I thought this story was better than the last two, but there are definitely some problems. I did ultimately enjoy it and it was engaging in ways other than the erotic elements, but some things could have been better.
This book has some very hot sex scenes, no question. But the BDSM scenario, unfortunately, didn't really break too much new ground for this series. When has a McKay not been dominant? Except for Keely who kind of shared dominance with Jack, but still we've seen variations of a lot of this stuff before. Bondage, spanking, the nekkid rule, sex toys etc. This added the use of spanking instruments and ... hmm ... that was pretty much it. Things did go a bit further and there was the voyeurism of the club, but I still didn't feel like we were treading on forbidden ground here. Which is a problem in that it's the central issue of the book.
I feel like authors think their readers are going to get their feminist panties in a wad when a woman is a submissive. But it's explained that the submissive lets go of control so they can let go of self-consciousness and allow themselves total freedom to feel. So ... do that. We get it. Authors should allow themselves total freedom to write the story without worrying about someone freaking out about an honest BDSM scene. If I believe that this preference allows the sub the freedom to express herself (or himself) in ways that are crucial to their personal empowerment -- I'm going to accept what you give me. Seriously.
Now, having said that, I thought the scenes were hot until a lie was told. James basically gives us a didactic rundown of the BDSM scene on the level of Robyn Carr so we see some themes come up again and again. Trust is the most fundamental part of this lifestyle, of course, so as soon as that lie came out -- even though it had nothing to do with the sex -- the whole thing was tainted. I hated every sex scene after that until the reconciliation. It was a huge turn-off.
Another thing that bothered me was the McKay family. This might sound like the old "I buy Playboy for the articles" thing, but I really do like these stories for the family dynamic as much as for everything else. In the earlier books there were rifts among the Carson McKays but they were resolved or at least addressed and on the way to being resolved by the end of each book. Not so in this one. I understand that the Casper McKays are broken. Not one of them seems to have been in therapy after being raised by two selfish parents, one abusive and one an abuse enabler. But their behavior toward Ben was reprehensible and it was not resolved to my satisfaction by the end. Not at all. The things Tell and Dalton said were awful. They were jerks. And Tell's book is next. I'm really not all that interested in reading about him after this.
And on that same theme, I got ticked off at Colt when he was so defensive of Casper and disdainful/judgmental to Tell and Dalton. Now I'm defending them? I know, I'm all over the place. But it seems Colt doesn't realize that alcoholics aren't the only ones who matter. There's a reason AA has the apology rule. Alcoholics hurt and even destroy the people who love them. Colt was self-righteous and totally wrong to be so unkind when they showed their bitterness. The fact they were even looking for their father shows they care. Sheesh!
Okay, so it would seem I didn't like it. But I did. I kept wanting to get back to it and read more about Ben and Ainesly who had very good chemistry. Ben really appealed to me. I sympathized with his feelings of not fitting in and his low self-esteem. And I want his house.
Ainsely was a good character, although she kept her doubts about subbing for too long. This is another author trick that I think needs to go away. The first couple times the female lead/sub tries the scene we can see an inner monologue of doubt, but after that they need to be all in. None of the tepid junk. Just go for it. But, again, I think authors are too afraid of showing a woman giving it all up like that. Either you believe it's a pathway to freedom that actually empowers the character, or you don't. There were too many times when I felt that James didn't believe that.
And finally, if Gavin gets together with Rielle I will cry. I hate her. One of my favorite parts of this book was when Ainesly told her off. There's a lot of redemption needed in that character before I'll be happy with her as a heroine. It just seemed like there might be some hints in that direction (Gavin + Rielle) so ... I'm just hoping I'm wrong.
Over three stars but under four. Could have been better but I also think it was better than the last two. If only marginally better than Chase's story (which I might have given four stars, but really it's rated about the same).
There was enough good about this book that the bad things really ticked me off. So there ya go.