My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I wish there was a zero star rating sometimes. I read this book on recommendation from a friend and I knew nothing about it. Unfortunately I truly hated this book to the depths of my soul. I spent much of my reading time gasping out loud at the ridiculousness of the story and characters and reminding myself that throwing my reader would only hurt me and not the book that so richly deserved destroying. My problems with this book are many and very layered. I honestly have nothing positive to say about this book at all. Well that’s not true; I found the best friend the least reprehensible of the entire cast. Faint praise to be sure and not exactly positive so take that, as you will.
Ok diving into the book, the plot is incredibly basic. Abby has always fantasized about being Nathaniel’s lover since the wealthy CEO saved her mother from financial ruin so she applies to be his submissive. He accepts her and decides that the two will have a working BDSM relationship, specifically not a lover’s relationship, which only exists on weekends. However, predictably Abby falls in love with Nathaniel and wants his love more than his collar.
To start with the basic set up doesn’t have to be the biggest problem, tons of books start basic but rely on well-developed characters and chemistry to hold reader interest, but I struggled with this premise to be honest. For starters it makes no sense that Abby would have known about Nathaniel’s BDSM preferences. He’s supposedly a very private man and no one even thinks he could be kinky and dominate. There’s an attempt much later in the story to show that Abby knew through a BDSM grapevine about Nathaniel but I honestly found that excuse unbelievable and simply unlikely. Furthermore I never understood why Abby decided to “apply.” Did Nathaniel post a want ad somewhere? She actually turned in a detailed resume about her wants, needs, experience, and limits so even though the story explains how Abby knew, it doesn’t explain where she applied to the job and how the whole set up came about. Instead the reader is supposed to simply ignore that there is no background to the opening scene of Abby simply applying to be a submissive of a very wealthy, very private man who doesn’t flaunt his kinks. But honestly, whatever, this is the least of all the numerous sins this book has to offer, but it doesn’t start out well.
Moving on Abby and Nathaniel has very clinical, very unsexy sex almost immediately. Now I understood that clearly Abby was applying for a job. BDSM doesn’t always have to involve sex since it’s about power dynamics, although sex is usually included. So the fact that Abby and Nathaniel have sex before there is even any established chemistry or intimacy between them isn’t a big deal but it does make for some pretty rote and uninteresting scenes. There was no attempt to show lingering emotion between the two or even that spark of chemistry. The scenes were cold, clinical, and I honestly was bored. I really don’t want to read about two characters that have no connection inserting part A into slot B. There wasn’t even an enticing power exchange to help move the scenes along. I think the story attempted it but just wasn’t successful.
Not helping the lack of chemistry is the fact that the main protagonists, Abby and Nathaniel, are so wooden and flat I didn’t care for them at all. They have literally zero depth and furthermore, they have no connection. The two would sit in silence through meals for the entire book. Honestly!
We ate in silence. Again.
Then much later in the book this was offered
Dinner was all I’d hoped it would be. Nathaniel was a complete gentleman and conversation flowed easily.
Which I was thankful that they eventually started talking but sad that it happened off-page because I still couldn’t feel a connection between the two characters.
Furthermore I simply hated Abby. I didn’t find her submissive at all and frankly, she was a horrible person and an even worse friend. The entire story Abby kept talking about what it all meant to her and how it all affected her, which I understand it’s from her first person point of view. However, Abby never once talks about wanting to do something in service to Nathaniel. She never thinks about submission in terms of pleasing her Master or doing something because he wants it to be done. All she thinks about is whether she wants to do it. For example early on she goes to bed happy she served Nathaniel well, because clearly this is fiction and recovery periods don’t exist, but the next morning she has a total attitude with him for no reason. She only seems to want a rich boyfriend and thinks that if they fall in love, the submission can fall aside because then they’ll be in love. For example:
“There will be several fish dishes on the menu,” Nathaniel said in the car. “You will order one of them.”
Fortunately, I loved fish. I wondered what would happen when he asked me to do something I didn’t want to do.
Which happened well over halfway into the book. She clearly is not interested in being submissive so much as his lover and it’s shown in numerous examples.
“I brought breakfast,” he said.
Okay, scratch that. Waking up to Nathaniel’s kisses and having him bring me breakfast in bed was my new favorite way to start the day.
Then he lowered me to the bed and his lips were on mine again for another long, slow, open-mouthed kiss. And kissing Nathaniel was so much better than fantasizing about it. His lips were smooth and strong, and his tongue stroked mine with a passion and yearning that curled my toes.
And we weren’t dom and sub, we weren’t master and servant, we weren’t even man and woman. We were lovers, and when he finally entered me, it was sweet and slow and tender.
We agreed to have play time from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon and to be like any other couple from Sunday afternoon to Friday evening.
Then there is the issue of her being a terrible friend and person in general.
“Jackson proposed!” She spun around. “He got down on one knee and everything. We’re going to pick out a ring this weekend. Isn’t it romantic?”
Frankly, no. Romantic was the man knowing you so well, he could pick out the ring himself and have it with him when he proposed. But this was Felicia we were talking about and Jackson had probably called it right by letting her pick out her own ring. Besides, it was Felicia’s fairytale, not mine.
Hell. Felicia and Jackson were getting married.
The day suddenly got worse.
She put her hands on both of my shoulders. “I know you’re mad at him. Hell, I’m mad at him. According to Jackson, Todd and Elaina are mad at him. But if you want him, talk to him.” She shook me slightly. “But be willing to admit you made mistakes as well.”
“That’s asking a lot.”
Because being happy for the friend she set up and then actually admitting she did something wrong were both out of her reach. These are just two of many examples where I literally gasped out loud at what a horrible person Abby was. It’s not that I expected her to be perfect but these I thought were very typical reactions from a desperately unhappy and self centered person.
Then later on when Abby realizes that Nathaniel can’t or won’t tell her he loves her – even though the relationship was started as more of a BDSM arrangement and not a love relationship – she switches to an almost dominate position.
Mistress. He understood. He was playing along.
I gave a dramatic sigh. “I had plans for today, but instead we’ll have to spend the afternoon inside, working on your punishment.”
His eyes darkened. “I’m sorry to disappoint you, Mistress,” he said in that low, seductive voice.
“You’ll be sorrier still when I’m finished with you. I’m going up to my room. You have ten minutes to join me there.” I spun and walked out of the library, then ran up the stairs to my room. I stripped my dress off and put on the silver robe Nathaniel had once complimented. Then I stood by the foot of my bed and waited.
He entered slowly. Quietly.
I crossed my arms and tapped my foot. “What do you have to say for yourself, Nathaniel?”
He hung his head. “Nothing, Mistress.”
“Look at me,” I commanded him. When he met my eyes, I continued, “I am not a mistress. I am a goddess.” I pushed the robe from my shoulders. “I will be worshipped.”
Yes the Mistress thing is said in role-playing but I personally feel it typifies Abby’s entire mental state. She doesn’t come across as submissive nor does her internal musings seem submissive and focused on Nathaniel’s pleasure. She is always focused on her own pleasure and makes Nathaniel beg forgiveness for reasons I never understood; because he couldn’t fall in love with her? At the end Abby is happy because they have a much more conventional relationship with her as the girlfriend and even power dynamics most of the time and some kinky playing on the weekends, again that mostly focuses on her pleasure. I’ve honestly never read a BDSM book where the submissive gets pleasured so much while the Dominant goes without.
This review is epically long and perhaps one of the longest I’ve ever written so I’ll end it, though I easily could go on about additional problems I had with the story. Suffice it to say I didn’t enjoy it nor did I find it a story about a submissive. Clearly I do not recommend it.
Before anyone says that it’s mean to write this much about a book I didn’t enjoy, because I always get that comment/email/question, I’ll reiterate that if I’m going to give something 1 star and say I hated it, I feel it’s beneficial to give a detailed explanation of why. So there you have it, if anyone even read this far.
2 thoughts on “Review: The Submissive”
I have to confess, the author’s name was the first hint. LOL Perhaps you could, for wasting your valuable reading time.
Yes, I agree the author name was a red flag. However I’d already committed to reading it because it was recommended to me. I almost always read recommended reads, for better or worse but usually better. Later I found out said “friend” wanted my opinion on it. I think she knew I’d hate it. I have great friends. That said, after a while I hate-read it. I wanted to see how -bad- it was getting.