Update 24-Apr-2013: currently FREE on Smashwords* in anticipation of Book 3's release on April 30th
THE SHORT: As I post this review, I learned that the author is making THE ART OF SUBMISSION free
for the rest of November (so far, on Smashwords.com and AllRomanceebooks.com). So gang, count your lucky stars and go type/click/download this deliciously yummy read now! (You can read my review later.)
The blurb did not lie—"romantic, erotic, deeply emotional and humorous". Yes, (hell) yes, (unexpectedly) yes, and (delightfully) yes. The blurb also accurately stated "mild BDSM themes
"—because most of the BDSM aspects in this first book focus on relatively inexperienced Isabel learning about the lifestyle.
As I told a friend, THE ART OF SUBMISSION is perfect for a "vanilla with sprinkles" kind of erotica reader or anyone curious about BDSM. It responsibly handles the BDSM lifestyle, so no need to fear being ripped out of your comfort zone because "the Dom" throws the newbie submissive straight into hard-core BDSM scenes (unlike certain unmentionable books). IMO, the book's eroticism is very well-written and a notch or two higher than some mainstream "romantica" (such as Kresley Cole's IAD series).
THE LONG: Sometimes, timing truly is key when it comes to a relationship. Isabel and Dylan meet at the perfect moment in their lives—she is increasingly aware that she wants something different sexually (which comes out in her paintings) and he has been suppressing his need for kink for nearly two years. One look at Isabel's erotic paintings at a gallery event and the rest is history as their funny, tender, smexy and sometimes painful story unfolds in THE ART OF SUBMISSION. And along the way, there are some very interesting twists and turns.
I'll confess—I have a weakness for Black Irish. So when I read "amazing blue eyes that are contrasted by his dark hair", I was gone for Dylan. Some might argue that he wasn't a true Dom but I found his character to be refreshingly real and down-to-earth, despite Isabel referring to him as "the" Dylan Young in the beginning. There was his lingering vulnerability due to his parents' sudden death (very mysterious, that) and his caution and trust issues because of his ex-sub. But I especially liked that while he was experienced in the BDSM lifestyle, he wasn't the über-confident Dom, always knowing what to do perfectly and always in control. He's only 30—so again, better realism. And him feeling obligated and then being so stupid about his personal assistant? *rolls eyes* Such "a guy" thing! How many women would hire a former one-night stand?
Isabel... well, it took me a bit longer because her personality is so different from mine (and it's been a while since I was 25). But then I recalled some of the chippies my guy friends used to date (not an insult if you knew what I meant by that). Once I had that point of reference, I relaxed and warmed up to her as the story progressed and I read more from her POV. She has major self-esteem issues (read: none) so you can't help but cheer at those moments when she "pulls on her big girl panties" and notice that she gains some confidence in the short time that she knows Dylan. But full disclosure: I found her utter ignorance (naïveté?) of BDSM too much of a stretch at this day and age (internet anyone?). Where did she come up with some of the images for her paintings? And the way she kept messing up "BDSM"...
As many reviewers have mentioned, the way the author utilized alternating first person POVs was very disconcerting at first. Except for a few parts, each POV covers the same period/events in the story so the story essentially backtracked every time the POV switched (unlike the normal alternating POV style which picks up immediately from one POV to the other). This made the book unnecessarily redundant and disrupted the overall pace and flow of the story.
But at the same time, I really liked reading the scenes completely from each POV. Catch-22, right? Thankfully, the first person narrative and casual style made it easy to feel as if I were inside the main characters' heads (or reading their journal entries). Once I knew what to expect, I eventually settled on reading each POV while skimming over some of the more repetitive parts. (In too much of a hurry to know what happens, I'll save a full read for later. And yes, gang, the editor in me itches to take this gem of a story and polish it up some more to make it really, really sparkle.)
As for the end? NOT a cliffhanger, but a definite and very effective hook for the next book (out around December 20, 2012). Personally, I'm hoping for more in-depth BDSM scenes. ^_^
Final note: I LOVED the real paintings by Rebekka Ivacson which the author incorporated into the story/book. Seeing them on a B&W Kindle doesn't do them justice.* Copy provided by the author for an objective review.