This book is the first spinoff to the No Shame series by the same author. I’m pretty sure it can be read as a stand-alone, but I both highly recommend it and think that readers who enjoy this book will likely also enjoy going back to read those books as well. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Caught up now? Excellent. Now you know why I was both incredibly interested in reading a story that features Wander and had little to no interest in reading a story that features Burke. However, Phoenix doesn’t redeem Burke without making the character work for it. She sets him up as a more sympathetic character who does make an effort to identify his issues and resolve them. How Burke approached BDSM and evolved in how he both engaged with it and found benefit from it fascinated me. In the end, I doubt Burke will ever be a favorite of mine, but I will always applaud an author who still manages to draw me in despite my initial reservations.
But two heroes make up a proper romance, and Wander has been full of fascinating possibilities from my first encounter with him. In this book, though, he comes off as kind of…perfect? Wander is pretty much exactly what Burke needs in all regards, does his job without much drama (even if the external plot was interesting and dramatic in and of itself), and is overall the picture-perfect sexy Dom shown on the tin. I think my interest in him as a character will actually deepen throughout the rest of this series, as Wander fulfills the desire he expresses after experiencing the found-family in the No Shame series. And if I have some ideas of what’s coming next, I’ll call it half prediction of where Phoenix might go from here and half hopeful wish-fulfillment of the type of romance relationship tropes I enjoy most (and which Phoenix has proven adept at writing).
I look forward to continuing this series and might even consider going back to revisit the No Shame books in the meantime. (Just don’t tell the rest of my lengthy to-be-read list.)