I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: Masters & Mercenaries #5.5
Published by Other Genres: BDSM, Contemporary Romance
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A curious woman
Ashley Paxon understands responsibility. After her fiancé left her alone and pregnant, she forged a new life for herself and her daughter. Moving to Dallas, she went back to school and found a job at a club called Sanctum. As one of the BDSM club’s waitresses, she watches the Doms and their submissives every night. She yearns to explore their lifestyle of discipline and power exchange, but she knows she wouldn’t belong.
A wounded man
Keith Langston believes in living in the moment. Haunted by the past, he moves from one casual relationship to the next and never looks back. But the moment he lays eyes on Ashley, something primal and possessive takes over. He can’t stop thinking about her and yet he knows he can’t offer her what she needs. Having her seems impossible until Sanctum’s owner, the mysterious Ian Taggart, makes him an offer he can’t refuse.
The perfect contract
Offered the chance to train Ashley and initiate her into the D/s lifestyle, Keith is delighted to accept. Under the guidelines of a carefully crafted contract, they lose themselves in the pleasures and intimacies of being Master and submissive. But when Ashley and her daughter are threatened, Keith realizes she needs much more than a part-time Dom. To protect her, he will have to break through the barriers of their contract and finally face the demons haunting his heart.
Certain authors and series are on my auto-buy list. Lexi Blake and her Masters & Mercenaries series is at the top of that list. So when her new novella Unconditional released, I had to read it on release day. I am so glad that I did, because this book offered everything I love about a Masters & Mercenaries book – alpha men, hot sex and sweet loving.
I knew that I was going to love Unconditional. First of all, it’s part of Ms. Blake’s Masters & Mercenaries series. One of the reasons that I love this series is because Ms. Blake has done a masterful job of creating characters so vibrant that I forget they are fictional. All of the characters in the Masters & Mercenaries series are full of life and passion, but never stagnant. I truly enjoy seeing them change and grow as they learn to love themselves and each other.
Ms. Blake’s heroes are never perfect, but damn do they come close. Keith is no exception. He is emotionally closed off because of a tragedy in his past. We learn about what happened in little glimpses over time. Once we learn his secret, we completely understand why he has shut himself off. And like Ashley, we want to hug him and hell him it’s going to be alright.
Ashley is suffering from low self-esteem (who of us isn’t) which makes her so relatable. Her first, and only boyfriend, left her with a daughter and no idea of how to have a successful physical relationship. Keith steps in her as her Dom and teaches her how to love herself. He just doesn’t realize that he needs to learn the same lesson.
This is where Ms. Blake excels – in the emotional side of the story. Though Unconditional is a novella, it still packs the same emotional punch of her full-length novels. I found myself unashamedly shedding a few tears as Keith overcame his fears. When Ashley’s daughter was threatened, I felt her fears and waited with baited breath to see how the problem would be resolved. But Ms. Blake also manages to instill some humor. My favorite line was when Keith described Ashley’s daughter as a “full on Domme in footie PJs.”
I had hoped that we would get to see some (okay, all) of our favorites from other books in the series and I whooped with joy when they appeared. Revisiting them is like being at a family reunion and getting to hang out with your favorite family members. They make you scream; they make you laugh; and sometimes they make you cry. But at the end of the day they are family and you love them.
Since Unconditional is a novella, it’s considered the 5.5th installment in the series. Lucky for us readers, the next installment is just around the corner and others are on their way. As long as Ms. Blake continues to offer such high quality books, I’ll be right there, ready to read. Thank goodness for pre-order so I don’t have to worry about missing a single page.