Natural Law, by Joey W. Hill

>> Wednesday, April 28, 2010

TITLE: Natural Law
AUTHOR: Joey W. Hill

PAGES: 318
PUBLISHER: Ellora's Cave

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: BDSM Romance
SERIES: Second in the Nature of Desire series, follows Holding The Cards.

REASON FOR READING: For a reading challenge proposed by Katharina in one of my reading groups. The idea is to read something that's really out of your comfort zone. I've committed to reading three books this year: a BDSM, a western and a time-travel, all things I wouldn't chose on my own in a million years.

Mackenzie "Mac" Nighthorse is a highly respected homicide detective and a career cop. There isn't a dangerous situation that can back him down.However, the personal becomes uncomfortably entangled in the professional when he goes undercover in a high class BDSM club as a male submissive in order to find a Dominatrix who is winning the trust and then murdering her chosen partners.

When his path crosses Violet Siemanski's, he realizes he's found a Mistress willing to be his ally in finding the murderess. But Violet is also going to shatter Mac's shields and make him question who he is and what he wants, a challenge more disturbing than any case he's ever worked.
Even if you've never heard of this book, you will have deduced from the cover above that this was my choice for BDSM. Once I'd decided to read a book in this genre, we had a bit of a debate about which particular book I should go for. Within BDSM, I wanted to read something that I thought I could possibly like (I suppose I could have decided that as long as I went for something outside my comfort zone, I should really go to the outer reaches of it, but I thought I'd start slow). I wanted something that was about the psychology, rather than the titillation, and I prefered a female dom. Natural Law seemed the right choice, although I was warned it might be too much of an intense one for a first foray into the genre.

Mac Nighthorse is a police detective who's investigating a string of murders. All the victims are young men involved in the D/S scene, and all are submissives. It's clear to Mac that the person responsible is a female Dom, and that she's somehow connected with exclusive BDSM club The Zone. So why is Mac so certain? Because he's been a part of that scene himself for years, also as a sub.

This is a part of his life that Mac has kept private and completely separate from his job as a police detective, but he is determined to catch this killer. What she's doing is personally offensive to Mac beyond the fact that it's a murder, as it represents a betrayal of a trust that's not given lightly in the context of a D/s relationship. He feels so strongly about it, in fact, that he comes out to his supervisor in order to be able to go undercover into The Zone. This was an amazing scene, I thought, opening up by telling us very clearly what kind of person Mac was: someone who cared enough to put himself in an uncomfortable, potentially dangerous to his career, situation, just for the sake of doing what he thought was right.

On his first night at The Zone, Mac runs into a novice Dom, Violet. There's never a question of Violet being the killer (all the victims have been of a certain type, young and pretty, and by going for older, rougher-looking Mac, Violet has essentially proven she's not guilty), and being attached to a well-known Dom increases Mac's chances of success in his case. But it turns out that Violet might still be dangerous to him on a more personal level, as she seems to see beyond the smokescreens that have fooled all other Mistresses for years.

The plot of NL might be based on murder and an undercover investigation, but for most of the book, the focus is purely on the relationship between Mac and Violet. And it's an extremely intense focus, too. From the first moment, Violet recognises that Mac has never completely surrendered to anyone, and sets out to methodically break down his very well-constructed barriers. It's quite an raw, emotive process. It's graphic and made me wince more than once, but this element of the books is so well-written that Hill was able to make me understand why this all needed to happen.

To me, the book was most successful when it concentrated on the psychology and the emotional dynamics of Mac and Violet's relationship. Hill managed to make me understand what was driving these characters, why their relationship took the shape it did and why such a relationship was the one for them, although I must say, I was clearer on Mac than on Violet. As such, I was able to buy into their romance.

To be completely honest, there were moments when I was a bit squicked out; things like, for instance, Mac calling Violet Mistress outside of the bedroom, when I went "whoa". I guess one of the big things I look in a relationship myself is equal partnership and no struggle for dominance, so while I try to keep my mind open and accept that other people might want or need something different, there's still a bit of a gut reaction there. But on the whole, I believed the romance, and believed Violet and Mac were perfect for each other. I also had no trouble believing in Mac's character, a total alpha, who could still be a submissive in a love relationship. He was well-drawn and a completely coherent character.

The book was less successful when, in my view, it tried to titillate. Scenes like those of the weekend party at Violet's friend's house. Those scenes did absolutely nothing for me. They turned me off, actually, and made me want to skim. I would say that while the emphasis is on the romance and the one-on-one Mac/Violet relationship, there are still too many of those scenes for my taste.

I was also less than satisfied with the suspense. The problem is that the romance is wrapped up relatively early. Violet achieves what she's after with Mac soon enough, and then after that I lost much of my need to keep turning the pages. Once there wasn't so much at stake, the love scenes didn't really interest me, and I wasn't particularly curious about the murderer. Plus, when we found out who it was, it came out of nowhere and all the justifications sounded extremely bizarre. It took me a few days to finish the book, and I kept putting it aside to read something else, because I was finding things so drawn out.

So a positive experience, mostly, but not completely. Will I read more in this genre? I don't think so. Part of the reason I liked this was the chance to read about and understand a type of relationship I know nothing about. Keeping on reading more will feel different, and I don't feel the need to do so.



jmc 28 April 2010 at 12:38  

I remember being impressed by this book when I read it a couple of years ago. The suspense? Eh. The BDSM part of it? Well, it seemed rather fantastical to me in a lot of ways. But I loved that the heroine was the dominant and that Hill had an alpha hero who was submissive.

Have you read Hill's vampire series? (I suppose I should check your index, shouldn't I?)

rosario001,  29 April 2010 at 06:36  

Still having trouble with comments that I get an email notice telling me have been posted, and yet don't show up:

From jmc: I remember being impressed by this book when I read it a couple of years ago. The suspense? Eh. The BDSM part of it? Well, it seemed rather fantastical to me in a lot of ways. But I loved that the heroine was the dominant and that Hill had an alpha hero who was submissive.

Have you read Hill's vampire series? (I suppose I should check your index, shouldn't I?)

rosario001,  29 April 2010 at 06:38  

<span>jmc:  I liked that as well. I don't think I could have dealt with a male dom (I've started a couple of those over the years and got squicked out after a few pages). I find it more difficult to see it as something other than a garden-variety alpha dominant asshole abusing the heroine.</span>

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