Author: Lorelei James
Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance
Series: The Mastered Series (Book #2)
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Format: Paperback, 384 Pages
ISBN-10: 0451467310 (NAL /Penguin)
ISBN-13: 978-0451467317 (NAL /Penguin)
Reviewed by: Kelly
UNWOUND…a man’s need for control is tested by the one woman he’ll risk everything for…
When sensei Ronin Black first encounters Amery Hardwick, the fire in her eyes ignites a sexual spark a thousand times better than the primal rush he used to get from mixed martial arts matches. She accepts his darker edges and admits to him that her desires aren’t as wholesome as he believed. And before long Ronin is grappling with emotions he’s never felt before…
Yet despite demanding Amery bare her body and soul to him, Ronin holds a part of himself back. When she learns Ronin’s secret and walks out, his life begins to unravel. To regain her trust he must let go of his pride and prove to her that it’s more than passion binding them together. But after their private pleasures are made public, Ronin is unsure if he’s the right man for Amery. Can they face the consequences together? Or will their differences rip them apart…
Quick & Dirty: Having never read a story featuring MMA fighting before, I was fairly nervous about what was going to be in the pages of Unwound. I didn’t need to worry. While there was (of course) some violent content, the story was first and foremost a contemporary romance. I had some issues with the stiffness of the dialogue and stalkerish male character but found it to be an overall interesting read thanks to its unique bondage elements.
Opening Sentence: Ronin Black had thought his breaking and entering days were behind him.
As anyone who reads a lot knows, you can make a fairly accurate assumption about what a story is going to be like based on its genre. I’ve read enough BDSM stories to expect that every BDSM story is going to involve restraints, sexual toys and domineering behavior. It’s rare to find a story that gives me more than this over-generalized expectation, however. Unwound exceeded this assumption with a surprisingly fresh take on the BDSM aspect by incorporating Japanese erotic binding techniques known as Kinbaku and Hojoitsu.Unfortunately, even the novelty of these practices couldn’t overcome the poor characterization, confusing timeline and problematic dialogue.
Ronin Black is probably one of the most contradictory characters I’ve ever come across and THE reason why I didn’t enjoy Unwound. As an accomplished Sensei, he demands respect from his students. As the owner of a highly successful dojo, he’s politically savvy enough to make beneficial business deals in the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) industry. He’s also one of Denver’s most sought-after Ropes Masters thanks to his extensive knowledge of erotic binding techniques. He should be the perfect example of a desirable alpha male. Problem is Ronin immediately reads as a controlling stalker thanks to how James chooses to introduce him: breaking into Amery’s home because he can’t accept their relationship was over. That might’ve been a forgiveable offense if, when Amery didn’t respond, he didn’t then show up at her door beat to a pulp in order to guilt her into taking him back. These actions don’t produce a weak-kneed response in me. Regardless of the reason why they broke up – which is still unknown at this point – I’d be getting a restraining order and buying a gun.
However, his manipulation seems to work just fine on Amery. She accompanies Ronin to the hospital and agrees to be his nursemaid as he recovers from a serious head injury. It’s only once they’ve returned to his apartment above the dojo that we learn the reason why Amery left him; he didn’t tell her he’s an heir to a multi-million dollar international corporation. So, the girl will accept Ronin manipulating her emotions and commanding her to be in his bed the first night he returns from the hospital. But not telling her he’s rich and has familial connections to a corporation she’s trying to get a freelance contract with…THAT is the deal breaker? Ooookay.
It doesn’t take long for Amery and Ronin to pick back up where things left off – having a lot of sex and binding each other. Despite Ronin’s declaration that things will never be over between them (again, creepy and definitely not sexy to me) and that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to keep her, the secrets begin again. Ronin’s past quickly catches up with them once Amery gets hired by Shiori, Ronin’s estranged sister, to do design work for the family company. There’s lots of unnecessary drama around Ronin’s Rope Master status but Amery is determined that giving Ronin even more sex will make their relationship stronger and solve all their issues.
Odd as it is to say, I would’ve been even more outraged on Amery’s behalf if the dialogue had been better. When Ronin wasn’t spouting creeptastic stalker promises, his dialogue came across as a woman writing what she wants a male character to say. I don’t want to feed in to the stereotype that alpha males can’t be sensitive or sweet. Neither do I want to say that women authors can’t write believable male characters. However, in the case of Unwound, it seems like James overstretched in her effort to create an authentic male character.
There are plenty of readers who have and will enjoy Unwound. As I stated earlier, James knows how to write a sexy scene and the new binding element did keep my interest. Nevertheless I don’t recommend this title for any but the most steadfast readers of BDSM because of it’s emotionally abusive undertones.
“I know.” She continued to stroke his hair. “Even if you were one hundred percent healthy, I still wouldn’t be all in for sexcapades.”
Ronin looked at her quizzically. “Why not?”
“Because I’m not ready to resume a sexual relationship with you. We need to reestablish intimacy first.”
“The sexual pull between us hasn’t diminished at all since we’ve been apart, and fulfilling those needs is the ultimate intimacy, Amery.”
“It is in part. Intimacy means sharing. Bodies, minds, thoughts. Parts of the past. Fears for the future.”
He stared at her. “My biggest fear is you don’t believe we have a future.”
She said nothing.
“Your silence is not reassuring.”
“So maybe I need to reassure you first. I swore when I got the chance with you again I wouldn’t hold back. On anything. Thoughts. Feelings. Actions. Words.”
Her heart raced.
“Maybe I need to start with the words and tell you that I lo—”
Amery put her hand over his mouth so fast his teeth connected with her skin. “Don’t.”
Ronin didn’t bother to hide his frustration.
“The only reassurances I need right now are that you’re taking your meds and giving your body time to heal.”
The Mastered Series:
3. Unraveled (March 3, 2015)
FTC Advisory: NAL /Penguin provided me with a copy of Unwound. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.