So, I read this tweet from our very own Emmalita recommending Cinnamon Roll (Bold Brew Book 9) by Anna Zabo because it is a masterclass in setting up the story. It is that. It is also a fantastic example of BDSM romance that is actually safe, sane and consensual while being SUPER sexy. (And BDSM isn’t even a particular kink of mine, so that says A LOT.) Even more importantly, it is a romance novel where the leads actually communicate with each other. I was blown away at how many issues I regularly criticize books for were done properly – which just goes to show that it is, in fact, possible.
Maxime Demers is a Quebecois transplant and a linguistics professor at Laurelsburg University. He speaks several languages fluently, is handsome, charming, kind, a good friend, and a particularly sadistic Dom. He bakes, cooks, and plays amateur hockey like Mario Lemieux. That may seem like an impossible combination of characteristics, but somehow Anna Zabo makes it work. He is also not at all alpha asshole-ish, which I almost expected him to be since he is the Dom in the relationship.
Tom Cedric is a divorce lawyer and a sub seeking a Dom that isn’t an abusive asshole. Except that he doesn’t understand at first that all of his previous Doms have been abusive assholes. Or that he has a warped concept of what the Dom/sub relationship could/should be. He’s never received aftercare or been treated with the slightest modicum of respect. He’s never even been more than a fuck buddy for a brief while or a one night stand in his previous BDSM relationships. It’s telling that he makes a comment about being a master at understanding relationships because he’s a divorce lawyer. Max gently corrects him by pointing out that he’s a master at understanding how they end, not what it takes to make them work.
Max and Tom have been acquaintances for years as part of the BDSM community in Laurelsburg, but they don’t really know each other on a personal level. Tom’s friends and business partners have been wanting to set them up for years, but Tom has always declined, feeling like Max was way out of his league. They finally hook up in a coffee shop called Bold Brew after Max watches Tom interview a series of potential Doms, each one a bigger jerk than the last. Max sends Tom his favorite coffee in sympathy and Tom walks over to the table where he is grading papers and they begin their journey together.
And, it’s a lovely journey while they get to know each other and figure out exactly what their relationship is going to be. Sometimes funny, sometimes tender, sometimes SUPER sexy, always thoughtful, it’s also sad and painful as they work through a lot of personal baggage. Perhaps most importantly, Anna Zabo shows us in a non-preachy way how important consent is at every level of a relationship. For everyone. I can’t say enough good things about this one. Even if you are not interested in gay romance or BDSM, I really suggest you give this one a try.
NOTE: I didn’t even mention the way preferred pronouns are used like it’s not even a thing. It just is. I really loved that.