Title: Terms of Service
Series: The Heretic Doms Club: Book Two
Author: Marie Sexton
Publisher: Amazon/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 358 Pages
Category: Contemporary, BDSM
At a Glance: Stellar storytelling and romantic to the core, this series has made me curse my need for sleep. The books are just that good.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Dr. River McKay moved to Denver with his husband, Terrence, hoping to give their failing marriage a new start. A year later, Terrence is gone and River’s left brokenhearted. Now, he’s decided it’s time to get back in the game. A chance encounter at the hospital introduces him to Phil, a strong-willed pharmacist who isn’t impressed by River’s degree.
Phil can’t deny his attraction to River, but dating is out of the question. Phil only does one kind of relationship — domestic servitude, where he gives the orders and his partner obeys. To his surprise, River agrees — not because he likes the idea, but because anything’s better than being alone.
They know the arrangement won’t last. Phil’s set in his ways and incapable of showing affection outside the bedroom. River’s unused to obedience and still in love with his ex. But their time together will change them, making them question everything they thought they knew about love, control, and relationships. When the unexpected threatens to tear them apart, they’ll have to choose between the comforts of the past and a future they can only find together.
Review: The men of The Heretic Doms Club were each introduced in One Man’s Trash, book one of this series, and Phil Manderson is an integral cog in that story, as he is the reason Warren Groves and Taylor Reynolds meet. Which means that while you may be tempted to skip the book due to its deeply raw and graphically emotional elements, there are some important details you’d be missing that could affect your investment in this story. Because of the potentially triggering content of One Man’s Trash, though, I won’t say it’s a must-read as much as I’d say it’s a beneficial one in the series arc.
Each of these men have their own definition of dominance, as unique to them as their personalities. While Warren’s passion is bondage and a bit of rough (consensual, of course, which is why he and Tay fit), Phil’s presents as domestic servitude, discipline and obedience. He has been labeled emotionally impotent, which has caused him to lose subs in the past who can’t deal with being kept at arm’s length and having what they see as a withholding of affection in their long-term future. Meeting Dr. River McKay begins to force Phil out of his sterile emotional comfort zone in so many ways, and their journey to acceptance of boundaries and the redrawing of them is a demanding but ultimately fulfilling one.
River’s marriage has just ended. Or, it will just as soon as he gives up the ghost and signs the divorce papers. But he’s continuing to hold out hope his ex will realize his ‘mistake’ and come back home in spite of the fact Terrence left River for another man. That River would consider forgiving him at all is a red flag that signals he doesn’t know what a healthy partnership looks like, and while I wasn’t convinced at first that the agreement he made to be Phil’s sub was the answer to his misplaced hope, in the end it became the way he was able to recognize and define the many things that were wrong with his relationship with Terrence and their marriage.
Phil’s reticence in less capable hands than Sexton’s could have proved an obstacle in allowing readers to connect with him, but it’s the smallest of details about him that underscore his demand for emotional distance and resistance of intimate physical connection—not in the sexual sense but rather in the affectionate, where something as simple as a casual hug falls outside of his comfort zone. There is no armchair psychoanalysis of Phil’s personality, apart from nature vs nurture in that this is how his family dynamic has conditioned him to be, and control and order are his safe space. River throwing a bit of chaos into that order by being Phil’s perfect sub is the building block of their story—can River let go of a dead marriage, and can Phil admit that River is not only the man he needs but the man he’s falling in love with? Watching them step into and out of ingrained habits and patterns and finally embracing the ability, not to mention the desire, to break out of the unhealthier ones was romantic to the nth degree.
One of the things I appreciate about Sexton’s crafting of this series is that she never presents BDSM as a cure for the emotional and, in Taylor’s case, the psychological hurdles the subs are faced with. Taylor and River sharing themselves with all four Doms, within their own as as well as Warren’s and Phil’s parameters, is a validation and a serving of their needs. Group sex isn’t just a kink, it’s a part of their dynamic, and in the case of the subs, it’s an affirmation of their strength. There’s a line in the book, spoken by Gray to River, that not only drives this home but was such an impactful and pivotal moment in the story. My highlight note of that line is simply ‘Oh damn,’ and I said this before, but I’ll repeat myself: I’m DYING to get my hands on Gray’s book.
This series is erotic, it’s sensual, it’s a little bit kinky and a whole lot romantic, and for all that it focuses on the sexual proclivities between the couples and within the group, there is such a brilliant delineation of those relationships and the men who make them up. They are fully realized, with complete backstories, unique personalities, individual tastes and so much charm and honor that it’s impossible not to fall in love with them. The evidence that they would do anything for each other is blatant, and that’s what makes their bond so striking.
Given where this novel ends, it will be interesting to see Phil and River’s future participation in the guys’ poker nights. I also have to say that I love where Sexton has left Phil and Taylor’s friendship. Taylor is no longer just the ex whore with too much psychological baggage that Phil couldn’t handle, but is the man who makes Phil’s best friend, Warren, happy, and I loved the connection they made. Also, as an offhanded mention, and I only recognized this because I read the books back-to-back, it’ll be interesting to see if anything comes of the fact that River and Taylor share a family surname.
Stellar storytelling and romantic to the core, this series has made me curse my need for sleep. The books are just that good.
You can buy Terms of Service here:
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