Desert Isle Keeper
Narrated by Greg Boudreaux
Counterpoint, book two in Anna Zabo’s trilogy about rock group Twisted Wishes, focuses on the band’s lead guitarist, Domino Grinder, a mouthy, tatted-up, leather-clad Rock god who struts about the stage shirtless, oozing sex appeal and attitude. Domino may be the most recognisable member of the group, but he’s also fiercely private, guarding his personal life to the extent that as far as the media can discern, he doesn’t have one. He’s never seen with anyone outside his immediate professional circle and his name is never linked with anyone else’s romantically. He’s an enigma, and that’s the way he likes it.
And the reason he’s been able to maintain that degree of anonymity is because the brash, outrageous Domino is actually a persona invented by shy, nerdy Dominic Bradley as a way of combating the debilitating stage-fright he suffered in Twisted Wishes’ early days. Unable to face performing as himself and believing nobody would take diminutive, bookish, art-loving Dominic seriously as a rock musician, he’s hidden behind Domino for years, so successfully that the only people who know that Domino doesn’t really exist are his band-mates, Ray, Zavier and Mish. As for Dominic Bradley, well he’s just another geeky, bow-tie wearing, bespectacled twink who gets plenty of the sort of attention he wants, when he wants it, no strings, no commitment – which is perfectly fine with him. Anything longer than a few hours with someone would risk the unmasking of Domino – and that’s something he’s desperate to avoid.
But from the moment Dominic meets the handsome, charming Adrian Doran at one of his favourite eateries, he senses he might be in trouble. They talk, they flirt, they share dessert; the air between them crackles with electricity and heat, the intensity of the pull he feels towards the other man like nothing Dominic has ever experienced before. Towards the end of the evening, Adrian tells Dominic he wants “more than a quick fuck and goodbye” and that he wants to explore the potential for more between them. And even though he knows it’s a risk he shouldn’t be taking, Dominic agrees to meet him again the following week, to go on a date and see where things lead.
Anna Zabo develops the relationship between Dominic and Adrian really well. I’m not a fan of insta-relationships, but the chemistry between the couple is so potent, so palpable that it’s absolutely convincing, and I enjoyed being privy to their getting-to-know-you phase as they go on dates to museums and galleries and settle into a weekly routine of lazy weekends together. Dominic loves that he gets to be himself with Adrian, something he’s rarely able to do, as he maintains his Domino persona whenever he’s around the band – even when they’re in the recording studio – and Adrian is utterly captivated by this quiet, artistic, book-loving man whose willingness to cede control in bed truly touches him. Dominic had never really considered a D/s relationship before, but being with Adrian helps him to understand and enjoy his kinks and shows him how freeing and empowering it can be to submit. The sex scenes in the book are hot, but are also tender, loving, and full of trust and acceptance with an emphasis on consent, and are integral to the story and the development of the relationship.
The tension in the story comes from Dominic’s reluctance to tell Adrian about his ‘other life’ as Domino, his fear that Adrian may not be able to keep his secret and his guilt at keeping it when Adrian has shared so much of himself with him. But there’s more to it than not wanting to give up the anonymity Domino affords him; he’s equally worried that Adrian, who has no interest in or knowledge of rock music, will see him differently once he knows the truth, and that the world at large will laugh at the idea of geeky Dominic Bradley being a rock star. Acute stage fright and Imposter Syndrome compound Dominic’s belief he can’t be both Domino and Dominic
Adrian is pansexual, and almost ten years older than Dominic; he’s a good guy who has reached a point in his life when he’s looking for more from life than meaningless hook-ups. He’s a computer programmer for a large bank, a job that pays pretty well, but he isn’t happy there and is having to put up with a colleague constantly trying to undermine him. I appreciated that we get to see Adrian outside of his relationship with Dominic, as it helps cement him as a three-dimensional character with flaws and a life of his own. The care he shows Dominic both inside and outside the bedroom is simply wonderful; he’s a man who loves well and deeply, and I loved that although he realises Dominic is keeping something from him, he never pushes, sure that Dominic will tell him when he’s ready.
It will come as a surprise to exactly NO ONE who has ever listened to Greg Boudreaux when I say his narration is nigh on flawless and worthy of all the superlatives. His pacing, characterisation and differentiation are excellent, and his character portrayals are consistent across the books in the series, so if you’ve listened to Syncopation, you’ll easily recognise the four members of Twisted Wishes by their voices alone. Mr. Boudreaux’s interpretations of Dominic and Adrian are both spot on, too – Adrian’s deep, rich tone a perfect contrast to Dominic’s slightly higher one, his deliberate delivery accurately reflecting the fact that he’s someone confident in his own skin who knows what he wants. Mr. Boudreaux is a consummate vocal actor who never disappoints with his ability to get into the heads and hearts of the characters he portrays; he hits all the right emotional notes in the story and his performance really enhances and fully realises the depth of the connection between the two leads.
As in book one, the other band members play a large part in the story and are a wonderful support mechanism for each other, and I loved their scenes together. I did, however, have a few fairly minor niggles about the story. When the shit hits the fan – as it was bound to – I was pleased that Mx. Zabo doesn’t drag things out unnecessarily, although some of the later drama felt a bit overdone. The pacing lags a little in the middle, and I sort of wished we’d been able to see Adrian’s shitty colleague get his comeuppance, but otherwise, I enjoyed the book very much – and I’m not someone who is normally drawn to romances featuring kink.
Counterpoint was a compelling listen and one I didn’t put down easily – in fact I listened to most of it in one day. Strong storytelling, attractive leads and well-drawn secondary characters combine with a sexy and emotionally satisfying romance and a top-notch performance from one of the best narrators around to garner a strong recommendation.
Running Time: 10 hours 5 minutes
Breakdown of Grade: Narration: A+ Story: B+