"Tell me your safe words."
"Yellow and red. And I am so green right now it's like being in a forest."
When Julia Lyle was invited to her best friend Lana's wedding, the word ‘submission' was the last thing she expected to hear. Although she's been warned the wedding will be ‘unconventional', once Lana kneels in order to accept her husband's collar, Julia is torn between running away and shaking some sense into her friend. The dilemma is solved when a man behind her threatens to turn her over his knee if she doesn't keep quiet. The man – Marcus Cavendish – also promises to explain things to her, if she behaves herself.
As promised, after the ceremony they keep talking, and Marcus offers Julia a quick introduction into the BDSM lifestyle. Since they agreed on a one-time deal, only for the evening, Julia accepts to submit to him and experience what she firmly believed was impossible. But that turns out to be only the beginning...
The problem is – Julia wants nothing to do with domineering men. She's determined to find a sweet, nice, uncomplicated man. Her last relationship went from sweet to sour real fast, when her charming boyfriend turned into a controlling, overbearing freak. Just being close to Marcus is making her want to run away, as he's everything she vowed she'd avoid, but at the same time he's making her want to follow him wherever he goes. And, as he explains more, and demands more, she feels she can't resist him.
Marcus, on the other hand, although an experienced Dom, has never been with a novice before. It turned out to be a unique evening for him, as it was for Julia. But while the thrill is incredible and the attraction between them is indisputable, he refuses to consider a relationship or any kind of permanent arrangement. The one woman he'd collared ended up relying on him for all her needs and losing herself in submission. It made him wary and unwilling to try again...until Julia calls him a month later, and they end up getting closer and closer. It was Marcus who eventually pushed for more, and Julia walked away, unwilling to surrender and risk a relationship with another demanding, domineering man. The question is – will she settle with a nice guy, or find the strength to embrace her submissive side and make a commitment?
Ms. Cartwright managed to deliver yet another amazing BDSM story. I enjoyed reading With This Collar immensely. It is well written and perfectly paced. The characters are great—even the side ones that I can't wait to read more about—and there are just enough witty lines to highlight the sassy part of their personalities.
In a way, this is another 'BDSM 101' sort of book. There are a lot of explanations, slow introductions to the scenes; the story mostly concentrates on Julia's experiences, her struggle to accept the new lifestyle, the rules and the whole idea of power exchange and its true meaning. Still, even if it's not your first BDSM story, it shouldn't bother you, as it is perfectly mixed with the rest of it and highlights the beginning of Julia's journey to submission.
The thing that turned this story from good to great is this – although there's instant chemistry between Marcus and Julia, they did not fall straight into commitment. Their past relationships that made them – especially Julia – uncertain and wary in the first place kept them from changing overnight and doing things that would feel all wrong. This way, they stayed true to their characters and kept things slow – with a couple of inevitable mistakes along the way.
4.5 stars for the first book of the Mastered series. Can't wait to read more!
This review was originally written for The Romance Reviews