There are two things I need to get out of the way first. In this book, there’s sex (a lot, and it’s hot), there’s power play (a lot, and it’s hot too), there’s angst (a lot, not so hot) and drama. If that’s not what you’re looking for, look elsewhere. The second thing is that it’s the fourth book in the Rowan House series but it can be read as a standalone. Though if you’re like me, it will make you want to read the previous ones.
Fresh out of prison for a crime she didn’t commit, Veronica is offered a job in Scotland (yay!) as a stable manager. Before she was convicted, she was working on her maths thesis and she feels her time in jail has stolen everything from her, whether it’s her career or her girlfriend. Her parents and sister always stood by her, but her extended family, especially an awful aunt, hasn’t been so kind. Eager to earn enough money to reimburse her parents for everything they paid for her lawyer and also to get away, she takes the job at Rowan House, some kind of resort for women looking to fulfill their BDSM fantasies. At the airport, she’s met by Millie, one of her few coworkers who is neither a sex worker nor a submissive pledged to the house. Millie’s older, very butch and very charming. While she’s never been attracted to another butch woman and has never dated a white woman, Veronica finds herself falling for her.
Though the environment is rather unusual (I haven’t read many lesfic novels set in brothels), the romance itself is more traditional. Veronica and Millie struggle with trust and communication, they’ve both been through very difficult stuff and need to find themselves and who they are / want to be in a new relationship. I liked the chemistry between them a lot, the sex scenes are good (though I agree with Lex’s suggestion that the vocabulary of the submissive character could stand to be expanded), but Millie’s difficulties with trust were a little repetitive and Veronica’s inner thoughts were sometimes distracting.
What I liked best: two gender non-conforming MCs falling for each other, one of them Black (the cover is perfect, btw); the reminders about the importance of consent; the glimpse we get into Veronica’s passion for mathematics; the whole cast of characters, from the women at Rowan House to Veronica’s family.