I have mixed thoughts about this one, but I'll try to review it anyway. Tymber Dalton has truly 'harshed my mellow'.
Kaden and Seth have been friends for forty years. In that time, Kaden has never asked Seth for anything. Now, however, he's dying of pancreatic cancer and he needs Seth now more than ever. His wife, Leah, needs help to cry and let her emotions out after a traumatic and violent past. Kaden has found a way to do this through BDSM, and he needs Seth to continue it for her after he's gone. Seth would do anything for Kaden and, by extension, Leah, but this request tests his limits to breaking point. And will he be able to continue after the inevitable happens, or will he fall apart?
Well, firstly, this book made me cry. Not as much as I was expecting, but I was in public when I was reading it so it might have been different if I'd been in private. I felt a little bit emotionally manipulated, but I think that it was unavoidable given the subject matter of the book.
The biggest problem for me with this book was purely stylistic. Some of the writing, particularly in the earlier half of the book, felt clumsy and amateurish, particularly with the overuse of adverbs in dialogue tags. I also got annoyed with the occasions where the narrative would briefly switch over to Kaden's head for a sentence or two, then switch back. It felt like such an amateurish thing to do. Also, and this is a small thing, I hated the occasional 'nekkid' instead of 'naked'. It wasn't even in speech sometimes, which was worse - and totally killed the carefully built up mood.
The only other thing that bothered me was the final chapter in first person from Tony's point of view. I can understand why
Dalton did it, to show how Seth and Leah were coping further on. However, it was jarring and totally kicked me out of the story for a moment. I also felt that it was unnecessary - I would have been happier if that chapter was cut out altogether, and it ended at the end of the previous chapter.
However, there were features of the style of The Reluctant Dom
that I loved. I loved Seth's inner heartbeat of Kaden'sdying
; it felt very realistic, like the niggling little thought that won't leave you alone. It also served to build up the tension of the inevitable, and to remind the reader that there would be no happily ever after. I also liked the repetition of certain phrases that passed between Seth and Kaden, specifically 'harshing the mellow' and 'still not doing you.' At first, it annoyed me a little, but as it continued, I grew to love it. It was something special between the two of them.
I really liked the characters in this book, even though characters outside of Seth, Kaden and Leah weren't much more than background noise. Seth was great, and I felt that his emotional conflict between what he wanted with Leah and his anguish about Kaden was handled really well. I also really liked Kaden; he was depicted as a very strong character, but he was allowed his moments of weakness too - and he had glasses! This makes me very happy. XD Leah was an interesting character too - she could have easily been one-dimensional and 'damaged', but she had a playful side, and a pushy side too. In her own way, she was also a very strong character. They all were.
I've seen many reviews of this book complaining about the relationship, especially the BDSM aspect of it. I understand what people are saying - BDSM is not a cure-all for emotional trauma. However, in Leah's case in this story, I think it worked. The BDSM aspect of their relationship acts as a release for her emotions; she needs the pain to be able to cry. It was carthatic to her. In that way, I don't think this was a bad portrayal of BDSM at all - there is a lot about their relationship that is vanilla, and Dalton in no way propagates the idea that spanking is the best way to deal with trauma. It is just what works for Leah, and has come about after a long process of trial and error.
I also loved that the ménage aspect of the relationship did not seem forced. Seth, though he fought against it at first because of emotional confusion, slotted easily and perfectly into their lives. There were bumps - a lot of bumps - but that's what made reading the journey worthwhile.
Guh, I wish there had been a chance for a happy ever after. ;A;
Overall, this was a novel that was well worth a read. It's one that I want to visit again in the future, perhaps when I am able to sit down and read it in one sitting with no distractions. Despite the stylistic problems, this is an amazing story, and I definitely don't regret reading it. I'll be looking out for more of Tymber Dalton's work.
I'm off to sniffle into a tissue some more now.