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I've been an avid reader for as long as I can remember and a romance junkie since the twelfth grade. These days I read M/M romance novels almost exclusively. I can't help it - I love boys who love other boys! If you don't believe in equality or that all love is beautiful, we probably won't have a lot to talk about. But, if you do, feel free to make a friend request, comment on a review, or recommend your favourite guilty pleasure. I'd love to hear from you!

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Odalisque

Odalisque - Annabel Joseph After reading – and despising - Annabel Joseph’s first novel in her Comfort series, Comfort Object, I was ready to banish her work from my reading lists forever. My reading time is far too precious for bad books. However, something compelled me to give her a second chance… Skipping over Kyle’s story (I still wasn’t ready to forgive him for his actions in the first novel), I decided to read the series’ third installment, Odalisque, instead. And, as much as loathed Comfort Object with the force of a thousand hurricane winds, I’m not afraid to admit that I really, really enjoyed Odalisque.

The book centres on recently divorced techie millionaire and philanthropist, Kai Chandler, and Constance, a formally trained pleasure slave (odalisque) who follows the sensual Code d’Odalisque. For a cool million, Kai is told that he can rent the services of an odalisque for a year. The rules are pretty simple - as long as he keeps her in comfort and style, Kai is allowed to do any dirty, naughty thing he pleases to her whenever (and wherever) he wants. There’s only one catch: neither he nor his odalisque may form emotional attachments to one another during their year together. Still recovering from having his heart stomped on by the woman he once loved, an odalisque seems like the perfect no-strings-attached solution to Kai’s problems. Unfortunately, Kai never counted on Constance’s sweet allure…

I genuinely loved both of these characters. Kai was a strong, sensitive guy with a heart as big as his wallet, and the clear respect of his friends and family. For a supposed sadist, Kai is a bit of a fluffy bunny, but I’m okay with that. Though sexually submissive, Constance was a strong, sassy, funny, independent-minded woman with big dreams. Both embraced their sexuality wholehearted and it was lovely to come across two characters completely unconcerned with fitting into society’s narrow views of what is/is not acceptable.

The chemistry between Constance and Kai was instantaneous. And while a great deal of their early chemistry was definitely intensely sexual, Joseph also managed to project a deep, emotional connection between the two characters that I found lacking in the earlier novels in this series. It was this obvious care for the other’s well-being that allowed me to root for these two to get their HEA.

It was also really nice to see Joseph adding some diversity to the typically homogeneous genre (Kai was a sexy Indian stud and Constance had been born profoundly deaf). Though I’m not hearing impaired myself and can’t know from first-hand experience, I thought that Joseph’s portrayal of Constance was well done. She refused to create a one-dimensional character that would be defined solely by her deafness. Instead, she did an admirable job of showing her readers the beauty of deaf culture, while refusing to underplay some of the struggles and frustrations that those with hearing impairments likely face on a day-to-day basis.

In my review for Comfort Object I made no secret of how distastefully manipulative I found the premise of that novel. In it, the “hero” (Jeremy Gray) had his personal assistant (Kyle) try-out the “heroine” (Nell) before deciding that she would suit his purposes. He then proceeded to get her fired from her job, stalk her a little, and have her evicted from her apartment so that she would be desperate enough to accept his very indecent proposal. DESPICABLE.

However, even though both Nell and Constance were being paid for their sexual services (this seems to be a favourite theme of Ms. Joseph’s), the circumstances in Odalisque were nothing like that of Comfort Object. In Odalisque, Constance entered into a life of sexual subservience with her eyes wide open and many more options available to her. She CHOSE this life. She also made this decision long before meeting Kai. For me, knowing that Constance freely gave over her will to Kai's in a consensual way made this novel hot in a way that Comfort Object was most definitely not.

Verdict: A wonderful book that was both sensual and full of heart. Worth reading if for nothing else but the lesson about the importance of philanthropy and the beautiful short speech Constance gives at the end about homeless and underprivileged youth.