The worst thing about reviewing a thriller is that almost anything I say about the plot may be a spoiler. The best thing is that I love thrillers, and Don’t is a pretty good one. This is what I like to see in erotic fiction – a solid story with decent writing. Period. If it fails there, the sex scenes aren’t going to help it. It’s also so refreshing to step outside the cookie-cutter Dom/sub mansion training secret society high fantasy world. Okay – there’s a mansion and a secret society, but that’s not the main focus, and the dynamics of the relationships are more compatible with real life than the way they’re portrayed in many other novels.
Let’s see if I can give you an idea of the plot without giving anything away.
Jack owns a garage but he also works as a mechanic there. His need for order and cleanliness is challenged every day. He has OCD and a few other issues that are best kept under control when he has a Dom to help him through things. One of his other issues, however, is in direct opposition to being a sub: his first impulse is always to disobey. So when he gets a mysterious email that begins with the order “Don’t,” he does exactly what it says not to do. He doesn’t know who is sending these messages, or apparently how this person got such direct personal access to him. Then Mr. Perfect Vanilla comes into his life. The messages start coming more frequently and weird things begin to happen. Whoever is sending the messages is getting closer, and his demands are getting more intense. Mr. Perfect Vanilla is finding out more about Jack and he’s not sure he can handle all of Jack’s issues, but he tries. As Jack tries to balance his secrets, his love life, and the escalating creepiness of the mystery man, everything falls apart.
This is a long novel, and as I read the second half, I wished it had been split into two stories. It began as a captivating psychological thriller and it would have been nice if that had remained the focus. It could have been amazingly intense. The second half with the complications of a relationship between a very vanilla guy and a man who really needs a Dom would have made a compelling stand alone novel. Instead, neither premise is used to its full potential.
While the copy edit on this novel was very good, some intense story-level editing was needed here. There were far too many secondary characters without much to make them stand out. After reading several paragraphs devoted to a woman at Jack’s dojo, I expected her to become relevant in the story, but she was never seen again. A good edit would have deleted those useless paragraphs. That’s just one example, but there were many problems like that. Easily twenty percent of the word count could have been cut and not changed the core of the story(ies). The narrative needed to be clarified and tightened. And I was extremely disappointed in the reveal. You may think that means I don’t recommend the book. That’s not quite true. There’s a lot to like about this book. I just wish it had been either a thriller or a story about a difficult relationship and spent time exploring either one of those worthy themes. It’s evident from what I read that the writer has the talent to do it, and do it well.