Desert Isle Keeper
Nine Kinds of Naughty
With a title like Nine Kinds of Naughty, author Jeanette Grey is definitely setting up some high expectations for steamy scenes in this third novel in the Art of Passion series. If you’ve read Seven Nights to Surrender and its companion/sequel Eight Ways to Ecstasy, you’ll know that she’s up to the task. This standalone novel ups the ante by delving into a forbidden workplace/BDSM romance that has an interesting and sexually intense plot and enough strong character development to make it stand above the crowd.
Lexie Bellamy is a driven young woman. When her father went to jail on corruption charges, her older brother Rylan fled to Paris and refused to take over the reins of the family company. With their younger brother Evan away at school, the fate of the business rested on Lexie’s shoulders. Ignored and dismissed as a child in favor of her brothers, assuming control was a definite boost to her self-esteem. But Rylan’s sudden return from Paris to take his rightful place as the head of the company has her on unsure footing again. She’s determined to prove she belongs at the top with him, and a trip to Spain to put out some fires in their continental division is the answer. She insists that her assistant, capable and trustworthy Dane Huntley, accompany her. She’s been able to ignore the sizzle of attraction between them that’s always been there because work always comes first. But spending long days and evenings together in sultry Spain will test her endurance – especially when Dane offers her a chance to relinquish control to him in return for pleasure beyond her imagining. Will the relationship they develop overseas be relegated to a footnote when they return home or can they turn it into something more?
Control is the theme on multiple levels in this story. There is the traditional power exchange that one expects to see in a BDSM romance and this one, with its heavy emphasis on the Dominance/ submission part of the genre explores that thoroughly. Lexie is a workaholic with no time for relationships. She is afraid of being seen as weak and goes out of her way to appear the opposite, always remaining in control. But Dane has been biding his time to show Lexie that letting go of control can be a good thing, if it’s done with the right person. Itching to introduce her to his sexual world, he finally gets his chance on their plane ride to Spain, and things progress from there. These scenes are super hot and take up a fair portion of the story, so even if you’re just reading it for those, you’ll be well satisfied.
New to the world of submission, Lexie struggles with the implications should anyone find out. Not only that, but her last relationship was with a man she worked with and trusted – who dumped her when news of her father’s arrest got out. She still has to deal with that person, to her humiliation, and the armor she’s put on as a result is pretty thick. Dane is her subordinate whom she counts on to keep things running smoothly in the office. She insists that anything happening with him must be kept very secret. She can’t stand the idea of being the laughingstock of the company again for a failed workplace affair, nor the idea of losing a man she’s come to count on to be always at her beck and call, keeping the office running smoothly. This makes for some interesting and intense scenes as the power dynamic from boss/assistant to Dom/sub shifts back and forth.
Dane’s character is complex. On the surface, he’s a calm man, always in control of himself, a man who loves nothing better than helping a woman submit and the pleasure it brings them both. But the truth is that there are deep cracks in that façade. His dream of being a firefighter like his father and brother died when his brother was lost in a house fire. His mother, reeling with grief, moved him away from his father into the city, insisting he get a ‘safe’ office job. He might be good at it, but deep down he hates it. The only thing that keeps him sane is his weekends where he throws himself into adventure daredevil sports like bungee jumping to give him those brief moments to let go of everything but feeling alive. If he lets go of control there, he gains it back in the bedroom with a woman on her knees. Everything in between, including his job with Lexie, is just counted off time until the next time he can be fully in control of what he wants.
The author is very adept at writing deep point of view and it shows in the crafting of this story, with both Dane and Lexie’s thoughts and feelings keeping the reader fully engaged. The one thing that niggles at me (and caused me to lower the grade slightly) is the age of the characters. Lexie took over her father’s company at the age of twenty-three, making her now twenty-four or twenty-five. That’s a pretty young age to be in charge of a multi-national corporation, but then it’s a family business thrust into her hands through no fault of her own and she had no choice but to take charge, so I just about bought that. But taking that as read, Dane’s age and character didn’t quite match for me either. He’s supposedly twenty-six, but his self-assurance as a Dom, his experience, his whole demeanor rings as a man who is at least thirty. I had to dismiss their respective ages from my mind when reading the story.
Apart from that, I really enjoyed this story. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I’ve already re-read it which, given the number of books on my to-read shelf, is a huge point in its favor and makes it a Desert Isle Keeper in my eyes. The conflict as Dane and Lexie struggle to redefine their working relationship and their new personal one makes for a page turning read and leads to a well-deserved happy ending. I would not hesitate to recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys BDSM romances. Nine Kinds of Naughty delivers an intense and steamy romance with strong and likable characters who find that being in control and letting go can be equally rewarding.