Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Summary: Columnist Bridget Hartwell agrees to write about BDSM to impress her new executive editor at Sultry, the “sex-positive magazine for sex-positive women.” Unfortunately, it’s a topic she knows absolutely nothing about…but if she ever wants that promotion, she’ll need to learn the ropes, fast.
English professor Max Harlow is active in the Dom/sub scene, but only for casual play. He’s never found his ideal partner: a woman who is his equal, but sexually submissive. When he’s asked to explain the lifestyle to his cute but obviously inexperienced neighbor, Max is certain it’s best to approach it academically–to keep things purely professional.
My Thoughts: This novel was nominated for not one but two RITA awards, and I can see why! Riveting and seductive from start to finish, Purely Professional was smoldering hot in all the best ways. It’s hard to believe that this was the first novel for author Elia Winters (one of the categories she was a Finalist in), because she has some serious talent for leaving her characters and her readers hot and bothered!
Bridget is a strong, sexually empowered woman working in a sex-positive environment as a writer for a women’s magazine. She considers herself dominant at the office, refusing to let anything stop her from getting the promotion and job she believes she deserves. But when she begins to submit to her sexy neighbor, Max, for a series of articles, she has to battle with her newly-awakened desires to be sexually submissive.
I think the BDSM Romance niche has exploded in recent years, and for the most part the novels in this genre are mediocre at best. There are novels that promote being tied up and spanked as being sexually deviant or ultra-naughty, and novels that push emotional manipulation and abuse as “romantic”. Purely Professional, thankfully, rises above the rest of the genre. There’s a strong emphasis on BDSM being more than alright… it’s about trust, it’s freeing, and it’s ultimately incredibly powerful for both the Dom and the sub.
I liked the way Max explained the pillars of BDSM to Bridget. The concept of “safe, sane, and consensual” was stressed, as was Max’s forceful differentiating between BDSM and abuse. While his explanations did come off as a bit too lecture-y at times, it was still important to explain the subject fully.
I also loved the relationship evolution between Bridget and Max. What begins as simply a professional exchange to help Bridget write her articles quickly becomes more passionate than either of them could have imagined. Bridget’s internal wars over her submissive desires were great, as were Max’s imperfections and his reactions to her.
This novel absolutely deserves both of its RITA nominations! It’s a fantastic romance, with some beyond-steamy sex and a relationship that evolves naturally and beautifully. An incredibly enjoyable read, and highly recommended!
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