If you have been following me, you might be asking yourself, "What's the deal, Nenia? Why are you reading all of these books if you don't like them?" Well, here's the thing, Dear Reader. I purchased most of the author's collection at a used bookstore because I'd heard good things, and then immediately regretted this decision upon picking up the first book in the Sweet series. Stuck with 10+ books I didn't like, and a following of fellow bloggers who enjoy seeing me suffer, I decided that since I spent money for them, I was going to review them, goddammit!
The Sweet series wasn't going well for me so I took a brief hiatus halfway through the series. When I returned to Maya Banks's work, I decided to switch to the Surrender trilogy instead, thinking to mix things up a little. You can imagine my thoughts when I found out that Surrender is really a spinoff of the Sweet series. Same stories, similar characters, with regular visits to The House that is owned and operated by Damon Roche. I'll give you a hint. My exact thoughts rhymed with "clucking swell." Especially because it turns out that I've attempted reading this before. Three years, ago, in fact. Twenty-four-year-old Nenia wanted to give it the old college try, and then DNF'd 1/4 of the way through. Twenty-four-year-old Nenia was wise.
LETTING GO is about Joss(lyn) and Dash. Joss is grieving her dead husband but after two years is ready to move on. Her one wish was to be dominated in bed, which her husband could never bring himself to do because of the abuse he experienced growing up. Joss is determined to find a new man who can give her what she needs in bed. Dash is a friend to her and her late husband, but has secretly coveted Joss for all these years. When he sees her at The House, with another man, he storms in to interrupt the scene and drags her out caveman-style, declaring that he'll be the only one to do that.
Basically. I mean, I'm exaggerating a little, but not by much.
Now, to the author's credit, the writing in this book is a cut above the writing in the Sweet series. I don't know if someone took the author aside and said, "Hey, you know, I don't think women want to read about 'swollen tissues' in their erotica" but the phrase only appeared once. The extremely strange sex metaphors were also absent, which was a plus (although the humorous factor dipped).
The anti-BDSM attitude was also reduced even more here than in previous books, although Dash still can't help himself; he just has to mansplain safe words to Joss:
"Now, many people in these kinds of relationships use safe words. I'm not a fan of them myself, but I understand the necessity of them. Especially for a woman being introduced to this world for the first time. After a while you won't need a safe word because it's my job to find out your boundaries and push you to the very edge without crossing that line. Does that make sense?" (94)
"[W]hen you say [your safe word], it ends and the mood will be broken. There won't be any going back. So be very sure that you truly want me to stop and aren't just overwhelmed by the moment. I'll push your limits. You want a man to push you. You've said as much. So don't chicken out the first time things get intense" (196).
The smarm...it just oozes from the page. Also, safe words are not sexual training wheels. You don't have a commencement ceremony where people give you an award and say, "Congratulations! You don't need to use safe words anymore!" They're not a sign of weakness or inexperience. They're literally for stopping a scene when it becomes too intense, uncomfortable, or scary. That's all. I can't believe he implied that she would be a mood-wrecking chicken if she used her goddamn safe word.
Banks attempts to make Dash a sweet, considerate hero, cushioning the alphahole nature with pretenses of concern and nuturance, but it doesn't really work. Not only does he appear to not understand how personal space or BDSM work, he's creepy and possessive. Literally right after they start to explore their relationship, he drops this bomb on her:
"I want you to move in with me" (104).
Why? Because he doesn't want to have sex with her in the house she shared with her husband. When Joss asks for more time to think about this decision (understandable), Dash says this:
"The only thing me giving you more time would accomplish would be giving you more of a chance to back out. I'm not going to allow that. I've waited too long. I won't let you go now. Not when I'm so close to having everything I ever wanted" (105).
I'm sorry, I seem to have wondered into a Criminal Minds episode, by mistake. What the actual fresh hell are you still doing on his doorstep, girl? Those words should have you running faster than "on your mark, get set, go!" Dude is a total psycho who's probably going to lock you in his basement.
A few pages later, he tells her that he doesn't feel comfortable with the idea of her working:
"I like the idea of you not working. I like the idea of having all your time. I'm a selfish bastard. I don't want to share you with anyone and certainly not a job" (111).
Seriously. I have two words for you: Base. Ment.
The creepiness continues, as Dash considers impregnating her.
It would suit him perfectly for her to be barefoot and pregnant in his home. Tied to him irrevocably. Maybe that made him a chauvinistic bastard, but he didn't give a damn (153).
"Barefoot and pregnant" is actually a loaded phrase with negative, sexist connotations. Not necessarily something I really want to be reading about in an erotica that is allegedly about empowering a woman to find the courage to overcome her grief and pursue her own sexual desires.
Weird sex descriptions:
-: On p.135, Dash decides to feed her pasta and sauteed shrimp. He ensure[s] it [won't] burn her by testing it first, by which I took to mean he was taking a bite out of every morsel before giving it to her, which sounds gross to me: I'm a woman, not a baby bird! But Joss finds it erotic: The idea that the food had been to his mouth first and then to hers was as jolting as if he'd kissed her (135). Or if he vomited into her mouth, I suppose. That, too. But hey, po-tay-to, po-tah-to.
-: His d*ck was about to come out of his pants. He wouldn't be surprised if his erection tore right through his jeans (142). Has that happened before? I think he needs to buy better quality pants.
-: He sucked and licked, thrusting his tongue inside her to taste her sweet honey (151).
What shifted this book to a solid one star was what I'm going to call The Misunderstanding. This whole time, Joss has been experiencing grief. On p.286, she has a dream about her husband. It's supposed to be about moving on, and getting ready to embrace her life with Dash, but when she talks in her sleep, Dash misinterprets what's happening and thinks she still loves Carson.
Which isn't a big deal. He was her husband and he is dead.
But not to Dash, who starts yelling at her when she wakes up, accusing her of using him as a "poor substitute" for the man she lost. He adds this:
"You don't want to move on. You just want someone to fuck you and play master to your submissive. Hell, it would have been just any man, or don't you remember that night at The House?" (287)
You mean the night you barged into her scene unasked and dragged her out after threatening the other Dom? That night?
"It's obvious you weren't particular and any dick would have done" (287).
Keep in mind that this is over something she said in her sleep, which he didn't even ask her to clarify.
Joss makes a half-assed attempt to try and correct him and tells him that he's hurting her feelings.
Dash retorts with this:
"Good," he said savagely. "It's about time you hurt a tenth as much as I've hurt over the last years. I'm tired of trying to live up to a dead man's memory. When are you going to accept that he's gone?" (287).
After that, there was no going back for me. Dash was beyond redemption. I mean, who says that to a woman whose husband has died? Well, I'll tell you: the same kind of man who admits that he treated her badly when she first started going out with his best friend in the hopes that they'd break up:
"It shames me that I treated you so curtly in the beginning. I actually hoped that things wouldn't work out between you and Carson because I wanted you for myself. I had planned to swoop in and claim you the minute things ended between you and Carson....I fully admit, I looked for faults. I looked for any evidence that you weren't what was best for him. Hell, I hoped that he'd lose interest or you'd do something to put him off....I wanted you to fail just so I could have you as my own" (180).
Joss is so upset that she flees - and ends up getting into a car accident. Joss's friends confront Dash when they find out she's missing, but he has no idea where she is. They find her in the hospital. He finds out that he was - surprise, surprise, a big a-hole who ruined everything with his assumptions. There are tears. They end up deciding to get back together, because theirs is a totally healthy relationship with absolutely zero red flags or concerns, nope, no sir, not at all.
The book ends with this hopeful little nugget of happy endings to come:
"Let's go start making those babies," he said huskily. "I can't wait to see you swollen with my child. As beautiful as you are to me right now, I can only imagine you'll grow even more beautiful when you're heavy with our baby" (329).
1 out of 5 stars