Amber Dolors knows better than to get involved with her boss. Devastatingly handsome in his sharp suits and sexy beyond belief, he possesses an air of command that fuels her darkest fantasies. But she’s worked too hard to get this job, and keeping it will lead to a brilliant future. She won’t cross that line—even if his way of giving orders and demanding her best performance gives her delicious warm shivers. Alexander Knight prides himself on his integrity and self-discipline. After all, he hasn’t risen to the position he enjoys by indulging his whims over ambition. He also isn’t blind. He’s certainly noticed his sharp, young assistant is hot as hell. His self-imposed sexual hermitage doesn’t stop him from watching her. And endlessly fantasizing. The day Alec’s cool reserve cracks and Amber catches a glimpse of something simmering beneath his apparent indifference is the day everything between them changes. Alec gives her what she’s been looking for sexually—as masterful in the bedroom as he is in the boardroom. He finds himself in the grip of an affair that tests even his boundaries, while Amber’s new role as willing student pushes them both past any consideration other than mutual longing.
Office romances sure can be nasty but in the capable hands of Jeffe Kennedy, an office romance can also be delightfully naughty and fraught with sexual tension.
Amber Dolors is young, ambitious, intelligent, and looking for something in a man she has never been able to find. She works in the financial industry, she is very good at her job, and when given the chance she will absolutely shine. She also works under Alexander Knight, the coolest, calmest, sexiest man she has ever encountered. Alexander is always present and put-together, he is cunning and clever, he never really engages any of his employees, and in certain moments when only Amber is watching, his control slips and she gets a glimpse of the man behind the façade. Amber very much wants to see more of that man, the man she comes to call, Dark Alec. (Yes, it’s with a “C” as he’s British!)
Alexander Knight moved to the U.S. not because he wanted a change of scenery but because he needed a change of scenery. His divorce wasn’t just ugly, it was devastating and has left him in a deep depression for far, far too long. By choice he has avoided companionship of the female variety and focused all of his attention on his job. He is certainly the leader of the pack among his colleagues and the man they go to when there is a problem that needs fixing but as of late, the work is no longer all the satisfaction he needs or wants in his life. When the other partners come to Alec to solve a serious problem he is assigned help in the form of Amber Dolors. Though Alec doesn’t know Amber he has been very, very aware of her for a very, very long time.
The sexual tension between Alec and Amber is palpable and in a moment of very, very rare weakness Alec confirms for Amber what she has suspected, Alec wants her. What’s more, Amber discovers Alec’s particular kink is exactly the kind of sexual relationship she would like to explore. Getting to the good stuff is going to take some convincing since Alec has never crossed the line with an employee and is supremely conscious of tanking Amber’s young career. Amber, however is more than Alec could have ever hoped for and in her incredibly logical and reasoned manner she convinces him to engage in a sexual relationship with her. Though extremely nervous about the potential fallout Alec is also irresistibly attracted to Amber and so, the ground rules are set and the safe words are chosen.
From the moment they allow the sexual energy to release, Amber and Alec are perfect together. Alec has no interest in a total submissive and Amber has no desire (nor the personality) to be anyone’s slave. With very little experience in the BDSM world Elizabeth needs Alec to help her navigate the sexual world she wants to explore. Their first encounters are meant to help Elizabeth get accustomed to Alec and his ways and for Alec to feel her out in terms of boundaries. Even with as light as those moments are, they are still incredibly hot and Amber is certain she wants more. Yet again, Elizabeth has to convince Alec that she is ready to move forward and with her perceptive mind ever-working she begins to pick away at Alec’s tough exterior in order to better understand her new lover. Elizabeth’s highly perceptive nature doesn’t so much irritate Alec as it frustrates and scares him. In only a few weeks, Elizabeth is able to see beneath his cool exterior and discover what it is that makes him so hesitant to engage in a more complete and public relationship with her. The secrets and fears Alec harbors are significant and holding them in is going to cost him the best thing that has ever happened to him!
The Bottom Line: Jeffe Kennedy has never disappointed me and she certainly didn’t with this read either. Office romances are always tricky and just when you think you are going to get through this read without the shit hitting the fan, Kennedy blindsides you with office drama. It is good drama too! Both Alec and Amber are likeable characters but in very different ways. Amber is intelligent and I like that Kennedy has allowed her to be so. Amber may be young but she is also very logical and level-headed and I found that quite appealing. She rarely ever devolves into an emotional mess and I found that quite refreshing. Alec is likeable because of his age and experience, the two things he sees as disadvantages in his relationship with Amber. When Alec is in command and on his game, he is fiercely attractive. His command of Amber is both powerful and caring but he allows his doubts and fears to consume him from time to time. Once he finally pulls his head out of his ass and realizes what he has with Amber, Alec becomes an even better character and man.
Nothing is perfect and there is one issue in this read I found particularly irritating, Lily. Lily is another partner in the firm and though she starts out OK she quickly becomes seriously unlikeable. Lily is such a dominate female that she automatically assumes Amber needs her protection and that Amber is both unwilling and/or incapable of making her own decisions and/or taking care of herself. Kennedy has built such a fine and self-sufficient character in Amber that it makes Lily come across as nothing more than a nosy bitch. Perhaps a bit more background on Lily may have eased this perception but alas, that was not to be.
At the end of the day, I thoroughly enjoyed this read as I have every other Jeffe Kennedy book. Kennedy doesn’t do gratuitous sex and that is something I very much appreciate in erotica titles. I need good characters and a good plot to go along with the sex and that is certainly delivered in this read. The Falling Under series is quickly becoming one of my favorite BDSM series 🙂
Ryan Black has admired Celestina Sala from afar for years, her lush body and sensual nature calling to the dominant in him. For just as many years, Celestina was off-limits—married, proud and self-sufficient. But all that has changed, and now Celestina is in debt and in need…and available. Ryan proposes a contract: he’ll pay off her debt if she gives herself to him in bed, yielding control in exchange for the pain and pleasure he’ll bring them both.
There are words for women who take money for sex, and none of them are nice ones. Celestina never thought she’d have to sink this low, but giving up control sounds more enticing than ever before. And suddenly it’s not about having to give in to Ryan. It’s about wanting to.
But when Ryan’s dark past comes to light, they may both be in over their heads. The terms of his contract say her body is his…but her heart may be another story.
One thing is for sure—now that Ryan has Celestina, he can never let her go.
Round three of the Falling Under series proved to be a mixed bag for me and I discovered some of the things I didn’t like about this read were also some of the very things I appreciated. Confused? Let me explain . . .
What I didn’t like:
Ryan and Celestina: Lord have mercy but these are two of the most screwed up creatures on God’s green earth! Though Ryan is a tremendously successful businessman and has more money than Fort Knox, he has no idea how to be a human being. Given his background, his interactions with other humans is totally understandable and at times, almost laughable. Celestina, through almost no fault of her own has found herself in a terrible financial situation and getting out isn’t going to be easy. With her two young nieces to care for and no real life skills to fall back on, she has got to make a ridiculous decision that will absolutely get her out of financial debt but will make her a virtual slave on a whole other level.
The sex: I don’t normally dislike the sex in the books I read and I can’t say I totally disliked this sex (it is sex after all!) but it involved a type of kink that I personally find hard to tolerate. With no judgement at all on my part, I simply cannot understand any relationship that requires one person to call another person, Master. While everything in this read is totally consensual and all above board, it just isn’t a kink I can get into.
Now you’re wondering if I didn’t like the two main characters and the sex in an erotica read, how can I possibly be at four stars? The better question you should be asking is, how can the two things she disliked about the read also be two of the things she liked/appreciated most about this read?
What I liked:
Ryan and Celestina: Maybe it is precisely because these two are so laughably broken that they work so well together. Once Ryan allows himself to feel some real feelings he realizes how inept he is with human emotions and the basic human condition. Bless his heart, he sure tries to make things right with Celestina but he often ends up making a bigger mess of the situation. It takes Ryan an awful long time (and one really funny conversation with his tech guru) to figure out that a woman is more than a business proposition and/or a long-term project. When the chips are down and Ryan is about to lose everything, he tries some good old fashioned honesty and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. Celestina is a cat of a totally different color. For the vast majority of her life, she has allowed others to simply do things, take care of things and this has left her with very little in the way of basic life skills. Sure, she is a super-talented designer but she didn’t pay her income taxes. Sure, she has suffered a lot of loss in her young life and she has done a fine job of caring for her nieces but she married a guy she didn’t love so she and her twin could both be married and be more connected to one another. In so many ways, Celestina is at once as childish as she is a mature adult.
The “relationship” between Ryan and Celestina is certainly hot but it is built on a shaky foundation at best. Getting to an HEA for these two almost never is on so many occasions but honestly, who but each other would put up with these two??
The sex: As I mentioned above, the Master/slave thing going on in this read just isn’t for me but it ended up being one of my favorite parts of the read. How so? This particular type of sex makes perfect sense for the overall plot line. Anything else really wouldn’t have worked given the overall setup, direction of the story, and the two main characters. Additionally, I really appreciate the fact that Kennedy doesn’t offer the same thing in every single read. Believe it or not, the same type of sex in read after read really does get boring and predictable. Even though this sex wasn’t for me, it is something different and there are plenty of readers out there who are going to totally enjoy this.
The contract: What a twisted mess Ryan and Celestina get themselves into. While Ryan sees the arrangement from a purely business and sexual perspective, Celestina sees it as selling her soul one deviant act at a time. Though Ryan tries to reassure her about the arrangement, it is awfully hard not to feel like a whore when you are selecting sexual scenarios from a drop down menu on a tablet. Though this arrangement is completely unorthodox, it makes for very interesting reading. The reader isn’t privy to what is on each menu nor what Celestina has selected until her appointed time with Ryan. In this way, the reader stays hooked wondering what new naughty is going to show up next.
The Bottom Line: Just keep signing me up for Jeffe Kennedy reads because obviously, even when I have some issues with a particular story, I still end up liking the overall read. Kennedy has a way of just pulling me into her twisted little world and taking me on a ride I don’t always expect. Under Contract is certainly an erotic read but it also has its fair share of moments that are heartbreaking, infuriating, ridiculously funny, and just plain sweet. Kennedy’s books may have a lot of sex in them but they also have a lot of substance and that is the greatest reason I keep coming back to her!!
Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook. Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, hit the shelves starting in May 2014 and book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review and has been nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose, has been nominated for best fantasy romance of the year. A fifth series, the highly anticipated erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, released starting with Going Under, followed by Under His Touch and Under Contract. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.