The Gilded Cuff
Book 1, Surrender
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Every passion has its price . . .
Journalist Sophie Ryder has been following Emery Lockwood's story since she was a little girl. There has always been something in his haunted eyes that she couldn't resist and now, when she's certain he holds the key to solving a string of kidnappings, she'll do anything to speak to him. Even if it means venturing deep into the seductive world of the Gilded Cuff, a luxurious BDSM club on Long Island's Gold Coast and Emery's personal playground.
From the moment Sophie enters his shadowy, sensual domain, Emery Lockwood knows this tantalizing new little sub was meant to belong to him. However, Sophie wants more from Emery than just pleasure . . . she wants his past. And that is something he isn't willing to give-no matter who is asking. But every moment he spends with Sophie, Emery feels his control slipping and he knows it's only a matter of time before he surrenders to her heart, body, and soul.
Tormented by their pasts, yet enthralled by nights of the most decadent pleasure neither of them has ever experienced before, will Sophie and Emery be able to find the release that only surrender can bring?
Book 1 in the Surrender series
"The Gilded Cuff was a dramatic, sexy, and suspenseful romance between two people drowning in survivor's guilt. Lauren Smith crafted an intriguing plot with strong secondary characters. Ms. Smith also created strong women who were brave and courageous; they were unwilling to sit on the sidelines while the men confronted the danger. Fans of Lisa Renee Jones would enjoy the sexy mystery with BDSM relationships." -- Harlequin Junkie
One sexy story filled with passion, tension and great action.
*Complimentary ARC provided by Book Partners In Crime Promotions for the purpose of an honest review.
Sophie (24) was a brave heroine, and I admired her selflessness and dedication for using her “gift” to help others. I believed her grief over her lost best friend and the circumstances of her disappearance, but I may have empathized more had it been a sibling, Regardless, I was surprised that such a young heroine was actually very likable. Sophie and Emery communicated very well right from the onset, and that flowed throughout the entire book. She was upfront about her intentions from the beginning, and she didn't try very hard to talk herself down from the budding feelings towards Emery.
I loved the hero! Emery (33) was a reclusive CEO with PTSD and a Dominant. But don’t expect to see him frequent the club or have a Red Room of Pain in his mansion. He liked control in the bedroom, but even then he was very lenient about rules and punishment. I loved the interaction and his relationship with his closest friends and confidants: his long-time bodyguard Hans, Cody, a young hacker he had taken under his wing, Royce and Wes. They were a close knit group of men who had each other’s backs.
Color me surprised that Sophie and Emery didn’t jump each other’s bones as quickly as possible. I was so not expecting the slow burn, but I welcomed it. They got to know each other, build trust, and grow closer as a believable pace. I mean, they didn’t have sex until 60% into the book, and even then the few sex scenes weren’t just about the physical release, but there was intimacy borne of a deeper connection. Sophie was more reluctant than Emery to call what they had a relationship, but at least they both recognized what was happening to them and they didn't tuck tail. He was thoughtful and caring, and they were both aware of the positive changes from their connection.
The suspense was great. I found myself suspecting everyone, not just the most obvious choice. The climax was really good, and I perversely enjoyed that the author went there. If I had one complaint, it would be the slight overuse of animal references in regards to Emery's appearance or behavior, e.g.: He looked like a lion, he was like a leopard, he was a tiger, like a possessive tomcat, just to name a few. Sophie was definitely very imaginative and talkative when it came to thinking about him.
Although the book ended on a happy note, I think the suspense portion of the plot with continue in the next book but with a different couple. There was a nice surprise that left some questions unanswered and a set up for the next book featuring Sophie's feisty friend, Hayden. I will definitely follow the rest of this series.
The Gilded Cuff
Our couple meets at the very private club The Gilded Cuff. This encounter is no chance meeting, Sophie is in fact a journalist seeking an interview with the reclusive millionaire Emery Lockwood and she’s also trying to solve a kidnapping from the past and trying to resolve issues of her own childhood. He’s never agreed to an interview so she finds a way to get herself in a world she’s never been before in hopes to get him to see her.
The pace of the story is slow at first. The first half of the story focuses too much on how they react to each other and the chemistry that neither one of them can deny but the story doesn't move too far, in fact the span of it all takes place in a matter of maybe 24-36 hrs at the most. However once we get past how they meet and we start learning more about their private lives, the story takes a turn for the better and the whole of it goes no where but up.
This story is not just about the dark world of BDSM, and to my surprise, it was sort of light in the concept (for what I've heard). Truthfully, I haven’t read that genre before so I can’t compare it to any others but I’m glad the story was not just about that. Although it took a lot of pages for Emery and Sophie to connect (albeit a few hours in real time), that connection felt real and smooth. Sophie is afraid but also curious; afraid but also wants to help Emery, and once she’s inside his world, she’s determined to protect those around him as if they are her own just as much as he is. In the end The Gilded Cuff becomes a symbol to her. It's not only the place where they met, but as the story moves along, it becomes to represent what a sub is for a Dom and the rules of the game the sub has agreed to. To Sophie, it becomes a reminder of what she’s left behind and what’s still to come, and to her that means a future with Emery. 4 stars.
++ I was gifted a copy of the story by the author in exchange for an honest review++
Great Start to a New Contemporary Series
This is gonna be a lovely series. It's got all of Lauren's trademark writing style, but crosses over into contemporary quite nicely. It's not in your face BDSM/erotica, but subtle and sexy, focusing on the underlying trust necessary in a Dom/sub relationship.
I also loved the way Lauren wove backstory (old newspaper articles) in with the current story. Very creative. The characters were great and definitely laid a strong foundation for the remainder of the series.
Looking forward to seeing who's up next!