The Collar (Submissive #5) by Tara Sue Me
The Collar is a wonderful blend of hot, hot kink, tender romance and a little dash of suspense.
Jeff, for his part, would stop at nothing to keep Dena safe. Between her law practice and her father’s status, there’s no telling who could be targeting her. It could be an irritating but harmless prank; or it could be something much, much more dangerous. For her safety and his peace of mind, Jeff realizes the only option is for Dena to move in with him while he hunts for the culprit. But the house is full of bittersweet memories, ones that Jeff was just beginning to move past. Sharing a roof again, living in close quarters, Dena and Jeff can’t escape from the heartbreak of their shared past. Together, though, is there hope for them to move forward and try again? Or is the weight of their shared past just too much?
The Collar is a wonderful blend of kink and classic romance. The plot itself--second chances, shared secrets, a heartbreak that destroyed their relationship once and threatens to again--is pure mushy feels all over the place. Dena is smart, tough, and very, very vulnerable. She doesn’t open up easily, and even when she does, she’s easily frightened off. She might be a ball-buster in the courtroom, but she’s an enthusiastic submissive in the bedroom, and the tension between those two sides of herself show in the way her emotions rattle around as she tries to make peace with her and Jeff’s tumultuous past.
Jeff, for his part, is a dominant through and through. He’s hardheaded, stubborn and intractable both in and out of the “play room.” Worse, he’s prone to reactive insecurity over his working-class background, as compared to Dena’s (not terribly happy, but) luxurious upbringing. It’s difficult for him to let his guard down, even for someone he cares about; it’s even harder for him to admit that he may have made a mistake all those years ago. Dena may need protecting, but Jeff needs to be saved from himself, to a certain extent, and she’s probably the only person who can get close enough to even try. Add a liberal dose of family melodrama, a slow-burn element of suspense, and a shared heartbreak that neither of them has really let go, and you have a romance that’s appropriately mushy and tense without turning into a total soap opera. It’s sweet and absolutely endearing.
Now, for the boner bits. Holy guacamole, kink-man, the naughty bits are just divine. Ropes. Whips. Orgasms, wax play, bum play, a whole spectrum of fun, consensual and absolutely dirty sex. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it is too difficult to find fun, freaky erotica that features women enthusiastically consenting to bondage. Kinky or vanilla, I have no patience for the “no, no, no YES” structure of so many sex scenes in romance. That’s not consent, that’s something else entirely. The Collar features a whole host of women who are independent, put together, have their own careers, and happen to really enjoy being tied to something by a handsome man on occasion. The dominants are all exceedingly clear about obtaining consent, reminding submissives of safe words and their right to use them, and never pushing anyone to the point of discomfort. I appreciate, too, that all the members of Dena and Jeff’s play group are emotionally stable, successful adults with careers and fulfilling lives outside of their kink. These aren’t depraved oddballs; these are normal, healthy people who like a little slap and tickle. (Or a lot, as the case may be.)
The actual sex is wonderfully written. Graphic without being gross, incredibly arousing even if Dena and Jeff’s play time isn’t exactly your cup of tea. They have kinky sex, they have vanilla sex, they have all kinds of wonderful opportunities to rub their grown-up bits together, and each one is delightful. Sue Me ensures that, even at his most dominant, Jeff never crosses the line into creepytown, and even at her most submissive, Dena never comes across as weirdly self-loathing, which is a definite risk with these stories. They’re both incredibly aroused, incredibly arousing, and terribly fun to play with.
All in all, The Collar is the novel that 50 Shades wistfully dreams of being (when it’s feeling especially optimistic.) It’s a sweet, seductive romance with a healthy dash of kink, one that strikes a perfect balance between mushy feelings and steamy sex scenes. Watching Dena and Jeff working through their challenging past is almost as satisfying as watching Jeff tying Dena to things in endlessly creative fashion--and as a reader you’ll enjoy them both. Just remember to read it when you’ve got enough time on your hands to, ah.. work out a little tension when you’re done.