Second in the Slices of Pie series and stand alone novel with uncommon kink elements.
Plot: Iris is an HR manager for a gaming company. She was raised in a strict religious family that broke down due to a pretty ugly divorce that left her with, practically speaking, neither parent in her corner. As an adult, she still rebels against her minister father by being sexually liberated. She rebels against the bounds of official monogamy, which she sees as stifling, by rejecting relationships outright. What’s the point of investing in something that’s a bad bet? Only Iris is also very lonely. Her only real friend has settled, having both less time for her as a friend and less time for her as a person not choosing the same husband/kid/picket fence paradigm. Frankly, she seems like little more than a glorified drinking buddy. So when her friend bails on a vacation, Iris decides to invite the hot local baker for some fun in the sun. One thing leads to another, and it turns that even liberated Iris was very much playing in the shallow end of the sex pool, and maybe not all committed relationships have to snuff out your spark.
There is a lot to like in this story. Winters is literally a sex educator, so it comes as no surprise that this book acts as equal parts romance and introductory tutorial to BDSM. I think this is in part because there has been a serious influx of authors after 50 Shades blew up the way it did trying to set the record straight about what a properly consensual BDSM relationship looks like and the ways in which it actually works to please everyone involved. Winters also reverses the trope, with Iris taking on the role of Domme (after extensive research) to Owen’s sub. Romance is littered with alphaholes, but even heroes that don’t fall into those category end up taking charge in the bedroom. It is always refreshing to see the roles reversed. And rarest of all, a romance featuring an HR manager! Like a unicorn! Woo! It also fights against the stereotype that someone who enjoys being submissive in the bedroom is not an assertive person otherwise.
Much like the first book in the series, this very much straddles the line between a romance and an erotica, just in terms of the sheer percentage of the word count dedicated to sex scenes compared to everything else. Compared to the first book in the series, I found the balance less deftly handled. Iris has some pretty serious trauma from growing up in a conservative Christian (to the point of not getting vaccinated until college) household and an immense amount of resentment for her parents. Beyond that, the only long term relationship she has been able to maintain is with her college drinking buddy. This is a person who does not know how to form lasting connections and her fear that she simply can’t is entirely understandable. Tied Score used this as little more than a plot device, though. Despite thinking she’s bad at relationships, Iris seems to settle into the sort of delicate negotiation that has to take place in any relationship to ensure everyone’s needs are met with no difficulty at all. Despite her belief being a driving force in her life for over a decade, as the book neared its end, she simply accepted that actually relationships are not that impossible.
There is much made of the fact that Owen introduced Iris to BDSM but that she is also the first person he has really been able to explore that side of him, so there being a risk that they are conflating their joy over discovering this side of themselves with feelings for the person they’re doing it with. This plot is resolved by, a couple of weeks into their relationship, just deciding to drop it. They hadn’t meaningfully explored having a relationship distinct from their sex life – their encounters are still mostly driven by the kink and they still don’t know much about one another outside of that. Also, they recognize that BDSM can bring on endorphin rushes that will literally lie to them about their feelings. But they didn’t feel like sleeping with other people this one time, so This Must Be Love. In truth, they’re barely friends by the end of the book, maybe fond casual acquaintances with benefits.
Between Iris’ superficial characterization, the abrupt way in which major obstacles were hand waved away, and the fact that these brand new kink babies somehow had nothing but flawless scenes that gave them both exactly what they wanted, Tied Score leaves a lot to be desired, but if you’re looking for a kinky romance with a female dominant that also offers some basic instructionals on how BDSM works and what are some options to experiment with, you could do a lot worse than this book.
This book includes many vivid descriptions of pastries. Reader discretion is advised.