Series: Kinky in the City: Book One
Author: Quinn Ward
Publisher: Amazon/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 224 Pages
Category: Contemporary, BDSM
At a Glance: The D/s in Exploration is all very superficial, like the characters were joking around or playing at being in a relationship with that dynamic. I wanted and expected to see more of a power exchange, for the characters to really feel their roles in the Dom/sub relationship.
Reviewed By: Ky
Blurb: The reluctant manager of his family’s restaurant, Frankie attempts to live up to the legacy of his father and grandfather. Running a business that isn’t his passion and trying to do it without asking for help leaves him turning to less-than-legal means when he wants to surrender control.
Newly divorced, Calvin no longer lives in the closet, leaving him searching for what he most desires- control. So when he finds Frankie on his knees in the back room of a local bar, Calvin sees the sub he’s only ever fantasized about having.
Can Calvin find the confidence to explore his dominant side while showing his younger roommate that submission isn’t only about whips and pain?
Review: The title, the blurb and the cover of Quinn Ward’s Exploration all looked very promising, but unfortunately the story didn’t deliver for me… The beginning of the book was good, and there was a big Italian family with strong bonds and even stronger opinions that was fun to read about. I liked Calvin’s friend Eli, even though he didn’t have too much page time, and all four of Frankie’s brothers. I liked that one of the MCs was a single dad who had a great relationship with his ex-wife and they had managed to remain friends.
Now the hard part: The cons.
This is supposed to be a book with BDSM elements about a couple discovering the world of kink, but I don’t think that’s the most accurate way to describe the story. It started like that, but somewhere along the way it got lost and ended up being a book about a new couple where one of the partners needed some help with the stress in his life, and about their relationships with their families. I was expecting a strong Dom/sub dynamic where the power exchange came mainly in the form of control in everyday life situations, but while it started promising, it never fully developed and the characters didn’t grow as the story moved on.
I was extremely frustrated by the lack of meaningful communication between Frankie and Calvin. Calvin was supposed to be the more experienced one in the BDSM world and the dominant partner in the relationship, while Frankie was the one who took his first tentative steps into that world with help and guidance from Calvin. All of that applies to the first part of the book, where they begin their relationship and it seems like D/s is where they’re heading. I think that those kinds of relationships can get very intense, very fast, and many times that can be dangerous if there is not proper communication between the partners. The fact that Frankie didn’t know anything about his limits yet, what he was into, what would be a problem for him, or basically anything about BDSM and kink, made the need for talking even stronger. Calvin turned out not to be experienced either, but he had more knowledge about it than Frankie, who did some kind of research at the beginning of the story in order to fully understand what kink was and if there was anything he was interested in doing. So, I think it was Calvin’s job as the Dom and the more experienced partner to initiate conversations about it and not do anything unless they talked about it first and he knew where Frankie stood, 100%. They started their experimentation without discussing limits, punishments, turn ons or turn offs. They just jumped right in with Calvin trying things and Frankie realising he liked them, but that was pure luck as Calvin wasn’t sure of Frankie’s reception of what he did.
This is not a heavy BDSM book, everything they do is pretty light, which is fine since we already know that from the blurb, but what I wanted and expected to see was more of a power exchange, for the characters to really feel their roles in the Dom/sub relationship, to talk about their problems and their wants, what works and what doesn’t, what their expectations are from their relationship, the best way to work together. The one time they went to a BDSM club and it looked like they would finally talk about the subject, Frankie just showed interest in being tied up and that was it. It didn’t go anywhere else, it wasn’t mentioned again, nothing happened and, sadly, no conversation either. It was all very superficial, like they were joking around or playing at being in a relationship with that dynamic. Calvin took on a more dominant role or attitude at times, but Frankie joked around and Cal playfully scolded him. It didn’t sound as if Calvin being dominant was a turn on for Frankie, or as if it was something he craved from their relationship. When Calvin acted more dominant it was like an afterthought, like he was trying hard to act that way and not like it was natural for him or like he felt more like himself this way, either just in private or in public too.
Calvin and Frankie spend a lot of time apart because Calvin has to drive his son around the country for hockey games, and during those days Frankie would struggle because Calvin was away, but he would try to cope by himself and Calvin would tell him again that he should be open about being stressed so he could help him along. I don’t know, it was all pretty messy. The characters didn’t show development and to be honest, the BDSM aspect of the relationship felt fake. It was just a guy who needed help with his stress levels and then flourished when he had someone to depend on and to guide him through difficult situations. The only aspect of their relationship that I can say resembled something like a Dom/sub connection was Calvin guiding Frankie through his life so he could have more structure in it. But in the end, even that seemed like Calvin acting more like a life coach for Frankie, just telling him to have better sleeping patterns, eat healthier and cut back at work. There was something missing from their interactions to make it D/s.
Calvin’s job was also a mystery until the end. Maybe I missed something at the start of the story, but the only thing I knew about it by the end of the book is that he had projects, clients and he did something that involved coding. Pretty minor, but I kept wondering what he did for a living.
Let’s talk about the text now. So. Many. Errors! I read an ARC, so I didn’t take it into consideration for my rating, but I sincerely hope it was cleaned up before it was published. It wasn’t a case of typos; it was missing words, sentences that didn’t make sense because some words were replaced with others, and double words. There was a scene at the end that was there just to add some drama—it didn’t serve any real purpose, and the way the aftereffect was handled frustrated me beyond words. I’ll be pretty vague as to avoid spoilers, but if Frankie wasn’t affected by what happened to the degree that he was, this scene would have gone down a lot better with me. As it was, Frankie was deeply affected, and the way the whole thing was handled by the author, and the magic solution we’re presented with, was a no-go for me.
So, me and this book are not buddies, but I’m not writing off this author. If a book from this series catches my eye in the future, I’ll give it a try. I don’t know if they’re getting their own books, but I’m interested in Eli’s, Freddie’s and maybe Max’s stories.
You can buy Exploration here:
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