Review: Submission

Submission audiobook cover, a curvaceous woman in a red dress gazes up at a handsome man in a black suit and crisp white shirt. Submission, Doms of Club Eden Book 01, by L.K. Shaw.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐
Duration: 4 hrs 42 mins.
🔥Steamy content!🔥

Submission by LK Shaw is a short and steamy contemporary romantic thriller, which grabs the listener by the unmentionables. 

Audible Summary: "The moment I laid eyes on Penny, her innocent, submissive nature called to my dominant side. I immediately volunteered to guide her exploration into my dark and decadent world. I'm also playing a deadly game of cat and mouse with an obsessed psychopath whose goal is to destroy me. When my worlds threaten to collide, I'm forced to call it quits between us. Soon I discover I'm too late, and she's caught in the crossfire. Now, I'll do everything in my power to protect the woman I'm falling for.

©2019 LK Shaw (P)2019 LK Shaw."

Content Warning: This audiobook does contain references to an extremely abusive relationship, but it is not that of the main protagonists. The violence is generally not described in great detail, but the relentless dread that comes from ongoing harassment is a central theme.

Submission is an interesting introduction to the Lifestyle, focusing upon respect, support, and boundaries as Penny explores the scene she wants to learn more about. I liked the fact that Penny was led into the Lifestyle by her own curiosity, not coerced or targeted by a Dom as is common in much D/s erotica. Everything was open, consensual, and safe which is great to see in this type of novella.

Despite being under five hours long, this audiobook certainly packed a lot in. It did a good job of introducing the world and setting up the regular players at Eden without becoming too distracted from the main story. Whilst it remained centred around Penny's relationship with Marcus, it successfully introduced another potential pairing and a bachelor Dom who I hope will feature in future books.

Sometimes the writing style is a little simplistic, and Penny in particular can be a bit of a drip (which I cannot say about any of the ED nurses I have ever encountered.) The characters' emotional responses are often too thoroughly explained, which sounds rather unnatural; such as when Penny says to Bridget during a crisis, "I'm so f****** scared and worried and nervous all at once." Real people tend not to articulate their every thought and feeling, even to themselves, and I think Hemingway's 'theory of omission' would have helped, here.

"If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water." - Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon.

Similarly, as is common in much contemporary romance, everything is exaggerated. Penny is the most beautiful woman Marcus has ever seen, he's more handsome than anyone she's ever known, every touch and kiss is a thousand times better than any previous experience, and all their defences against love melt away in an instant. Penny's reaction to the 'twist' at the safe house exemplified this saccharin indulgence, and skipped rather lightly over the conflict and negativity one might expect. It can be difficult to balance fantasy and reality in erotica, but this story took the romantic rose-tint a bit far and I think it detracted from the tension that was meant to be building from the looming threat presented by Evan.

That said, I was glad that Evan's harassment did not overwhelm the story. Past experience means that I am generally not keen on stalkery plot-lines, so whilst I think some listeners may not feel that Evan was central enough to make this a thriller, I was pleased that whenever my pulse quickened, it was not through fear.

Overall this audiobook was an entertaining romance with a hint of suspense bubbling under the surface and threatening their HEA. It also offered good insight into the Lifestyle and the people who live it.

Susmission was narrated by Stevie Rhodes and Logan McAllister, who took turns with alternate chapters in a dual narrative style. I think that I would have preferred more of a duet approach (where the narrators record in tandem but each narrate separate characters), as the challenge with dual recordings is that each protagonist has a distinct voice created by their own narrator, but then each narrator has to emulate the others' style in turn. With the duet form, the characters are always voiced by the same narrator but you still benefit from alternating perspectives. Duets are prohibitively expensive for many authors, however, and the dual form is done well enough here that it is not a problem.

I was glad that the majority of the intimate scenes were narrated by McAllister, as I find it easier to connect with a male reader in those moments and prefer them to include that masculine perspective. This always feels like a Guilty Feminist moment and is probably deeply rooted in the fact that sexuality is so often portrayed through the male gaze. But we're all a product of our environment in some regard, and if the most damaging impact upon my own proclivities has been a preference for erotica that discusses male pleasure then I'm probably 'getting off' lightly.

This was my first time listening to an audiobook read by McAllister, despite having been aware of his popularity in romance-listener circles for a while, and I would have gladly listened to him narrate the whole book. The production is slightly better on his early chapters, too, with that echoey/staticy sound in the silences at the beginning and end of Rhodes' chapters for her first few turns. He was a great choice for Marcus, and I'll look out for other audiobooks he has narrated in future.

I enjoyed Rhodes' reading too, but her performance felt like it was slightly outshone by McAllister's. She delivered Penny's hesitancy and innate submissiveness well, which contrasted nicely against Marcus' Dominant confidence. Hard 's' sounds mean Rhodes' voice does not have the smooth, rounded tone of McAllisters, and can be a little harsh. (I suffer the same issue with enunciation, so I know how difficult it is to correct. Should Parseltongue ever become an official language, we'll have the market cornered from the off.)

I'd recommend this novella to listeners who are looking for a short, sweet, steamy audiobook about a respectful D/s relationship.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

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