I enjoyed reading Jenny Nordbak’s His Leading Lady. It was an engrossing read with good characters and an interesting take on the fake dating and sex lessons tropes. His Leading Lady is Nordbak’s debut romance, but not her first book. She also wrote about her experiences as a professional dominatrix in Los Angeles. She’s drawn on that experience for her fiction debut.
Lady Elena is a professional Dominatrix at the top of her field. She has recently experienced more notoriety than she would like when a video of her dominating the current (fictional) Vice President leaked to the press. Discretion is important to her work. She has the option of hiding until it blows over, or leaning into it. Alex is an actor who has just landed a coveted roll which will break him out of his clean cut niche. If he does it well. He’s concerned about failing. He needs help learning to be sexually dominant, but doesn’t want anyone to know he needs help. Obviously, they must pretend to date.
I particularly enjoyed the nuanced ways that Nordbak wrote about sex and sexual power dynamics. Alex does not need to learn how to have sex, he does need to learn how to assert dominance in a way that avoids the boundary crushing dangers of toxic masculinity. I loved that the mental and emotional elements of sex were skills to be learned and practiced. Nordbak walks the delicate line of two heavily guarded characters opening up to each other without fundamentally changing who they are. Elena is a sex worker and Norback treats her and her work with respect. She is sex positive, sex worker positive, and kink positive. It was refreshing.
My main complaint was that I found almost every other character in the book more interesting than Alex. That’s probably a me issue and I’m sure other readers will enjoy him as a character more. Elena more than made up for any lack I found in Alex.
His Leading Lady sparked some internal conversations about intimacy that I would love to have, but I don’t feel like I’m qualified to bring them up in a book review. I am also really looking forward to the next book in the series as I believe it involves my two favorite side characters.
CW: sexual harassment (off page but in the present), sexual harassment in the past, past sexual assault, misogyny.
I received an advance reader copy from the author. My opinions are my own.