There’s something about the way Cecilia Tan writes. I love it. Just love it. So much that twenty pages into her newest book, Taking the Lead, I had to stop and send e-mails to half my book friends, telling them they needed to read this, too. Tan gets the world of the rich, famous, and rock star royalty. She knows how the power players work. And it shows in these books she’s turning out. If that’s your thing, don’t miss Tan’s books. Period. That should be my whole review.
Except, did I mention she knows how to write a sex scene? Hoo boy, she can write it hot. Susan thinks Lorelei James is the gold standard. For me, it’s Tan.
So. Taking the Lead is about two of these power players and what happens when they find each other. Ricki Hamilton is a movie production chick. I’m not exactly sure of her pedigree, but it seems to be there, and I’m really not sure of her passion for movies as opposed to her passion for going to the office. But we hear all about this secret dungeon she’s inherited from her beloved grandfather and she’s got to run it. Except, of course, there’s all sorts of problems including a possessive loser with holier-than-thou issues. He’s a charmer. I hope he gets chained to the Daisy wheel in the dungeon and left upside down for days.
Ricki’s partner in lust here is Axel, a rocker who… he just doesn’t seem like much of a rocker to me. He doesn’t have that special charisma and half the time, I had trouble remembering if he was a singer or a guitar player. Axel could have been any other Hollywood player. He just didn’t stick out as a musician/rocker type. And I wanted him to.
So Axel and Ricki get together and suddenly, his kinda sorta there dom tendencies show up and Ricki’s all too glad to be his sub even though this woman who owns a dungeon doesn’t know exactly what that means. Axel’s glad to teach her, and in the heat of the moment, she’s glad to learn. It’s when she thinks and gets into her head that the problems begin.
Pretty damn normal, if you ask me. I know an awful lot of people who overthink and no, I’m not looking at my Rock of Pages boss here. Nope.
That’s their biggest obstacle: Ricki. Not sure she wants this lifestyle, she and Axel talk about it a lot. And that’s a good thing, especially because this isn’t one of those books where they start off with the spanking and end with the anal and it all goes according to script. Nope. This is a new-to-me sort of submission and domination and I bet this is a good representation of it being done right. I love that Axel has some really dead-on instincts about Ricki and they talk about things—well, he talks and she listens—and instead of Axel being a total domineering idiot, he cares about Ricki in a way that most doms don’t—at least in the fiction I’ve read, and I’ve read more than I probably should have. At times, their dialogue doesn’t feel real, especially when they start talking about BDSM using that exact acronym, but what’s important here is that Ricki is open to it, and not just because of the dungeon she never knew about.
If anything, she seems to keep what she and Axel do very separate from the activities in the dungeon. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad or how I feel about it because they should be intertwined but they’re not. I’m also not sure how I feel about the idea that being into the scene is genetic, which is pretty much what Ricki learns as she comes to terms with the death of her mother. And, too, the ending, which mirrors what she learns about her mother, bugs me. It seems like too much too soon, more of a neat ending to a book than truth.
So I’ve got these gripes, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t the best book I’ve read in a long time. I love that there’s issues of Hollywood gender power games and the dungeon and the legacy Ricki’s grandfather left that she has to fight against. I love that the situation with her father isn’t cut-and-dry, and I doubt we’re done coming to understand that poor screwup of a man. I love the depth of this world that Ricki inhabits, although that’s part of why Axel falls a bit short. It’s a hard act to follow!
Like I said, I love that Axel cares about her, that he’s not always the barking-orders type of dom who ignores her needs and tries to bury who she is so that she can serve him better. I love that Ricki gets to be herself, not who Axel thinks she ought to be. I love the sex and how it’s hot and it’s different and I love that scene in the limo, when she puts her hands behind her back and I swear, that is hotter than almost any sex scene I’ve ever read anywhere else. I love how Axel comes to own her, I love that he’s a rocker who thinks and who does rise above most of the usual stereotypes (I just wish he felt more musical). I love that they’re going to be a power couple and this is the first in a series and I really hope we get to see how they evolve as that power couple and how the dungeon changes because of them and how Hollywood changes because of them and maybe somewhere along the way, Axel will rediscover what it is that made him join a band in the first place because right now, I’m just not feeling it and I’m all about Rock Fiction so as much as I like the kinky fiction, I’m even more about the Rock and Roll, so bring it, please.
Thanks to the folk at Rock Star PR for letting us take part in Cecilia Tan’s tour. They handed the free copy out, we read it and decided to leave the varnish off our thoughts ’cause we have too much integrity to be bought like that. All opinions are Jett’s own and shouldn’t be confused with Susan’s ’cause Susan’s still down and out with an eye injury and isn’t reading much of anything right now. But don’t point that out. She’s kinda grumpy about it.