Review source: Publisher
Reviewed by: Kathy Davie
Series: The Chrysalis, 1
First in The Chrysalis erotic romance with an intense and well-directed focus on BDSM. The story takes place in River Rock, Vermont.
Awakening won the New Writing Competition at the Festival of Romance in 2011. And I thoroughly understand why.
I did receive this as an ARC from the publisher.
WOW! Excellent!! This was one of the few really well done BDSM stories I've read. I can tell (after I read Sallinger's thank yous) that she received excellent and careful advice about the BDSM scene---I had thought she was merely, merely?!, very well versed in it. Evan's concerns that she find the right person. Bridget's acceptance and explanations. Pointing out the damage that can be done by emotional abuse---I'll say it again, parents oughta be licensed!
The foundation of any relationship is honesty, but in BDSM it is even more critical because...Sallinger drove me crazy with the build-up---there is one heck of a lot of foreplay in this for the reader! Starting with that "she hadn't found enough scalding water to cleanse her soul of her crimes" and slowly, oh, so damned slowly, revealing bit by bit the truth of that crime. Truly beautifully done. And if I thought the build-up to the horrifying reveal was slow...oh man, the romantic build-up was even longer. For those who don't want the insta-love...you've come to the right story, LOL. Never have two people fought so hard to deny their attraction! And, again, beautifully done.
I love how these two are so aroused by each other, having such a difficult time attempting to relieve their individual arousal on their own---the whole want/don't want around which they dance. They have such real-world feelings and reactions.
Sallinger reveals the care required by a dominant and never does it make more sense than in the romance between Claire and Evan. If you think you may be interested in the D/s angle in your own sex life, I recommend you read this book as Sallinger puts it so very well as to the concerns you should have. It could certainly save some people. I just cried about the destructive nature of Charlie and Claire's relationship. Sallinger could have gotten a lot more tears out of me if she'd brought in more detail about Charlie and his reactions. Hmmm, is that a good thing or a bad thing??
At times, Awakening is a touch clinical, but I can easily forgive this for the original touches Sallinger puts to this story. Claire's...ahem...reading sessions are certainly reason enough, LOL. Evan's own fears may be a bit over-the-top---his reactions to Claire certainly are---but grief can twist a person up. And most sane people want to avoid bringing any more such pain into their lives. And the abuse angle is a good reminder that abusers can be found anywhere.
Just re-reading my notes brings tears to my own eyes---again!---with the pain of Evan's loss. His anger and frustration and grief are just so real and pulls my own sense of loss out.
Tiny streamers stroked him, the damp heat reminiscent of small tongues on his flesh.Even knowing how it is "supposed" to turn out, I was on pins and needles as to how Sallinger would get around Evan's angry reactions and boorish behavior and the pain it caused Claire. I loved that Evan could recognize his behavior. An unusual combination of empathy and self-enlightenment in a soldier.
I loved how Sallinger brought Claire into the BDSM world. It still cracks me when I think about Evan's method for introducing Claire to the BDSM world! Unorthodox and it appealed to my own love for books, and I think there are a number of angles which could speak to a lot of readers.
Whoa, that scene in the bookstore when Evan finally cracks...phew *as I shake my fingers from the heat*
I love that Claire has a backbone even if she is so uncomfortable, at her age, with her own body and her needs. Her lack of information. Her anger. Heck, Evan's anger and grief over his loss. His fear. The sense of "okayness" from Evan being man enough to apologize. That everyone has secret shames they want to hide. There's a nice undercurrent that I'm not sure Sallinger intended in that there's resolution when one faces up to one's issues.
To love and be loved. To trust intrinsically that you could be yourself and not be judged or rejected.The Story
Claire Ryan is finally ready to push past her near isolation and venture into the world. A first step which takes her into Bibliophile and the Romance Readers Book Club and leads to a world even greater and eyeopening than she could have expected.
Claire Ryan is a diamond grader and jewelry appraiser who retreated from the world in fear of her abusive disability and has not done anything socially alone in 15 years. Chester is her pit bull terrier. Charlie is her ex-boyfriend. Marcus is the brother she hasn't spoken to in ten years.
Evan Lane, an ex-military man who enjoys classical movies and owns Bibliophile, an independent bookstore that stocks unusual selections. Marianne is/was his beloved and fiery wife.
Jean leads the Romance Readers Book Club and seems to have an instinctive knowledge of how far to push. Bridget, a chemistry professor, is already a good friend of Evan's and becomes friends with Claire.
The cover is generic with Claire lying down with her shoulder in the foreground and a bent, stocking-clad leg in the background. I wish they'd incorporated a book into the cover...
The title is what it's about, Claire's Awakening. Although...I do believe Evan woke up as well.