Leather+Lace

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LeatherLaceTitle: 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
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A Guest Review by ZenHarley

Summary:  Well-written and engaging story of two men slowly drawn together despite their differences – and their similarities.

Blurb:

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.

Review:

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.

Happily recommended.

Peace,
Zen

13 thoughts on “Leather+Lace

  1. Eve

    Hi Zen,
    I read this book a few weeks ago and I loved it!!! Thanks for this really good review. :bravo:

  2. jeayci

    Great review, and I’m glad you loved it, because I think it’s an amazing book. :smile: But I’m extra-glad that you particularly noted the motorcycles. :sendoutlove: The first time I read this, I assumed AB must be a rider herself because she wrote the motorcycle scenes so well. That’s what a great writer can do with painstaking research! :god: :bravo:

    There were just a few little things that struck me, as a long-time rider, as off. I mentioned them, and then she picked my brain, my heart, and my vocabulary to make it even more authentic. Since I’m currently bike-less :cry: reading this book gives me a chance to vicariously experience the thrill again.

    1. ZenHarley Post author

      Ooh, I hope you aren’t bike-less for long! Isn’t it wonderful when an author is open to feedback like that? And not that it’s this book’s fault or anything :grin: but I just kinda sorta found myself buying a new bike today. If it brings the kind of joy that Steve found on his BMW, the money will be VERY well spent!

  3. Wave

    What a wonderful review Zen. I personally don’t like Master/slave relationships even though I do love excellent BDSM books that are true to the lifestyle. Most M/M writers seem to just skim this lifestyle without doing any real research, or they copy each other’s books and then give you their take which is usually hopelessly wrong. I’m happy that this writer wasn’t too ambitious about the BDSM scenes. As for the motorcycles, I don’t ride but I have been on a few as a passenger and what a rush. :cool:

  4. Eden Winters

    What I want most from a Dom/sub plotline is not the flogging, but the mental aspects of such a relationship, and Leather + Lace offered that in abundance. Great review. I’m a Harley rider from way back, but currently without a bike and a bit out of date on info. I’m glad A.B. allowed me to tag along with her guys.

    Yes, I loved this book, and found Steve and Don to be wonderfully flawed heroes that I couldn’t help cheering for. Their “answer” may have been unconventional, but suited them, and the story, well.

  5. A.B. Gayle

    Thanks ZenHarley! and thanks for avoiding any spoilers. Poor Wave must shudder when she sees one of my books. I like a little mystery,,,,,, :smile:
    I’m glad you enjoyed the story and understood what it was “about”.
    I really wanted to cover the “moving on” aspect. So many people’s lives are affected by trauma. It can trap you as securely as chains. Unfortunately, in many cases, the effects are long lasting and your life can never be “the same”, but perhaps finding new directions, and your own solutions is the answer.
    Love your name too, BTW. It conjures up images of a book that I bought and read long ago, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” I assume you loved that one! I must admit that I found the book difficult to read at the time, now I’m older I should give it another try!
    And thanks, Jess. I am indebted to you for your help with the bike scenes. It’s hard to balance the getting the facts in and writing it as someone who knows all the facts and doesn’t need them detailed. Conveying a sense of expertise.
    Before I started writing this, some friends asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I asked them to pay for a trip on a Harley. Which they did and the owner was quite happy to fill me in on details. He also gave me some copies of magazines. I could have made that aspect a lot bigger, lol. But I didn’t want to overbalance the story. But every time I hear a bike rev, my head pops up. I think if I was a guy, I’d be a rider. I hope you enjoy your new bike. Is it a Harley?
    And being prepared to accept feedback from betas? Thanks to you, too, Eden. Your comments were also taken note of.
    As I said in the overlong intro, I was dealing with a number of areas that needed expertise from those “In the Scene” The last thing I wanted was to “get it wrong.” But saying that, one thing I learned was that there is no “right way” Respect is the key….

    1. ZenHarley Post author

      Thanks so much for your kind words; it’s always wonderful to hear back from an author (unless of course they hate your review :grin: ) I loved “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” and try to revisit it every few years or so, but it can be a bit of a slog in places. Very evocative of its time, however. And I am somewhat chagrined to admit that the new bike is actually not a Harley, it’s a Honda –half the weight and twice the gas mileage :grin: My old Harley will always have a special place in my heart, though, if not my driveway.

      So I have to ask: :smile: Since some of the other characters from former Opposites Attract novels have appeared in Leather+Lace, any chance we’ll get a glimpse of Steve and Don in an upcoming book? Would love to see how they’re doing a little ways down the road!

      1. A.B. Gayle

        I think that now I have had children, and have dealt with more people in life, I’ll view”Zen” from a different angle.
        As for more books in the series featuring Steve and Don? One of the reasons I did that before others in the series was to give me two Australian venues to work with. So, if I write what is planned, the answer is definitely, yes. They will be side characters though. Glimpsed through other people’s eyes.
        I find that aspect fascinating.
        I have another short story clamouring to come out first, though, which will also be set in that universe. These things don’t just write themselves, unfortunately.
        Thanks again
        A.B.

  6. Mercedes

    Just coming to say that I also loved this book very much! Thanks for the review and recommendation. I had seen this book before and read the blurb but it wasn’t until this review that I decided to read it. I am so glad I didn’t miss out on such a great book.

  7. Feliz

    I read it based on your review, and I’d like to thank you for pointing me to this beautiful story.
    I must admit I was a little bewildered at the start; the world (of a Leather club) I got to glimpse into via this book was just so strange for me. But then, oh holy cow, Steve’s journey to Don and back to himself wa so beautifully done…

    Plus, I just HAVE to share this, apologies in advance: ten+ years ago during my one trip to Australia I rented a motorbike (since I’m a woman the renter only wanted to give me a 125cc lowrider even though he had a Yamaha Fazer available just like the one I rode at home at that time, but I digress..) and if I recall correctly I rode part of Steve’s way south back then too. Immediately took me back to my best vacation ever. *happysigh*

  8. A.B. Gayle

    Glad you enjoyed the road trip in Oz, Feliz. The restriction to a lower powered bike must have beeninfuriating. Aussies are a bit backward in that regard. Did you do the trip alone? Or were you in a group? Oh, and I’m glad you enjoyed the book, too. :)

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