Everything about Audra North's Giving It Up suggests a sexy, erotica, romantic read. From the image on the cover, to the name of the series (Pushing Boundaries), to the tongue-in-cheek warning on the back cover that reads "Contains an out-of-her element, wannabe Domme who has no idea the power she wields, and a SWAT officer who can't wait to show her just how deeply he needs her command. Buckle up and keep your safeword handy." Unfortunately the story wasn't all that sexy or erotic, and worst of all, it wasn't that romantic.
Beatrice, or Bea for short, is the out-of-her element, wannabe Domme and Warren is a police officer on the SWAT team. The story opens at a wedding. Warren is one of the groomsmen. Bea is the photographer and a friend of the bride. Bea and Warren have met loads of times before the wedding at get-togethers hosted by their friends. They are both already infatuated with each other but have never pursued it. At the wedding Bea overhears Warren attempting to make an appointment with a professional dominatrix. On an impulse Bea suggests he hire her instead. So these two adults who secretly like each other but refuse to say so enter into a contractual arrangement where Warren agrees to pay Bea to engage in intimate behavior with him for an hour a week (but no actual sex because prostitution is illegal and Warren is a cop) and no feelings will be involved. What could go wrong?
My biggest problem with Giving It Up was that I never quite bought into the Bea and Warren romance. From page one they both kind of liked each other already but it was never clear why. Then they start their arrangement and to no one's surprise feelings are instantly involved. This is a romance so I expected a happily-ever-after (HEA) moment but some steps were missed on the way to the HEA. It all happened too quickly, too instantly.
Bea was the most interesting character in this book. I wanted to know more about her. All we get is that she came from a family that was very conservative and controlling. She was raised to be nice and docile, to do what she is told, and to be somebody's wife. She broke away from her family, put herself through college, and pursued a career as a photojournalist. Given her background one might reasonable to assume that sex was not something that was discussed in her home growing up and now here she is trying to be a dominatrix to a guy who isn't exactly a stranger but isn't someone she knows that well either. How did Bea got from A to Z? That's what I want to know. I'd read a book about that.
Warren is less interesting. He's a good guy who takes care of parents, his little sister, and her kid. Warren tells anyone who will listen that he can't possibly be in a relationship because he is super busy and a girlfriend would mean taking care of another person and he doesn't have the energy for that. In support of this theory he cites his ex-girlfriend who balked at having to share so much of him with his family. His insistence that all women are the same and want the same thing grew annoying very quickly. And anyway, everyone is busy and everyone has been hurt so Warren at least needed to come up with better excuses. Also, it was pretty clear to everyone except Warren that Bea was not only not looking for someone to take care of her, but was ready and willing to help him out with his complicated life.
So there's not much in terms of romance but at least there's a sexy story with a dominatrix right? Not quite. Neither Warren nor Bea are that knowledgeable or even into the domination and submissive scene. Bea is intrigued by it. (Again, would have loved to know more about her personal journey.) What Warren really wants is to relax and let someone else make decisions for a while. It wouldn't hurt if he had someone to talk to as well. Bea is totally willing to take control in the bedroom and she's a good listener. All that is cool but that doesn't live up to the warning on the book's back cover.