Natural Law by Joey W. Hill (Ellora’s Cave)

8 Sep

Grade: A

I know you guys are probably tired of reading my reviews of BDSM books, but as you know, I’ve been on this strange BDSM kick and can’t seem to stop reading them. After reading the last one, I was tempted to stop reading this stuff, but fortunately, I enjoyed this one so much that I went to Ellora’s Cave and bought everything this author has written. Yes, yes, I’m a freak. Anyway, a friend suggested that I liked this book a lot more than the previous one I reviewed because it is the woman who is the top and the man who is the bottom, and maybe I have a latent hatred for men and desire to see them all punished. This is completely untrue. I love men. Me loves the cock. However, maybe there’s a grain of truth to what my friend had said. After all, I’ve been reading romance novels for close to twenty years now and over the years, I have encountered countless of extremely domineering, very alpha, very bossy male protagonists, so maybe I am enjoying this change of pace where it is the woman who calls all the shots. I also like the image of a very strong alpha male bound and gagged, kneeling before a woman, while she stands over him with a cat o’nine tails. That shit is hot, man.

Note: If you are disturbed by a man giving oral sex to another man, forced anal sex (it’s not quite rape, but it almost is, depending on how you look at it), and all the rest of that kinky stuff, you might want to pass on this book.

The hero of this book is your run-of-the-mill seasoned cop who is rough around the edges and carries tons of emotional baggage, someone we’ve all encountered in countless Harlequin romance novels… with one exception. He is a submissive. His name is Mackenzie Nighthorse, a hero cop, who recently took down a psycho serial killer and almost lost his life, and he’s got the scars to prove it. Mac is the kind of guy who likes pushing himself to the edge; he skydives, rides a motorcycle, does weird military survival type retreats, and totally gets a kick out of a woman being in charge of him in the bedroom (he can and will take anything they dish out and doesn’t have a safe word). He indulges this kink by attending local, but exclusive S&M bars where he finds women who will be his Mistress for the night. No one in his police department knows about this and he would prefer to keep it that way. Unfortunately, someone in the local S&M scene starts humiliating and murdering young men in the area, and Mac seriously suspects that it is a Mistress who is the culprit. Because he’s already got an in with the scene, Mac tells his sergeant that he will go undercover and try to ferret out the killer.

Our heroine, Violet, is a new Domme. When I first encountered Violet, I thought she was just one of those fake-slut type of females who has turned to the S&M scene for some weird girl-power kick and once she encountered Mac (he’s a cop, dude, come on!), would devolve into one of those wussy ass heroines who just really wants to be “conquered” by a “real man”, but this is not the case at all. Sure, Violet is nice and sweet, but she really is much tougher than Mac. She is not squeamish, does not hesitate to punish him when he’s being a chauvinistic, macho dude, nor does she second-guess herself about her feelings for Mac. There is no “I love him, but does he love me? Do I really love him?” kind of crap with Violet. The second she meets Mac, she knows that there is something special about him, and that she is the woman who can bring it to the surface. She also knows that the only way she can do that is to break him down physically and emotionally and is not wishy-washy about the methods to do it. She really, really gives it to him. I mean, REALLY. No, I mean, REALLY, REALLY. Dude, Violet is my idol. She’s smart, tough, can manipulate the hero to suit her purposes when she needs to, and is the kind of woman who will go after what she wants when she really wants it.

Speaking of really giving it to someone, the sex in this book is not for the squeamish. The thin line between pleasure and pain gets really blurry in some scenes and there are plenty of these scenes. What’s cool, though, is that there isn’t a sex scene in this book that doesn’t have a purpose. It’s not just sex scene after sex scene with some thin ass “story” to bridge them. This book really is about breaking down a person’s personal and emotional defenses in order to bare that person’s soul. The portrayal of “pain for pleasure” in this book is portrayed in a beautiful, almost poetic way. It’s almost a delicious kind of pain. It’s kind of like when you go get a tattoo for the first time and the first fifty pokes of the needle hurts like a bitch, but after a while, the pain becomes almost… pleasurable. Don’t look at me like I’m a freak, it’s true. Ask anyone who has a tattoo. Anyway, Violet’s physical punishments of Mac is not like a sicko inflicting pain for kicks. Every scratch, every bite, every slap she gives him is an expression of love. She knows that he buries his true self under his tough cop persona and all she wants to do is to expose the REAL Mac.

Mac, on the other hand, is annoyingly stubborn at first, but he really grows on you, after a while. You veteran romance readers out there know what I’m talking about when I say “tough cop” and at the beginning of the story, Mac is this stereotype. In fact, he is so very much a “tough cop” that he was almost in danger of becoming a caricature. I mean, he’s like this tortured cop type that we’ve read about a hundred times before; he even thinks he deserves the physical punishment that his Mistress metes out to him. What separates Mac from the “I deserve the pain” tortured types is that he accepts that he is a submissive. He knows that it doesn’t make him weak or less of a man; for him, it’s just something he enjoys, like reading or hiking. At first, he doesn’t think Violet is a true Mistress and that she can’t be the one to succeed where countless others have failed before (no Mistress has ever broken him), but the more he spends time with her, the more he respects and trusts her. He understands that Violet won’t really hurt him. Even when he finds out her “deep, dark secret” (yes, there’s one of those), he doesn’t overreact. Mac and Violet eventually become true halves of each other; even though Mac is submissive to Violet, it is clear that they are equals and Mac acknowledges Violet as such. He is still a stereotypically pig-headed male, but when he knows Violet is right, he will concede to her better judgment and won’t argue.

Oh, and remember how I said that Mac doesn’t have a safe word? When Violet finally gets him to say it, I got teary, dude. It was an awesomely tender moment. Also, when Violet gets injured and Mac rushes to her side and takes care of her? Oh, man, it killed me.

And they talk. A lot. And that’s really, really good.

I also forgot about the “romantic suspense” angle of this book. There is a murderer on the loose, after all. I don’t really want to ruin any part of this book for you, but when I started reading this book, I guessed who the villain was right away. That’s alright, though, because it’s not important. It’s not what this book is about. 85% of the story is really just about Violet and Mac testing each other’s boundaries and getting to know each other. There are a few quiet moments in this book with Violet and Mac just hanging out and each scene is really precious. The only quibble I have with this book is this TSTL moment that Mac does near the end that almost gets his ass and Violet killed. Don’t worry, I haven’t ruined anything. Once you come across that part, you’ll say to yourself, “Oh, yeah, that old plot twist”. Other than that, this book slayed me… but in a good way. I have a couple more Joey W. Hill books to read, but I think I’m gonna step back from S&M e-books for a while. Whenever Tim sees me reading them, he just kinds of shakes his head. I think he’s starting to get worried.

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12 Responses to “Natural Law by Joey W. Hill (Ellora’s Cave)”

  1. Michael K September 7, 2005 at 11:35 am #

    These covers are always the best, I swear!

  2. Erin September 7, 2005 at 9:44 pm #

    Any of Joey Hills books are pretty much a guarateed great read. (IMO anyways :) )

  3. Kiran September 8, 2005 at 12:48 am #

    I almost bought this book, but I have to admit I was put off by Violet’s ‘sweetness’. It sounds like it’s worth a second look. I totally agree that there aren’t enough stories out there with a dominant heroine, but the hero’s not a wimp either. One book I think you may find interesting is Lena Austin’s Black Widow. You can buy it at Loose Id. The author used to be a Domme herself so she definitely knows her stuff. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t have too much of a plot and can sometimes read as BDSM for Dummies manual. But I thought the heroine was spot on, tough,totally enjoyed the D/s lifestyle, but still wanting to be loved.

  4. AngieW September 8, 2005 at 5:18 am #

    That was a really fabulous description of this book. I think this is the most recommended BDSM book I’ve ever come across. Even people that generally hate BDSM and those who want a dominant male still love this book. I recommend it without hesitation time and again.

  5. Candy September 8, 2005 at 9:09 pm #

    Awww, fuck you, man. I don’t need MORE reading material. I haven’t come across a hardcore BDSM romance that I’ve liked yet, but now I’ll have to check this one out.

  6. Anonymous September 8, 2005 at 9:18 pm #

    I loved the characters and thought the D/s elements were well done, BUT…the mystery element felt grafted on. Or should I say strapped on? ;-) The villain’s infodump was awkward, and there was virtually no foreshadowing of the villain’s identity. IMO, if you find your villain giving a “Before I kill you, Mr. Bond” speech — and your story isn’t a parody of action flicks — seriously rethink at least that part of the plot.

  7. bam September 8, 2005 at 9:59 pm #

    Anonymous 918, I thought the “Before I kill you, Mr. Bond” part was hilarious. Okay, it was poorly written, but I laughed so hard that I thought my nose was going to bleed.

    And Candy, I think you just need to accept that a romance reader’s TBR pile is an insurmountable feat and learn to embrace it. ;)

  8. Anonymous September 9, 2005 at 6:09 pm #

    Unlike in a Bond flick, there was no room here for the hero to make witty, defiant comments, because he had a ball gag in his mouth! Blofeld should’ve thought of that. Hmm…now there’s an idea for some Bond slash fic…

  9. Arethusa September 13, 2005 at 9:54 am #

    Wow. I never thought I’d be a BDSM reader but your review really makes me want to buy this one and see for myself.

    Hmmmmmm.

  10. Anonymous September 14, 2005 at 4:28 pm #

    Okay, here’s the only person who hated that book. I’ll admit it is personal, and nothing to do with quality of writing. But I thought it was extremely arrogant of Violet to decide she has the Right to strip his soul bare, whether he wanted to or not, forcing his sex therapy upon his in many psychological ways. I don’t believe in manipulating a person for their own sake. It is a humiliation. I kept hoping he’d find himself a woman who would respect him, instead of one who thought she was so utterly superior.

  11. barbara April 22, 2006 at 12:14 pm #

    This is absolutely my favorite book. Just looking at the cover gets me hot. I’m with you on that alpha male shit. There aren’t many romance writers on the same level as Joey Hill. I’m partial to BDSM romances with the female as the top but they’re very rare. I bought all of Joey’s books, too. They’ve got an emotional, psychological aspect that’s rare in the romance genre.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Dear Author.Com | Natural Law by Joey Hill - December 21, 2006

    [...] Where this book faltered for me was the integration of the suspense thread with the erotic romance portion of it. Mac seemed to do little investigating while Violet and he were engaged in their bedroom battle. I could not find that you left any clues or foreshadowing as to who the serial killer was and so while it was a big surprise at the end, the villiany seemed out of character. I think that the book would have been even better without the suspense aspect. Note, Bam figured out the killer right away. [...]