Title & Author: Legally Bound by J.R. Gray
Series: Bound #1
Release Date: September 7, 2010
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Book Blurb (from Goodreads):
The last thing Daniel, a hard-working public defender, expected to see the morning after a one night stand was his hook-up staring back at him from the wrong side of the law. Assigned to work his case, Daniel vows to keep things professional with Rafael but has a hard time controlling his craving for dominance, the control, and the connection they shared. Rafael, a paid Dominant in the Chicago underworld, has been dealing with a cop problem for far too long. Used to sex with no emotion, he’s entranced with Daniel’s submission, his innocence, and…could there be something more? Can Daniel clear Rafael’s name, keeping him out of jail and in his life, with the odds, a cop, and the mounting evidence against them?
Be Warned: m/m sex, BDSM, branding, flogging, caning, whipping.
*** Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. Continue reading at own risk. ***
A friend and I recently had a conversation about BDSM erotica and romance novels. Though the specifics of what turned our cranks differed somewhat, one of the things that we agreed upon was that in order for us to enjoy a novel with BDSM themes, there had to be a deep emotional connection between the main characters. For us, the power exchange between a Dom and a sub is hottest when it is based upon mutual trust, respect, understanding, and a sense of equality between partners. I want to know about the character’s emotions and motivations – why are they drawn to the lifestyle? What deep-seated need or desire does the D/s relationship fulfill for them?
Unfortunately, I didn’t feel as if there was enough emotional depth in Legally Bound to make me invest in the characters or the story the way that I had hoped I would. I never felt as if the relationship between Daniel and Rafael moved beyond the lust and curiosity of a one night stand into something more meaningful. Lust and hormones and curiosity can make for a steamy sex scene, I’ll give the author that, but ultimately, this lack of a deeper connection between the characters made the BDSM elements of the books feel tawdry and rushed.
In fact, parts of the author’s depiction of the BDSM lifestyle made me feel downright uncomfortable. I understand that there’s not one “right” way to explore or engage in BDSM play (nor a singular way to depict it in books), but the one thing that people seem to accept unquestioningly is that it must be safe, sane, and consensual at all times. In Legally Bound, however, Daniel and Raf not only engage in restraints, and floggings, and wax play long before they have discussed limits and safe words, but Rafael’s character admits to engaging in scenes with clients while strung out on Vicodin! Later in the book he takes a crop to King’s slave while angry and not entirely in control! That is just NOT okay.
*watches as the author throws the “Safe, Sane, Consensual” edict right out the window, pours gasoline on it, and sets it on fire.*
As for the rest of the book, I respect an author’s prerogative to make creative choices and shape a book however they see fit. I just don’t understand why anyone would set out to create the most idiotic, unethical characters on the face of the planet. Between the characters’ very relationship, the ridiculously thoughtless timing of the couple’s solicitation role play, and Daniel’s decision to confront McCoy at his home and then refuse to go to the hospital or press charges after he is brutalized, I am baffled by these characters and the decisions that they make.
(Don’t even get me started on the fact that Rafael and Daniel have sex immediately after Daniel is assaulted!)
And, before anyone gets up in arms about that last paragraph, I’ll just point out that Daniel’s disregard for his professional ethics are one of the central themes of this book (and therefore fair fame for this review) and that the author, herself, refers to Daniel’s behaviour as “idiotic” on more than one occasion.
From a technical standpoint, I didn’t find the book to be particularly well-written either. It contained a fair amount of unnecessary punctuation, orphaned words that should have been caught and removed during editing, and awkward phrasing. Choppy sentence structure and jarring transitions between characters’ thoughts and actions often left me re-reading passages to ensure that I hadn’t inadvertently skipped something (I hadn’t). Although they may bother other readers less than they did me, I found that these errors made it difficult for me to get into the groove of the book’s narrative style and ultimately made the book feel amateurish.
That said, I did find that the writing began to smooth out somewhere around the book’s midpoint. This made for a much more pleasant reading experience in the second half of the book and bodes well for the author’s future work.
The one writing quirk that I couldn’t ignore or get past was the author’s habit of referring to her characters as “the lawyer” or “the male” or “the Dominant” rather than using their names or personal pronouns. It was weirdly impersonal and made it feel as if there was a distance between the characters long after they had supposedly formed a strong emotional connection. It also put a distance between the characters and me, as a reader, which I think contributed to why I never connected with either of Daniel or Rafael.
I believe that there are plenty of readers out there that will happily overlook the aspects of Legally Bound that I took issue with. Those readers will probably find the book raw or sexy or intriguing. However, this review is about my reactions to the book, and as much as I wanted to, I just didn’t like it. 😦