Review: Mutual Release
Mutual Release by Liz Crowe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
When many books are left with cliffhangers or switching to serial format, it's a satisfying treat to read a complete novel. Mutual Release by Ms. Crowe is a complete three part story detailing the lives of Evan Adams and Julie Dawson. Full disclosure, this book was sent to me by the publisher for a review. I was hesitant and asked the publisher to look at my two reviews I've written for Ms. Crowe before deciding to send me the book to read. After my warning, the ARC showed up in my inbox.
This is a story of two very messed up people coming together into a toxic relationship. Honestly, I think in a few years after this marriage, I'm seeing a crime of passion in the form of War of the Roses style. Evan and Julie will be the death of each other, literally. Let's start with Evan first. It is refreshing to read from a male's point of view. Evan is lured to the dark side of BDSM through a foster brother. Evan's introduction seems to be dark yet I'm not sure exactly why. Now, I am very familiar with Ann Arbor where Ms. Crowe's brewing company exists. So all these places she mentions, I know with the exception of the BDSM clubs.
Now I'm not sure about the other BDSM groups in the Southeast Michigan area, but Ann Arbor TNG and the BDSM organization I attend are both heavy in the edge players. When I say edge players, I mean blood play and some serious temporary and permanent marks. They tend to be a bit heavier in the SM side of BDSM. So it is quite possible for Evan to fall into a group of extreme edgeplayers. What I do find interesting is the guilt and inner turmoil. It shows his complete lack of understanding of BDSM. It's as if he only Tops instead of dominates yet he equates the two as the same thing. Yes, he's shown as someone who "uses the voice" to command. Personally, I didn't really see much of his commanding. He seems out of control more oft than not. And this is quite confusing since his nicknames are POTUS or prez. I would have expected more demonstrations of his leadership rather than being told he is such a great leader. For me, Evan screams of sensation whore which as a Top is a bad thing to me. I expect a Top to be in more control of himself in order to handle a scene safely. For a Top to want a D/s relationship and exchange erotic power, then he better be in control of himself in order to handle more power shifting to him. In each case, it is very questionable whether or not Evan is able to handle the Dom side of it. In fact, it seems Ms. Crowe deliberately shows how poorly Evan fails at it. This is okay. It's not all a smooth ride with rainbows and unicorns when a person is first starting to learn how to Dom. However, the amount of baggage Evan carries with him into the lifestyle is alarming. Let's put it this way. There is no way in hell I'd ever submit to someone like Evan. He's emotionally unbalanced and conflicted in his role as a Dom. He's not safe and not someone I can trust. Without trust, there is no D/s for me.
Generally I love the angst filled books. They seem to add a depth to the character. In this one, there doesn't seem to be any balance to the darkness. It is one punch after another to the gut. If Evan could rise above this and be a survivor it would be one thing. Throughout the book, he comes across as a victim over and over again. He never owns it. He is the one who is constantly getting the shaft. It's like he never learns from his mistakes. He only hides from them. He avoids them by his unhealthy BDSM celibacy and then falling off the wagon and straight into the sadistic dungeon of kinky fornication. His predictable manner of gluttonous and starvation cycles become trying to the reader.
Then there is Julie. Julie is the woman, loving mothers warn their sons about. Julie became her mother. She is yet another victim who cowers from resolving a conflict. There is actually nothing redeeming about her. I can't fathom why Evan wants her. She's manipulative, arrogant and emotionally stunted. This one sentence sums up Julie. "Julie was through being used, disrespected, simply because she possesses a body that sent the wrong messages." Seriously? It's always someone else's fault, never hers. I can't stand people like this. Perhaps it isn't her body sending the wrong messages. She's sending the wrong messages. Her actions definitely scream slut loud and clear. Perhaps not when she was a teenager, but as an adult, she became exactly what she hated. I have no patience for people like this. While I like my main characters to have a bit of flaws, to have no redeeming qualities is hard to swallow. Perhaps she is the villain in this tale and I just missed it. She is brings out the worst in Evan. It's sad.
Despite the characters, the story is interesting and captures my attention. Each time when I think it can't become any worse, Ms. Crowe stomps on her characters some more. The BDSM scenes are okay. They are smexy fun for the most part. The abuse ones from the "villain" are clear. Overall, I would categorize this as an erotic novel with elements of BDSM to give it a kinky heat. This contemporary romance novel is recommended for readers who love angst filled pasts and characters who attract drama.
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