Confession time: I have had a wee crush on Cullen ever since he poured his first drink in the Shadowlands club. (Okay, maybe it was more than a little
crush – I was like a woman dying of thirst and Cullen was the desert oasis I wanted to dive into and lap right up.) So, when I discovered that Cherise Sinclair’s next book in the Masters of the Shadowlands series, Lean on Me
, would give Cullen a chance at his happily ever after (D/s style, of course), I was pumped.
In Breaking Free
, Shadowlands Master, submissive trainer and bartender extraordinaire Cullen O’Keefe was temporarily paired with Deborah, a self-proclaimed “pain slut.” Though Cullen tried to give her what she wanted (he’s considerate like that!), it was clear from Master Dan’s house party that he was disturbed by having to inflict that much pain on a woman. He’s just too good-humoured and easy-going for the truly hardcore SM stuff.
Enter, Andrea Erikson. Joining the Shadowlands as the club’s newest submissive trainee, Andrea is a smart, sassy, independent businesswoman. Not exactly new to the scene, Andrea hasn’t yet found a Dom strong enough to make all her submissive desires come true. Because she’s naturally strong-willed and self-sufficient, Andrea needs a Dom who’ll take total control - one that she can trust enough to lean on inside AND outside of the bedroom. In other words, she needs the real deal (and let me tell you, ladies – Cullen O’Keefe is the real deal!).
As the club’s trainer, Cullen knows that he should keep his distance from Andrea and treat her the same way that he treats all of the other trainees. Still, there’s just something about her fiery nature that calls to him as a man as well as a Dom… Unfortunately, not everything is hearts and roses. Andrea has a difficult past and struggles with a deep distrust of cops, so putting herself in Cullen’s oh-so-capable hands isn’t easy – especially when another trainee gets jealous and starts to stir up trouble.
While the combined steam/kink level in this book was only mild to medium, I enjoyed it. I adore Cullen, and my heart couldn’t help but go melty in response to the crazy amounts of tenderness flowing between our hero and heroine. If you like a sweet Dom with a steel spine, this book is definitely for you.
As much as I like seeing the characters in the Shadowlands getting their freak on, I love getting a peek at what the D/s relationships are like in the “real world” - how they treat each other in private, how they interact with people not in the lifestyle, how they deal with stress or happiness, etc. All of these different layers add to the three-dimensional nature of the characters and give a better sense of realism to the story. Add that to the fact that Sinclair upped her game when explaining the thoughts, motivations and emotions of her characters and you’ve got a cherry on the top of an already amazing fudge sundae.
Verdict: Cullen can strap me down and have his wicked way with me ANY day.