Notorious Nora Sutherlin is famous for her delicious works of erotica, each one more popular with readers than the last. But her latest manuscript is different—more serious, more personal—and she's sure it'll be her breakout book...if it ever sees the light of day. Zachary Easton holds Nora's fate in his well-manicured hands. The demanding British editor agrees to handle the book on one condition: he wants complete control. Nora must rewrite the entire novel to his exacting standards—in six weeks—or it's no deal. Nora's grueling writing sessions with Zach are draining…and shockingly arousing. And a dangerous former lover has her wondering which is more torturous—staying away from him...or returning to his bed? Nora thought she knew everything about being pushed to your limits. But in a world where passion is pain, nothing is ever that simple.
Copy provided by NetGalley
***Adult Content Below!***
What a beautiful wreck of a man.
Review: This is one of the most difficult reviews I have ever written. There were so many parts of this book that were very, very good. There were a few issues that I really had to think about before I wrote this. I will warn you, though, that if you consider yourself to be Catholic, as I am and have been my entire life, then there are things that might disturb you in this book. If you are adverse to people beating one another during sex, then this might disturb you as well. However, if you are looking for a very well written BDSM book that makes you think and think about it for days, then you will enjoy this book very much.
Nora Sutherlin is an erotica writer who wants to make a big splash with her newest BDSM book. Instead of working with the industry's erotica editors, she finds a very reputable publishing house, and seeks out one of the finest editors in the mainstream industry, Zach Easton. At first, Zach wants nothing to do with editing this book. He feels that "romance" books are not up to his standards and he's heard too much about the enigmatic and charismatic Sutherlin. He eventually relents and gives Nora a chance to work with him, but only under a tight, grueling deadline that finds her editing almost all of her book to meet his standards.
As Zach gets to know Nora, he finds that not only is she intelligent and beautiful, but she has a great sense of humor and she is nothing like the woman he originally thought she was. Nora is publicly known to have had dabblings in the the BDSM scene. Zach does not understand the mind set of the BDSM underground throughout most of this book. Nora is an enigma - she is into BDSM, yet she's been raised within a strong Catholic background. Zach has difficulties relating the two.
"Because of all gods, Jesus alone understands. He understands the purpose of pain and shame and humiliation."
As Zach begins to warm up to Nora, we learn that Nora's ex, Søren, is a major player in the BDSM underground - he's perhaps the number one Dominant in the world. Nora "belonged" to Søren from the age of 16, and stayed with him for about 12 years or so. In this relationship, Nora was the submissive to Søren's dominant. This is not a light BDSM relationship. This is a full-on, intense relationship that even I admit having trouble understanding. Although Nora spent years as the submissive to this masochist (her words) she desired every bit of pain that was inflicted on her. It was completely consensual and she still loves Søren more than any man in the world. She did, however, leave him when she decided that she did not belong with him, even though she loved him. In order to make ends meet while she was writing books, she went to work for Søren's best friend, Kingsley Edge, as a Dominatrix. Nora has become the number two Dom in the world, and is in high demand for her services.
"Zach, Soren isn't some boyfriend you have a fight with and then kiss and make up. He's the invading army you surrender to before it burns your village down."
Nora also is "roommates" with a 19-year-old boy names Wesley. Wesley is everything that Nora is not. He is innocent in all matters. He is a virgin, who is secretly in love with the older Nora. He acts as her "personal assistant." Wesley is protective of Nora, he despises Søren and does not approve of her moonlighting job as a Dominatrix. Nora is very dependent on Wes. Although she wants nothing more than to seduce him, she refrains from doing it out of her admiration for the person that Wesley is. She does not want to damage him.
"You gotta know, Zach - Nora's not just some smut writer with a wild sex life. She's the motherfucking queen of the Underground. And Kingsley Edge is, obviously, our king."
Zach slowly begins to trust and admire Nora as this book progresses. She works hard to meet his impossibly high standards, and along the way, he becomes very attracted to her. Unfortunately, Zach is dealing with a lot of his own guilt. He is separated from his younger wife, due to the circumstances of their marriage. He never wavers in his love of his wife, Grace, and never stops waiting for her to come after him. However, Nora teaches Zach a bit about his own self and sacrifices herself in the process.
Søren is an interesting character, to say the least. When he is first introduced, I hated him with a passion. He's just not someone that I like. It wasn't until the tail end of this story that I felt better about him, and I still don't know how I feel. There is a great juxtaposition of Catholicism and BDSM in this book that I admit did disturb me. The sex and relationships do not bother me - it's the violence and unmitigated dominance that does. There is so much to this story that I cannot tell you, because I don't want to spoil this book for you, so please take these words with a grain of salt.
The ending of this book is intense. There are so many forces at play - Zach and his relationship with Nora, Zach and his dealings with his wife, Wes and his feelings towards Nora, Nora and her inner battles with herself, and finally, Nora's relationship with the powerful Søren. No matter what happens with these characters, one thing is certain - Søren believes in the deepest parts of his soul that Nora will eventually return to him. He knows of her sexual exploits, of her other relationships, and of her other job, yet as he says, he can forgive her anything.
"Disobedience is as much a proof of authority as obedience. You cannot rebel without acknowledging a government. You cannot be a heretic until you are first a believer."
Although there were parts of this book that were difficult for me to read, I will be reading the next book in this series, The Angel, due this September. I would like to learn about Nora's past in future books. There seems to be some secret in her background, because as of now, we know nothing of her past before Søren.
This is a very well written, thought provoking and intense read. There is not a complete happy ending for all the characters in this book, which I think is the point. This series is a journey of epic proportions, and I hope that by the conclusion of this series, that all of the characters can at the least find peace.
"Sacrifice can only get you so far."