilliant.
I haven’t mentioned Nick, but never fear, he’s a big part of If It Drives. In fact I was reminded just how fantastic Nick and Spencer are – in a way they’re my favorite Dom/sub power couple. Their friendship and mentoring are invaluable to Cal; it’s the support network he needs to have the confidence to proceed with James. BDSM stories frequently feature people training Doms and subs, and I’ve always wondered just how realistic it is. There has to be something intrinsic that lends itself to those roles, I don’t think you can just wake up one day and decide to be one or the other. Nick’s skill set allows him to identify those characteristics in others, and it’s genius how he can simply cultivate the tendencies Cal already has. This was one of the first times as a reader I’ve felt a true connection between mentor and student that was unstrained and without a struggle for ultimate dominance.
I hope it’s not completely selfish of me, but I really want to see more of James and Cal. I felt like this was a completion of Nick and Spencer’s mini-arc within the series, although I’d really like more of them as well. The way things end for James and Cal are good but with so many loose ends…I’d like to see them tie those up in the future.