Title: Leather + Lace
Author: A.B. Gayle
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Amazon Buy Link: Leather+Lace (Opposites Attract)
Genre: Contemporary, BDSM
Length: Novel (304 PDF pages)
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by ZenHarley
Summary: Well-written and engaging story of two men slowly drawn together despite their differences – and their similarities.
An Opposites Attract novel
Swathed in chiffon and lace, Steven Stanhope owns the stage as Stevie Tricks, lipsynching the songs of the famous gypsy queen. But after he escapes an abusive Master/slave relationship, the only collar he’ll allow around his neck is black velvet. After a four-year absence, Steve is ready to reclaim his life and the property he left behind. But is it safe? Definitely not if his ex is still into leather. To find out, Steve appears at a charity night for the local BDSM community, using the anonymity of his stage persona to mask his identity. Instead of his ex-Master, Julius, Steve finds a tangled mess centered around another Master of Leather, Donato Rossi. In order to unravel their ties to the past, Steve and Don must find common ground and work together. In the process, they learn that when it comes to love, sometimes you have to make your own rules.
One of the central plot points in this novel is a fairly massive spoiler, so I apologize in advance for being a bit more vague than usual regarding the storyline.
I simply loved this book. There are many kink-positive, all-hurts-healed-by-a-good-flogging romances out there, and that’s great. It was impressive, however, that this author took the time to look at when things go wrong; when someone is stuck in a relationship with an imbalance of power, particularly within the very sensitive dynamic of a 24/7 Master/slave relationship, as was Steve.
As the blurb says, Steve has spent several years recovering from such a relationship, and has sworn off the Leather scene and those associated with it. He found some healing through traditional therapy, and also rediscovered happiness by joining the drag community, performing an homage to Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac
Donato Rossi is an old-school Leather Master, deadly serious about his craft, and dealing with emotional trauma of his own. His first meeting with Steve, in his Stevie Tricks persona, is a clash of very different personalities, not to mention some serious emotional baggage, on both sides.
Although the story is told in first person by Steve, a revealing and sensitive portrait of Don comes forth from the narrative as well. Both men are seeking healing from betrayals of the past, and find themselves inextricably bound together in their pain.
While all of the characters in the novel felt real, Steve and Don truly took form and lived in the pages. Despite the horrible things he’d endured in his previous relationship, Steve’s love of life shines through – whether he’s twirling his skirts as Stevie Tricks or lovingly restoring an old motorcycle, you can’t help but hope that he can work past his ghosts and learn to fly again, on his own terms.
The main secondary character is Gabriel, who serves as a living reminder of Steve’s past. Gabriel is young and eager to learn from Master Don, and simultaneously irritates the hell out of Steve while raising his protective instincts.
This book is the second title in the Opposites Attract series, but works just fine as a stand-alone. There is one minor character from the first book (Red+Blue), and also a guest appearance by Nat and Danny from the author’s previous release, Caught. Since I’d had a somewhat lukewarm reaction to both of these earlier books, my initial approach to this novel was cautious, but any concerns were quickly put to rest. In Steve’s voice the story is immediate, alive, and well-paced. Subtle details throughout the narrative point to an author who took the time to carefully and respectfully research her subjects, be it the drag community, the Leather scene, or Master/slave dynamics. [As a side note, I have to say that it was an absolute pleasure for this old biker to see an author who goes beyond the easy stereotypes and “gets” motorcycles and the people who love them. The scenes of Steve with his beloved BMW were not only technically spot-on, but truly captured the essence of the amorphous but powerful link between rider and machine.]
Despite the subject matter, the book contains very few actual BDSM scenes; one of them is off-screen and the others are fairly mild. Yes, there’s some on-screen sex — the book opens with an extended blowjob that guarantees a sympathetic jaw ache — but after that it’s not frequent or gratuitous. The focus of the story is on the relationships, not the sex.
I almost knocked a quarter-point off for some credulity-stretching plotlines around Don’s move from the U.S., but the rest of the story was so good that it made the short suspension of disbelief needed for this section pretty easy. Hopefully others will agree.