This review originally appeared in slightly different form at BDSM Book Reviews.
This is one of those rare books where the blurb is more concise and accurate than what I might have written:
On the surface, rock star Jordan Kane has it all. His band No Rules is burning up the charts and headlining a world tour. His bodyguard doubles as a hot, kinky boyfriend who knows just how to push all his buttons. But behind the scenes, he’s suffocating.
Jase Hewitt never imagined he’d have a shot at bedding the larger than life rock star - never mind dominating him - but now he’s worried he’s in over his head. Jordan’s kinks run deep, dark, and sometimes dangerous, putting Jase’s desires to both pleasure and protect him at odds.
They might have a fighting chance at finding the safe, happy medium between what Jordan needs and what Jase is willing to give, but there’s one problem: Daniel, Jordan’s childhood best friend, the band’s talented guitarist — and a volatile, hard-partying drug addict. Jordan is determined to save Daniel from himself, but Jase has been there, done that, and desperately wants to protect Jordan from the inevitable heartache of watching an addict self-destruct.
When Daniel goes off the rails again, Jordan calls off the tour to get him help. Tension within the band skyrockets and pressure from the record label sends Jordan into a dark spiral. Now his band — and his life — are balanced on a knife’s edge, and Jase is the only one who can pull him back… but only if the echoes of his own tragic past don’t push him over first.
“Guarded” is a surprisingly successful blend of romance and tragedy, with a fair bit of kink thrown in. The two main characters, Jase and Jordan, take turns telling the story, so we get both points of view — rock star and security guard, dom and sub — as their relationship evolves. Both protagonists are well drawn and likable, although one suspects the depiction of the life of rock bands on the road and at home owes more to popular perception rather than dull boring reality.
The pivotal character of Daniel is more talked about than seen. His journey down the path of self-destruction is an all-to-real one, and it is depicted without any added melodrama. The reactions of Jordan and Jase to Daniel’s downward spiral, and their reactions to each other’s reactions, provides most of the drama.
The addition of kink to this mix might seem odd, but it’s curiously effective. Jordan may have managed to say “no” to drugs, but his desire for kinky sex, particularly breath play, is potentially just as dangerous. Without a steady and strong Dom who knows what he’s doing, Jordan is headed for trouble.
The kink in “Guarded” goes well beyond breath play. In order to find a safer outlet for Jordan’s needs, Jase takes him on trip through a world of private dungeons and pain. The reality of what Jase does to Jordan is probably a case of too much too soon for an inexperienced sub, but this is fantasy and the scenes are certainly hot.
Overall, this is a pleasant change from the typical romance, where everything goes the heroes' way and tragedy only serves to bring them together. You wouldn’t want to pick at the seams too much, but this is close enough to real life to get you emotionally connected with the story.
“Guarded” is available from Amazon.