The second in Barber’s Neighborly Affection, this story picks up where the first story left off. This is not a standalone so I’m strongly suggesting that you give the first one a read before digging into this one. When I got the copy, I was gluttonous in my consumption. I couldn’t help but read it in one sitting. Then it took me a little time putting my thoughts together because I had to get over my expectations of where I saw the story going. Barber doesn’t magically turn this into flowery prose. Instead it’s kept pretty much in the same vein as the first story.
Alice’s contractual Friday nights continue and she’s having the time of her life enjoying the sex that Henry (and to some degree, Jay) offers. But somewhere during the sex and increasing desires she decides that she wants more. Too many emotions are getting tangled and decisions must be made. If she dares confess to Henry that she wants more outside of what their contract spells out, will Henry agree or will he term the contract? Can she handle a relationship with Henry if Jay is always there?
This story is a lot darker than its predecessor. Pay heed to the content warning because Barber is serious about them especially the BDSM. Alice is trying to find that fine line that she will not cross and to get there, there are some scenes that must be played out, and I must admit to feeling uncomfortable about some of them. To me the most defining thing about Alice is that she’s repressed emotionally and, yes, even sexually. That’s not saying that the rest of us aren’t. It’s just that she’s so focused on being self sufficient, she can’t see the forest for the trees. She tries to be this badass chick who doesn’t depend on anyone, but as Barber chips away at her personality, more and more is revealed that hints at her beliefs and choices.
It’s an interesting dilemma that Alice finds herself in that she can only have sexual enjoyment in this relationship bound by the rules of the contract. I’m not interesting in psychoanalyzing the idiosyncrasies of Alice, Henry or Jay because I have neither the skill or nor the credentials – I just want to enjoy their story for what it’s worth. That being said, there’s a lot of sexual content – if they’re not doing it, they’re thinking about it. If they’re not thinking about it, they speaking about it. If they’re not speaking about it, they’re doing it. As the relationship between the three is based on a sexual one restrained by the rules of the contract, I know it’s probably unfair of me to ask for some downtime from that, but I did. I wanted more romance in the traditional style (maybe some vanilla stuff like flowers and a night out on the town) but the way this triad spelled romance was B-D-S-M, heavy on the D/s – but hey, I’m not judging.
As a contemporary, that suggests to me is that this is something that not only could happen but is happening right now to somebody in some part of the world. Heck it might be going on at my neighbor’s house and that makes it credible. Alice went to work every day as an engineer (pretty demanding I assume) and it’s hard for me to understand how she can be either productive or accomplished when her entire day is focused on visions of Henry and Jay. She’s pretty young (20-something) and her work doesn’t seem like it’s by rote yet ,so that stuck in my craw as something that I just couldn’t see working out well – again, I’m going for credible. But I digress.
Sadly, I didn’t find out about Henry’s past and his reason(s) for needing the control that he craves. Maybe he had a traumatic past that something or someone got out of control and bad things came from that. Maybe it’s a choice he made that has no rhyme or reasonm but everyone has a reason for their actions; be it good or bad, popular or unpopular. But even without that, I still liked his character immensely. Henry’s ability to provide individual needs for his submissives was worthy of appreciation.
Jay quickly became my favorite character in this story. His background was delved into the most and I got to find out more not only about his past relationship with Henry, but some of what his pre-Henry days were like. Jay’s needs that Henry provided for where pretty typical of the rest of us, but he had some self-destructive ways going about it that made me really bothered me and I’m not sure why. I’m not sure how his upbringing contributed to his desires, but I would guess it did.
This time around I still enjoyed the chemistry of these three because it was good, very good. There’s a plethora of angst amongst them, yes even Henry, that I couldn’t get enough of. Unfortunately I wasn’t convinced of Alice’s affection for Jay independently of Henry, I though it came secondary to her feelings for Henry. So for me, each character wasn’t as vested in the other as I would have expected. Maybe that’s not supposed to happen in this kind of lifestyle (D/s) relationship – I’ve seen it successfully communicated in other stories though. The development of Jay to into a confident submissive was fun to read. He was cheeky, smart and intuitive of his partners, making him an endearingly likable guy. The catalyst that made Alice finally put aside her insecurities was shockingly delicious. And of course, Henry is still Henry – sweet talking, chivalrous, fastidiously polite and probably the one most in need of the lifestyle the three share.
Happy Reading Folks!
*ARC provided by author for review
Click to purchase: Amazon
Crossing the Lines
by MQ Barber
Release Date: March 3, 2014
Publisher: Lyrical Press