Still Taking Chances by Roz Lee
Sting factor (kink): 2 out of 5
After a mission in a South American jungle goes wrong, DEA Agent Elgin ‘Hud’ Huddleston returns to his boyhood home to lick his
wounds. Despite his better judgment, Hud is drawn to the woman across the street, a petite Dominatrix with a freeze your balls off name.
Mary Beth Winters packed away her toys and put the BDSM lifestyle behind her years ago when she realized the men she dominated didn’t need her as much as she needed them. But when a troubled bad-boy, Elgin ‘Hud’ Huddleston, moves in across the street, she dusts off her toy box and risks her heart to help him heal.
Damn, I really wanted to like this book.
Still Taking Chances is a well-written, contemporary romance novella with a nice blend of BDSM elements. Most of the kink includes dominance and submission scenes, a few toys and some bondage, but nothing that’s too, too crazy. The characters are three dimensional and interesting in their own right. And by that, I mean that each character could respectively hold their own if the author chose to write other books with either. The author has a lovely way with description and seems to really have a deep respect for alternative sexual lifestyles and the people who live them. Sometimes I run into books where the sex, especially the BDSM portions of it, seem…cheap in a greasy-porno-I-stole-this-from-a-smutt-mag way. The author really does have a lovely grasp of the written language and she seems to really care for her characters.
All that being said, this book DID NOT work for me. Here are a few reasons why:
Emotional blackmail: I realize that BDSM practices are as varied as the people who engage in them and the type of BDSM in this novel didn’t work for me. It might work for other readers, but it simply didn’t do it for me. It wasn’t because it went over the top or pushed the taboo envelope. It didn’t work for me because instead of a form of communication between the characters—it came off as emotional blackmail. Please allow me to explain, Elgin—our darling hero—is your average strong silent type. He was a bad boy when he was a teenager, grew up and became some DEA hot shot. He’s got some skeletons in the closet and gets a form of emotional and physical release from submitting. That’s all well and dandy. I’m all for that. What I’m not for is a mistress—especially one who barely knows her submissive—to start digging into this man’s emotional wounds without: 1.) knowing anything about him or his mental state 2.) Without accessing her own mental state and making sure she could maintain clarity during a scene (more on this later). And what really turned me off was how she decided to go about it: she basically uses sexual frustration to torture him into telling her his deepest, darkest secrets. As a reader, I was completely turned off to the character after that,
especially because she starts doing this only pages into the book. I’m not crazy about the idea of using sex as some kind of leverage for trust anyways, but to do it when you barely know the person is just wrong. I felt like she knew how desperate he was and used the easiest means to kick the dog while he was down. I felt cheapened by reading their BDSM scenes. They were all the same. Actually, they pretty much all went like this:
Mistress: “Elgin, tell me your deepest, darkest secret.”
Mistress: “Well the, I’ll torture you (insert method of sexual torture) until you do.”
Um, really…? When he did finally tell her these dark secrets, I felt like both the hero and I had been emotionally robbed. He didn’t share these things with her because he trusted her. Her shared them with her because…uh…torture has a way of making people do what you want them to. Therefore, any intimacy that might have been gained by him telling her those things about him was….stolen—not earned. I understand that he agreed to sexually submit to her—but that was it. He didn’t agree to bare his soul to her and she went after it like a hound dog. It would have been different if these share-n-tells had built up gradually as their relationship matured and they learned one another’s boundaries and limits, but it didn’t. And that was enough to ruin every single sex scene in this story for me.
Safety: Speaking of boundaries and limits, there were no mentions of any of them in this book. The heroine, i.e. the mistress, did not ask her submissive to state his limits or boundaries. The most she did was ask him for his safe words. Considering this hero was supposedly a DEA agent wound really tight, wouldn’t it have been…smart of her to make sure she didn’t push a button that sent him completely over the edge?
Oh, and now we can talk about how her mental state. Mary Beth Winters moves to the small town where she and the hero eventually meet because she fell in love with one of her submissives and things ended badly. Things were so bad that she figuratively turned in her leather and crops and hadn’t dabbled in kinky bits since Elgin showed up all dark and brooding. Now, here’s my issue: this hero is obviously in need of some structure and from the beginning she doesn’t trust herself not to get emotionally attached, and yet she agrees to be his mistress. This wouldn’t bother me if she wasn’t so emotionally compromised during their scenes. Um…she’s the mistress—if she’s emotional during their scenes then she’s not running it properly. She’s supposed to be clear. Not as nutty as he is, even if she didn’t outright show it. What could have happened had she not paid attention to his emotions because she was too absorbed in her own? Um, yeah…I know that’s getting a wee-bit technical and nit-picky, but it made her seem incompetent to me.
Mysterious Disappearing Conflict: Speaking of the heroine’s emotional attachment, the whole reason she left and moved to the small town was because she made the mistake of falling for her submissive….or so she says. And yet, when she finds herself falling for Elgin, she doesn’t do anything to even try to correct that. It’s more like she knows she’s falling for him, she knows it might be a potential emotional disaster for them both, but…who cares? Dancing with the Stars is on tonight! Um, really? I would imagine she would do a bit more to try and distance herself from the hero or maybe just end their relationship all together. Wouldn’t she be wondering whether or not she’s learned anything? I mean the woman did uproot her life the last time that happened. And yet, there was little if any mention. The story was pretty much: sexual tension. Kink. Grand emotional scene. Sexual tension, Kink. Grand emotional scene. And so on and so forth…
So…yeah, if you’re looking for plot—look elsewhere.
Love at first Spank: The earlier comment about plot pretty much sums up my next issue with this story. There’s no plot. There’s hardly any conflict between the characters. And the conflict that does exist could’ve been solved if both characters would’ve have sat down in the beginning and discussed their needs and expectations like sensible adults. Unfortunately for me the whole “will this tortured hero stay after I’ve kissed his boo-boo and made it all better” or “will he go, leaving me to live alone with my millions of cats” just didn’t cut it for me.
So all in all, I’m afraid I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who would take issue with any of the above mentioned issues I had. The author has the technical side of writing down, but the characters and story logic were way off. It really is a shame too, because this author really seems like she could give us so much more…That being said, I wouldn’t discourage anyone from trying another book of hers. She really is a very strong writer and I look forward to trying another one of her books. It may just be that this particularly book didn’t work for me, while others of hers will. She is worth taking the second or third chance on.
However, if the issues I had with the book aren’t any you share as a reader, then I would definitely urge you to at least take a chance on this author if not this book in particular.
Reviewed by: Julia Kanno