Danny Griffin is a talented artist with a sunny disposition, an uncanny ability to attract trouble and a desire to explore his submissive tendencies. It’s the latter that sends him down a dark street and into the path of three knife wielding attackers. Luckily for Danny, and unluckily for them, St. Louis superhero Blaze is out patrolling and rescues Danny from certain doom. There’s an instant chemistry and attraction between the two and even though Blaze sends Danny safely on his way, he can’t let go and engineers a way to see him again by buying Danny a membership to the kink club he belongs to.
Danny’s acceptance of the membership leads him to Club Decadence and meeting Jordan Wells. Jordan and Danny connect immediately, and the tall, dark, and handsome Dom seems like the perfect person to help Danny explore D/s. As time goes on, the bond between Danny and Jordan deepens, but Blaze is never far from Danny’s thoughts. For his part, Jordan finds himself unable to stay away from Danny as either Jordan or Blaze, breaking and bending the rules he’s had in place for years just to be near him. It’s not quite insta-love, but it’s definitely insta-lust and insta-connection. Jordan agreeing to be Danny’s guide into the world of D/s sets them off on a path where good literally battles evil, “stans” live up to the origin of the name (Y’all remember that Eminem song, don’t you?), secret identities are revealed, and Jordan’s past clashes with his present in a fight to determine his future.
This book is chock full of tropes from both the comic and romance genres. On the comic book side there’s the brooding hero with the tragic backstory, the plucky love interest who can’t seem to stay out of trouble or away from the hero and the city in peril. On the romance side of things you’ve got the sunny social butterfly with the gruff loner, the secret identity, and the fierce protector tropes all happening. Incorporate BDSM into all of that and there’s a lot going on.
The good news is Christa Tomlinsom makes most of it work. The book is fairly long so there’s plenty of time for Danny and Jordan’s relationship to grow without feeling rushed. The BDSM aspect is handled respectfully and consent is centered and emphasized. Jordan and Danny are both likeable, root worthy characters and the worldbuilding is intriguing enough to grab and hold your attention and get you invested. The romance itself is fairly low angst, sexy and sweet, and completely believable with a thoroughly satisfying and heartwarming HEA.
That being said, there were parts of the book that didn’t work for me. First, and this is admittedly a me thing, there’s a couple of times where Danny’s “small hands” are referenced and it just came off...weird? I know it was to emphasize their size difference but yeah. It was awkward for me but YMMV.
Moving on to something that really matters, lol, I have an issue with the initial meet cute. It was exactly what you’d expect and executed to near perfection with the major exception of the, imo, unnecessary threat of rape. Danny’s situation is already precarious. He’s on the small side, alone on a dark street, accosted by three men and at least one of them has a knife. The stakes are already high, there’s no need to add in something as triggering as non-con as a plot point when it doesn’t enhance the scene or enrich the story (it’s basically never referenced again and Danny moves on like it never happened).
My next issue is that the main antagonist, Leon, only appears a handful of times and doesn’t have much of a personality beyond “bad guy.” There’s a “stan” who provides some drama but ultimately is a side plot that’s kind of predictable and feels a little like filler, and the same can be said for Jordan’s evil ex. I also wish that there were a deeper exploration of Danny and Jordan’s relationships with other people. I wish we’d met Jordan’s aunt because she plays a major part in why Jordan is a broody mountain of man pain. Danny’s bff Scott, Jordan’s cousin Nina, and fellow heroes Ignite and Caleb all piqued my interest and left me wanting more of them. As this is the first book in a series, I have pretty high hopes that I’ll get the chance to know them better.
Overall, this was a fun read with solid world-building, endearing characters, and a captivating central romance. If you love alphas fighting crime in the streets and putting it down in the sheets, I recommend you check it out.
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Content Warnings: depression, threat of non-con, violence, death in family (past)