The Player by Harlem Dae

PLAYER
The Player by Harlem Dae
Sexy As Hell Book 2
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (206 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/F, Anal Play, Toys, Spanking, Voyeurism
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Tuscany – New lovers, new lessons and an eruption of uncontrollable lust.

The real world was working for me, its pastel shades and straight-and-narrow route a familiar path to tread. It suited me, this normality; it was good for me too. Or so I thought, because the new light in my life, Catherine, was not quite fulfilling my needs. Her lack of colour, the weak whispers of her kisses were not touching my soul the way I’d become accustomed to. I needed more.

More of everything in my darkly addictive rainbow; the wicked wantonness of sin, the depraved pleasure of seedy seduction and the prism of delight I took in being struck…and of doing the striking. I missed the fireworks, the brilliant displays of Technicolor ecstasy that strung me out and bared me to my bones. I wanted to go there again, and take Catherine, too, see if I could have that pyrotechnic display with her. Did she have a riot of vibrant shades beneath her skin or was she magnolia to the core?

My teacher, Zara, told me I could discover her palette. That all I needed to do was show Catherine my world, my new world, the one I’d never inhabited alone. Zara couldn’t come with me this time, she had a new student now. I was on my own, it was down to me. Or was it?

It seemed my teacher had other ideas after all, and when she sashayed back into my life with her rules and murmurs of encouragement, I had no choice but to listen to her, take her advice, follow her lead, even though I knew nothing ever ended well with her. But resistance was futile, my protests fell on deaf ears. But that suited my plans, didn’t it?

Victor Partridge is dating Catherine, the sweet, wholesome niece of his long-serving secretary. They have a normal, outwardly happy relationship. But deep inside his soul, Victor wants more. More passion, more freedom to indulge in just a few of his dirty little desires – but he doesn’t want to ruin things with Catherine. Add in a healthy dose of pride standing in his way from admitting just how much his previous paramour, Zara, is still on his mind and Victor has a lot on his plate right now. Zara Watson has opened her new dungeon, but is struggling to truly enjoy it. When Ollie – Victor’s cousin – comes by one night insisting he wants her to be his Mistress at first she refuses, but a few choice words from Ollie soon has her changing her mind.

This is a raunchy, wickedly naughty book full of so much heat you’ll need safety gloves to handle it. The second book in a trilogy, I believe it could be read as a stand alone – but the depth and intricacies of what’s happening (and simultaneously *not* happening) between Victor and Zara really needs the first book, The Virgin, to be read before this. Still, anyone who just happens to pick this book up should be able to read and thoroughly enjoy it just by itself.

I must admit I felt a lot warmer towards Zara this time around. For the first quarter or so of the book, Zara is floundering, not in her usual position of control and power and I enjoyed seeing that. She knew she needed to stay away from Victor but she still cares very deeply for him, even loving him – though she seems uncomfortable admitting it to herself. With her not in control I felt she was less severe, less able (or willing) to stir the pot just for kicks. I have to admit I liked her all the more for this other side to her that we catch fleeting glimpses of. Of course this didn’t last long, soon Zara had mastered the situation and her clever, manipulative brain sorts out how all four of them come together in Tuscany.

Although the much-loved Zara, Domme extraordinaire and sexy, naughty woman who knows exactly how to get what she wants is firm and present, there are now a few chinks in her armour. I must be honest, as a reader I appreciated this and became deeply curious about what else lay beneath that surface. I finally managed to see a little of the even more complex woman behind her blasé, forceful façade, and that enriched this read for me more than I thought possible. Far from resting on their laurels, Harlem Dae have made already complex, intriguing characters even deeper in this book, and I commend them on the excellence of their plotting, pacing, imaginations and writing.

Victor made me laugh in certain places. He seems so normal and utterly relatable. Here is a man who has been thrown in the deep end of a BDSM lifestyle, simultaneously loved and hated it and managed to claw his way back to the safety of the shore. He still wants to dip his toe in, but is determined to retain some semblance of peace and what he thinks his life should be. His deep attachment to Zara is clear, as is his struggle and desire to grow those feelings for Catherine. This is a wonderfully complex book, with rich, vibrant characters and a convoluted plot that kept me eagerly turning the pages – no rest for the wicked, honestly!

I felt joy, sympathy, annoyance, pleasure and a host of other emotions all throughout the entire book. This is not a simple story, easily summarized in a review. The whole trilogy – but this book in particular in my opinion – is about life. About moving on and knowing when to look back, learning when to give up and when to hold on, and most importantly learning when we should knuckle down and push for what we truly want and when to let it all go.

In some respects I found this book to be a bit of a breather. After the intensity and roller coaster ride of The Virgin, this book solidifies so much. It’s a chance for Zara and Victor to both take a breath, sort out themselves and what they desire, to explore their own boundaries and get their heads on straight. In that sense this book isn’t as soul baring or emotionally pummeling as the first – but to be honest I don’t think my heart could have taken another wild ride so swiftly after reading Book 1.

I enjoyed getting to know the characters better, seeing them in a slightly less wild situation (please note the *slightly*) and hope they can both learn and grow from what they’ve experienced. I am eagerly, desperately craving to start Book 3, The Vixen, immediately.

A beautiful, extraordinary read and highly recommended.

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