I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This erotic romance is a eARC edition that was published by Mira on February 24, 2015 and has 352 pages.
Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.
Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Tempted, Precious and Fragile Things, Broken, Three to Tango, The Space Between Us, Naked, An Erotic Collection Volume 1
Vanilla is an in-depth look into the mind of a Domme and how her choices affect how people around her look at her. It’s a story with a loose connection to Morningstar Mocha which has appeared in other Hart stories and includes Hart’s Alex Kennedy.
This ARC was provided by NetGalley and Mira in exchange for an honest review.
It’s an exploration of Elise’s life, her thoughts, and her desires, which makes it perfect that Hart tells this story from Elise’s point-of-view. Her inner thoughts predominate in this about her sex life, her family life, a touch of her working life, and what makes her happy. I absolutely adore how much she cares about William, about her family. Most of whom don’t deserve her carefulness. Whatever else Elise is, she is well-rounded in her interests nor is she afraid to own what she likes.
The one problem Elise does have is the insecurity that surrounds her from a love affair gone bad. She does make me nuts with her need to punish herself over George. Girl, after all this time, you’re still letting him control you? Why would anyone want to be with someone like him? Hmmm, maybe Hart will do a story about “George” getting his comeuppance, lol.
Vanilla explores what Elise likes about the world of D/s against the beliefs held by incredibly rude norms. Elise makes some very excellent points in this, including:
“‘…think of how you’d feel if someone started grilling you on what you like to do in the bedroom and then saying something like “weird” or “why would you do that”?'”
I love that this story is kind. I know, it’s a weird word to use, not what one would expect to hear in a story about Dominance and submission. It’s a great perspective to read about as it helps to make me understand that there are as many (more, really) flavors of sex than ice cream. That it’s about what you like. What makes you happy. It’s what Elise is about, making both parties happy.
The central conflict of Vanilla is the point Elise has reached in her life, a point where she wants more than what she’s been getting. More than an impersonal meet-up that satisfies only one part of her life.
It’s this need and insecurity of Elise’s that makes her relationship with Niall a conundrum. He’s amazing in so many ways; he’s so incredibly observant. The way he plans their time together…sigh… I agree that his reaction that night in Baltimore was so wrong, part of his own rude beliefs. They both need to do some communicating and get past their own hangups. God knows the sex is great! And not just with Niall.
I do wonder about Esteban. He sounds so gorgeous, and then there are those scenes which, okay, I can understand that he has needs that need to be met — or not — but I can’t help but feel he’s wrong in the way he goes about it. Partly it’s because he seems to be such a romantic with Elise.
I do love this comment Esteban makes:
“‘You needed me to kiss you,’ Esteban said. ‘When you’re hungry, you should be fed.'”
I love Elise’s attitude about the modeling. And she’s right. It’s not something personal. It’s a job that happens to be one she enjoys.
Elise’s family. Well. If my in-laws treated me like Elise’s mother and her older sister treat Susan? Nope, ya wouldn’t find the body parts. I do like Elise’s responses, eventually, to them. Exactly what they need, lol. Then her mother’s lies…man…
Evan desperately needs to get a clue. A husband should support his wife (and vice versa) when it comes to the in-laws. Of course, it is consistent with how insensitive and clueless Susan, Jill, and Mrs. Klein are. Makes ya wonder if that’s a positive about D/s, that it makes you more aware of the people around you, how they feel. God knows, the other three women in the family are amazingly insensitive.
I liked Elise for her stance on herself, her preferences, but I adored Alex for his cheekiness. There’s a mystery about Alex, and I definitely want to read more about him. If only to see if my guesses are accurate. I’m thinking, too, that Elise must be rather desperate if she imagines she can get a crush on a guy because he’s wearing pink girl’s underwear.
“Sometimes I like peanut butter on a sandwich. Sometimes I like a grilled cheese.”
There’s even more of a mystery about “George”, and Hart plays this very well. I couldn’t stop reading this story, as I had to know what that story was all about, and Hart kept dropping those hints and tidbits in a winding trail throughout the story.
She’s marking time. She’s working at a job she adores. She sits aside and shakes her head about her family. But she cries into her pillow at night. She humiliates herself.
And she’s coming to realize what is missing.
Elise Klein has always liked to be on top. She also likes modeling in anything from vintage clothing to nothing at all. Work-wise, she’s Alex’s partner, handling the the paperwork. William is the almost-thirteen-year-old nephew whom Elise adores. Evan is her twin brother, and he’s married to the unhappy and very rude Susan. Jill is their older sister whom I’d boot out of the family. Sam Peters was the mechanic to whom the Kleins always took their cars.
Niall Black works with Evan.
Esteban needs to be dominated. “George” is the man she loved too much.
Alex Kennedy is a wealthy investment planner who would prefer to not work, and he’s married to Olivia, a photographer. Jamie is his best friend; Anne is the wife Jamie asked Alex to seduce in Tempted, 1.
Scott Church is a professional photographer who does photography seminars and prefers to shoot BDSM-themed portraits. Laura is Scott’s assistant. Jack, Sarah’s boyfriend, is one of his models. Sarah is Olivia’s best friend. Alicia is Elise’s best friend who moved to Texas; her bad affair is “Mr. Darcy“. Jay is Alicia’s new boyfriend. A picking-out-furniture one. Nhat is William’s best friend.
The Slaughtered Lamb
Cubby and his wife, Sonya, are the hosts at this munch. Eric is a local ER doc. Randi is a Domme interested in Niall.
The Cover and Title
The background for the cover is soft folds of deep red with a swirl of soft-serve vanilla ice cream crowding into the forefront. The softness is petal-like, a whipped cream feel of a rose begging to be tasted.
The title is all about ice cream, about life. Sometimes you like this flavor and sometimes you want a change. Dark chocolate, mint, Vanilla.