Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Dave is hurting and angry. He’s lost one of his closest friends in a scene gone wrong. Hal was asphyxiated when Bill, the Dom working with him, left the room to get him water, and the rope around Hal’s neck wound too tight. Dave and his closest friends, Gould, Kamen and Miles all hung out together with Hal and shared a close bond as submissives from the time they first entered the lifestyle. Not knowing where or how to direct his anger when he finds out Bill has been allowed back into the club where Hal died, he comes up with the idea to form The Subs Club in Hal’s memory. It’s set up as a blog where submissives can review Doms and rate them on how well they follow safe practices. The blog quickly takes off but with unexpected results—both Doms and other subs are up-in-arms about the rating and review process, arguing that the rating system violates a Dom’s privacy. What started out so simple has ripple effects which eventually impact most of the group, including Dave himself.
Early in the story, concurrent with the events which led to forming the Sub Club, Dave encounters a Dom he refers to as Pornstache. Though ostensibly very plain, something about him captures Dave’s attention, and when he and his buddies are looking over the Fetlife profiles one evening, he realizes that Pornstache is actually The Disciplinarian. In a fit of temper that anyone would have the audacity and ego to call himself a name like that, Dave applies to be one of the Disciplinarian’s subs. He’s immediately rejected. Knowing his answers were bratty, he tries again, being a bit more honest, and he gets his appointment. But once there, the experience isn’t what he thought it would be, and he leaves dissatisfied and angry. His temper and general brattiness are just not conducive to good submission, but deep in his heart he wants to find a Dom who will make him obey, give up control, and find peace.
Trying again and finally getting to know the man behind the Disciplinarian persona, Dave learns his Dom’s name is David—an omen of good fortune or a doomed coincidence? Pushing David’s buttons is sometimes as easy as calling him D instead of Sir, but Dave’s the one who learns that David is not so easily pushed into rash behavior. It isn’t until he’s finally giving up control to D that he realizes his emotions have been all over the board this year in a frantic effort to keep his friends from sinking into grief and despair after Hal’s death, and he never allowed himself time to grieve. Could this be why he’s acting out so much recently? Is the solution as simple as giving up complete control to David? He reminisces that he knew as soon as he first saw Pornstache, he wanted to have sex with him and have the Dom spank him and hopefully make his life better, but now he’s giving up control like he’s never done before, and he’s afraid he’ll never get it back.
He’d thought submitting to D was going to be simple, but it’s far from that, and some of Dave’s most introspective moments are the best passages in the book. Thinking about Hal’s death and his reaction to it, helping the others to heal from the grief, actively hating and badmouthing Bill are all things he’s been doing to keep the focus away from what he really needs. He finally realizes if he stops focusing so hard on others, he might actually be able to think about what he could do with his own life if he would just quit procrastinating.
I laughed out loud during some of the scenes in this story but wanted to cry during others. I love JA Rock’s sense of humor, the way these characters come to life, and the snarky attitude Dave displayed, all while endearing himself to me as the damaged brat he is. One of my favorite lines was his description of D: “He was wearing a casual sweater and khakis, looking like Daniel Boone had discovered a sale at LL Bean.”
As soon as I finished this story, I immediately sat down to register my first impressions. Top of the list is I love a story where a sub meets a Dom who is up to the challenge of finding what really makes him tick. This brat has found the perfect Dom in The Disciplinarian. The second thing I love is that the Dom is not some gorgeous hunk of manhood with toned abs and arms to die for. D is a perfectly ordinary-looking man who leads a quiet, simple life before Dave bursts in to turn his world on its axis.
There’s plenty of conflict between D and Dave, between Dave and his friends, between Dave and the owners of the club where Hal died, and finally, between Dave and the members of the Sub Club. This book is highly entertaining, educational, humorous, thought-provoking, and gives us a beautiful love story to boot. I highly recommend this one to all lovers of M/M romance, and especially to those who enjoy BDSM themes. I plan to be first in line for the next stories in the series.
Cover Art by Kanaxa shows a cane against a red argyle background. The background, using different colors, will be repeated throughout the series, and a different BDSM-related symbol will be displayed on the cover each time. I like the way the general look of the cover links all the stories in the series.