I kind of love that Sawyer Bennett takes these crazy, often taboo situations, and turns them into a steamy story with a realistic dose of romance. It’s magical. A heads up on this one though, it’s the first book in a series and it does end on a cliffhanger. I went into reading it knowing this full well, expecting it, accepting it…and yet was still frustrated by it. Trigger warning: there are strong themes and mild descriptions of rape.
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
For a synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.
Sela is messed up and she knows she’s messed up. She’s managed to come to terms with her rape as best she can, but she knows that she’s never going to be completely over it. She also knows that she’ll probably never have an orgasm with another person. She’s accepted sex as a way to exchange things, not really in a prostitute way, but more in a way that she can use it in a mutually beneficial relationship.
When she sees a news story about one of her rapists and how he’s living the high life as the owner of a dating site, she decides to infiltrate his company so she can get close enough to kill him. This is easy enough to do, as his company’s point is to match young girls with older men who will “help” them financially in exchange for companionship. The company skirts the prostitution issue by avoiding any contractual language regarding sex, but there’s obviously some agreements found between the lines.
So Sela signs up to be a Sugar Baby to get closer to JT. However, she meets Beck North, JT’s partner who is quickly becoming disillusioned with how JT runs the company and the fact that he’s gotten in trouble with women and seems to be doing a lot of cocaine. It’s all very Patrick Bateman. Beck decides he wants one night with Sela, so after he makes it clear he’s not looking for a contractual relationship, they hook up.
Sela figures this is a good way to maybe get more information on JT, so she rolls with it, figuring it’s going to be like every other faked o sexual encounter she’s had. So she’s pretty surprised when Beck proceeds to completely rock her world. World rocked or not, she’s still skittish and she takes off. But Beck has access to her information and seeks her out again, and it’s not long before they’ve entered into their own “sugarship” (even though Beck is younger than an actually sugar daddy), and Sela is living with him.
Feels Like Sexy Willy Wonka
I was skeptical of the premise, regardless of the fact that I’ve loved everything else this author has done. The whole sugarship thing is kind of silly, but the characters acknowledge this. Revenge plots aren’t always well done, but once in the story, it’s easy to see that even though revenge is a sideline plot, it’s not really what everything is about.
Bent, Not Broken
Like most sex positive books, the point is Sela finding that she’s not broken, that she really can feel something despite a traumatic experience. But it doesn’t detract from her experience either. It doesn’t lighten or justify it, and the anger she feels and her need for revenge is understandable.
Unable to Give Up the Past
As they become closer, Sela realizes that she’s conflicted. She started out using Beck as part of her revenge plan, but when she starts feeling things for him, she begins to wonder if maybe she shouldn’t give up her plan and just use her energy to put herself completely into a relationship. But she regresses a lot and remembers what happened, and things aren’t made easier when she actually as to be around JT.
Beck is a great guy, he really is, but he’s also flawed. He falls for Sela quickly and she for him. He has trust issues, but he feels her can trust her despite her timidity and strange behavior. The thing is, sure, he has trust issues. But he seems super willing to believe that his dick of a “friend” has suddenly turned things around for the better. Which kind of sucks when he doesn’t take Sela at her word when she tells him that JT was a jerk to her in the recent past (though she doesn’t tell him about the rape at the beginning, which makes the conflict more conflicty).
The Romance Factor
Despite the fact that the relationship between Beck and Sela starts out in a very unconventional manner, the normalcy of how it develops and how close they become feels real and passionate. I wanted them to be happy, but with that tension there and knowing that Sela was keeping something from him, it was painful knowing that things were going to fall apart. 4/5
The Steam Factor
Considering the subject matter, I was a little surprised that the sexy times weren’t more erotic than they were. Don’t get me wrong, they were definitely titillating, but they weren’t as taboo as one might think. 4/5
The book comes with the warning of a cliffhanger, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the way this one ends is brutal on the feels. It’s like a complete emotional climax to all that tension leading up to what you know is going to be a meltdown. I’m hooked, and I’m going to be antsy until the second in the series makes it to publication.