No safe word can protect the heart
Infamous erotica author and accomplished dominatrix Nora Sutherlin is doing something utterly out of character: hiding. While her longtime lover, Søren—whose fetishes, if exposed, would be his ruin—is under scrutiny pending a major promotion, Nora's lying low and away from temptation in the lap of luxury.
Her host, the wealthy and uninhibited Griffin Fiske, is thrilled to have Nora stay at his country estate, especially once he meets her traveling companion. Young, inexperienced and angelically beautiful, Michael has become Nora's protégé, and this summer with Griffin is going to be his training, where the hazing never ends.
But while her flesh is willing, Nora's mind is wandering. To thoughts of Søren, her master, under investigation by a journalist with an ax to grind. And to another man from Nora's past, whose hold on her is less bruising, but whose secrets are no less painful. It's a summer that will prove the old adage: love hurts.
Soren and Nora (of course)
Soren and the reporter
Nora and Michael
Michael and Griffin
Nora and Wesley
I’m just gonna pick up where it started, I’m not going to rehash the whole concept of the series again.
***small spoiler alert***
The Angel, book two in the series, picks up around a year after Nora returns to Soren as his submissive. Soren has been nominated and is on the short list of priests up for bishop. Somewhere nearby, a reporter named Suzanne Kantor receives a fax of the nominees, with an ominous asterisk by Soren’s name, and the words “possible conflict of interest”. Suzanne already has a bone to pick with the Catholic Church, and interprets “conflict of interest” as “abusing children”. Her brother committed suicide after years of abuse by his priest, so you see why her mind jumped right to that. She starts investigating Father Marcus Stearns, aka Soren. Shortly after, someone breaks into Kingsley’s office, in his townhouse in New York. One file is stolen, Nora’s. Given both of these events, Soren orders Nora to get out of town for the summer, both for his protection and hers. While the reporter nosing around is an inconvenience, and possibly dangerous, the break-in is truly disturbing. He orders her to take Michael, a just barely legal teenager and natural submissive that we met in the first book, with her over the summer to train him.
Some backstory on Michael: Michael attempted suicide in the past, frustrated with his desires for both pain and dominance, and traumatized by his family’s insistence that he was “sick”. Soren is his priest, and recognized him as one of the kinky, if you will. He took a chance and told Michael about Nora and the lifestyle they shared. Michael was relieved beyond all measure to find out that he wasn’t a freak of nature after all. Soren promised Michael that he would take him to meet Nora, who is one of Michael’s favorite writers, if he would go a year without harming himself again. He earned that privilege, and in The Siren Soren gave Michael to Nora as an anniversary present. She takes his virginity that night, as Soren intended. He neglected to tell her that he was underage at the time, so that’s another reason Nora is nervous about Suzanne the reporter and her quest to root out evil and destroy it. When she questioned Soren about Michael’s age in The Siren, Soren justified it by telling her that if Michael hadn’t been introduced to the lifestyle sooner rather than later it was inevitable that he would attempt suicide again, and possibly succeed. Some people may violently disagree with this, but I tend to view that as their problem. After all, it’s unheard of to think that teenagers might - gasp - mature quicker and develop their own sexual identity before attaining legal age, right? Yes, that was sarcasm, I employ it regularly, thanks for noticing!
Nora and Michael travel to upstate New York, to stay at the home of Griffin Fiske, another dominant of the Underground and a friend of Nora’s . It’s a huge estate/horse farm that comes complete with a snarky British butler. (I loved the snarky butler) Griffin is Nora’s playmate for the summer, but it rapidly becomes apparent that Michael has caught his attention. Michael is just as entranced by Griffin, but Soren made in painfully clear to Griffin that he is to keep his grubby little paws off of Michael. I really enjoyed Griffin and Michael’s story, even though I really didn’t expect to. My first impression of Griffin (formed in The Siren) was of an arrogant cocky little twerp, so imagine my surprise to find that Griffin was much more complex. I feel that their story is really the “showpiece” of this book, and while the other storylines were excellent, this one really is the big sparkly diamond in the middle. Well, this one and the whole dialogue between Soren and Suzanne. I found myself reading their scenes together over and over again.
A lot of this story is about secrets. About halfway through I found myself wishing I hadn’t already read The Saint and The King, for a lot of Soren’s history is revealed in this book. I did it to myself though, so I guess I can’t really complain. His backstory is shocking, to put it lightly, and one wonders what twisted dark corner closet the author found it in. Some of Nora’s own skeletons are in that closet as well, including the reason she left Soren to begin with. (Didn’t see that one coming) But the one skeleton she doesn’t want to talk about is front and center: Wesley, her former intern, best friend and almost lover. Nora forced Wesley to leave her in The Siren, by returning to Soren. But she is hung up on him, and Soren tells her to take the time away to make her peace with Wesley, for better or worse, and not to return home to him until she has.
Wesley is back in Kentucky with his folks, trying to move on with his life and failing miserably. He has gotten himself a girlfriend, but to her frustration he has not managed to sleep with her. He is still in love with Nora. He’s been keeping secrets too, about his family. Nora finds out some of these secrets, and sends him a copy of her newest book, with a note for him inside. He notices that she has dedicated the book to him, where previously she had dedicated all of her books solely to Soren, and Soren alone. Hopeing this is a sign that she still loves him, Wes jumps in his car and high tails it back to their old house, only to find it empty and mired in layers of dust. While he is in the house he is confronted by Soren, who was alerted when the silent alarm was tripped. They have words, which I was waiting for, as they had not ever met. That conversation is left maddenly hidden, but the next book, The Prince, is all about Nora and Wesley. (And Kingsley and Soren, hooray!) They are reunited in the final scenes of The Angel, by none other than Soren himself.
I’m sure I don’t have to embarrass myself with the shameless fangirling I usually engage in when I review books by this author: ya’ll already know! I will say this, I love the way that every character is given such thought and care. As I said before, I went into this one not really caring for Griffin at all, and came out the other side wanting to read more about him. Even the “bit players” the characters with the smallest parts, are interesting. You want to know more, get more involved with this disparate group of people, see how they are connected and what makes them the way they are. Or maybe that’s just me….lol. I’m going to have a massive book hangover when this series is finished!
On to The Prince. See you on the other side.