A sweet love story with a side of daddy kink. Not what I expected prior to going in...
"It's like I want to crush him up into a little ball and tuck him directly into my heart..."
...but it works.
Exposed is foremost a romance between two damaged souls who happen to meet by chance one rainy night in London, of all places. Emyr is a Welsh twenty year old rising rock star. His innocent looks and provocative lyrics have a following. Greg, forty two year old Canadian web designer and photographer, couldn't imagine his luck bucking into the crying man. Emyr's face begs to be captured on camera, Greg's camera. But even more so Greg notices someone who is cracking at the seams, he's been there, is still there. So he invites a stranger to his hotel room, just to talk. And Emyr accepts.
Thus begins their connection and their path to more.
"I am, you know," he said after a moment.
"Ha... When did I ask you that?"
"You didn't have to."
Greg is a dominant who is still reeling from his last sub and the aftermath of what he thought was a scene. It's been five years and his self imposed celibacy has never been tested as it is with Emyr. There's an innocence that is alluring. But once he sees how obedient Emyr is, well it just calls to him. From the moment these two men meet, their connection is palpable. I kept reading along, saying to myself, this couldn't really happen, could it? Meeting a rock star and tumbling into their world?
But it's Greg and Emyr's connection, their ease with one another, the way they exposed their inner workings to each other. (Not without hesitation from one of the men) That's what I bought. It's what sold me anytime I questioned an initial response.
Greg tries to back away from the celebrity. Emyr is too young, probably straight. The impromptu photo shoot/ session didn't break his celibacy. But Greg's subconscious and feelings won't be denied. The boy got under his skin.
You get sort of numb after a while when you cut off human contact, and you end up telling yourself all sorts of bullshit--like, that you don't actually need it, that it's not so bad going without--and then you carry on building a shell around yourself with these lies. But, what you don't realize is that shell is brittle and thin and made of denial, barely containing the visceral need growing in your guts like some formless, ravenous, single-minded creature.
Though the story is told from Greg's POV, we get a good sense of Emyr. He might be young and inexperienced, but he was mature in a lot aspects. He was persistent and willing to try new things. I loved that as the daddy kink was presented on the table, he researched! And discovered a part of himself he didn't knew existed. Greg is his first real relationship, and in a way, it's Greg's first real relationship too.
"Trust me, Daddy."
Daddy. I smiled, and he gave me a coy grin in return. "You're determined to wear me down."
"I am that."
I'm a fan of age gaps, damaged protagonists with internal baggage, heroes who aren't the best at communicating their emotions. Exposed definitely has that. The angst is more internal struggles than external. Greg and Emyr have to trust, communicate. And I think it was my most favorite thing about this novel, (besides the daddy kink, duh). It was that the two communicated, even when it hurt. It was equal footing where it counted.
Now let's get to the daddy kink shall we?
Daddy kink is fairly tamer on the BDSM scale. And this story is not necessarily a formalized, contract bound pairing. It read more natural. And if you're a reader who clutches their pearl at the mention of daddy kink, this is a romance first. The daddy kink if I had to rate it on a 1 to 5 of extremes, 5 being the most hardcore, it's a 1. There was role playing, a few spankings, D/s. Bonus for the bare backing, (semi)public sex, size difference and big guy bottoming scene. I like it when daddies get breached too. ;D
If you're going in expecting hardcore scenes, you might not enjoy this as much. The sex is melting hot (hello it's a Deckard), there are definitely re-read worthy chapters. What I enjoyed about it is that it wasn't overly long drawn out scenes. Every sexual encounter read organic and fit the main characters. I did slowly grow to love the main characters, separately and as a pair. I think they're perfect for each other.
It's no surprise I enjoy this author's work and his back list varies in taste. This was the most romantic, most sweet I've ever read from him.
"You've nothing to worry about, silly--I'm yours... And you're mine, and I'll take care of that poor, neglected heart of yours just as well as I take care of that poor, neglected cock."
"Well, it's not so neglected anymore," I said, making as if to mull it over what he had said. "You do take good care of it--that bodes well for my heart, I suppose."
I'm not surprised he wrote it, the tell tale signs of his writing are all there. Vivid settings, it's a road trip for a large chunk of Exposed, I felt like I was there with the pair and the cast of side characters at each location, an interesting cast of characters (Owain, Barrie, Rose and the nain dominatrix!) that you can't help to enjoy. His side characters have a tendency to enrich his stories without overtaking the shine from the main characters. There was a little suspense-ful twist, that wasn't over dramatic. It ended a little tamer than introduced.
Overall, a great read that I'm happy to add to my favorites of 2017 list.
This is sweet for this author, not necessarily your run of the mill schmoop. So if you're looking to finally delve into this author's work, Exposed is a great place to start. (His Actor's Circle series is also on the tamer side of the Deckard spectrum)
I don't know if the author will ever return to this couple. I think their HEA is pretty solid. But maybe a possible dabble into one of their scenes? I think I'm going to miss Daddy and his boy.
Who knew photo shoots could be so seductive?
"You make me feel--" Stan said, then cut off the thought before he could voice it.
Oh man, it was an ordeal to finish this book. AN ORDEAL, I'm telling you!
I really liked the premise of a gender-fluid character who suffered from anorexia. Just think of all the possibilities. How does a character like Stan become this confident person at the age of only 21 that he is at the beginning of the book? How does he live his everyday life? How much of a struggle is it for someone who identifies him- or herself as neither male nor female? How is your environment, your friends, your family treating you?
Alas, I didn't get any of that. What I got instead were endless descriptions of THE most superficial stuff, like putting on make-up and clothes, wearing designer bags, showering! (OMIGOD, all those numerous shower scenes!), washing and conditioning your hair, and body care in general.
NOTHING about the everyday struggles of someone who identifies as gender-fluid.
NOTHING even remotely deep about how Stan became the person that he is today.
NOTHING about anything that goes beyond hair styles and wardrobe.
I honestly was bored out of my mind during the first part of the story.
Unfortunately, the second part that dealt with Stan's anorexia wasn't any better. Since the first part was all about his appearances and clothes, his illness has been so neglected at that point that the real severeness of his condition came out of nowhere for me. So much so that I couldn't really relate to it anymore. I really wish the author would have concentrated on THAT part of Stan's personality in the beginning, instead of throwing brands, make-up, clothes, shoes, dresses and handbags at my face.
It also didn't help that there were A LOT of descriptions that didn't matter at all to the overall story and just made for a boring read. Like
"Remembering they were out of soy milk, he wrote it on the shopping list Ben had brought. It was magnetic and stuck to the fridge, so they shouldn't forget stuff like that anymore."
Um, ok. I know that amplifying a story is important and all, but ENDLESS descriptions of stuff like that that just doesn't matter is nothing but annoying AF.
But kudos to the author for writing a book with a diverse character. I seriously appreciate that. But if looks, clothes and hair care is all there is to gender-fluidity, then I'm pretty much done with that whole trope already.
Thanks again to Julie for accompanying me during another frustrating BR!
"Feeling safe is nothing more than a state of mind."
Translation: if you keep staying in a hunted house for WEEKS while experiencing more than a dozen terrifying things, then your state of mind = YOU ALL ARE DIMWITS!
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Santino Hassell is a great writer, but he should stay away from the m/m romance genre.
How this book could even remotely be considered a romance novel is beyond me. 2 or 3 sex scenes don't make a romance if the MCs treat each other like shit 99% of the time. And so does not a weak and tentative HFN (Hassell's trademark it seems).
That being said, I also don't think that horror is this author's genre either. Because scary this was not. Predictable and drawn-out, yes. But frightening? Nuh-uh.
Unless you've never read a single paranormal book in your life, THEN this old-fashioned gothic horror story might actually scare you. Or if you're a fan of H.P. Lovecraft.
But to a modern horror fiction lover like me, the paranormal aspect of this book just felt outdated and antiquated.
So once again, Santino Hassell's great writing skills save another book from being a complete bust. So 3 stars it is, despite my complete lack of enjoyment.
"I'm not the same man I was when I first came to this city. Nothing is the same. I'm not cold anymore. I'm not lost. And when I'm worried I might lose my way, I've got someone in my corner who knows the way home."
This book turned out to be just "ok" for me in the end. The romance between Rand and Will was believable, honest and sweet. I liked how they grew together as a couple and how each on his own matured as a person at the same time. Oh, and
But everything else?
The cross-dressing theme was... Well, it wasn't really one. Will likes to glam up Ziggy Stardust-like with glitter, eyeliner and make-up when he's on stage, but the one time he fully dressed as a woman was when he got paid to do so. It's not at all like Will has a feminine side he wants to embrace.
The side characters? I still know next to nothing about Rand and Will's other band members other than their names and who they dated. Everyone else besides the MCs was pretty two-dimensional.
The villains? OTT. First, there are way too many bad guys in here (Terry, Leah, Martin, Will's parents) and yet somehow there wasn't any retribution for any of them in the end. They all just vanished and that was that.
Half an extra star for an excellent audiobook narration. I loved Seth Clayton's voices for the MCs and how he brought the story to life by giggling, snorting, munching etc.