Kari Wagner is a gentle schoolteacher who grew up learning to suppress her desires. As a result, she's never had a truly fulfilling sexual experience. When her current boyfriend, Buck, starts telling her about BDSM, she finds it oddly thrilling and arousing, so when he suggests that they take a beginner's class at Club Shadowlands, she agrees. Once they're at the club, though, Buck turns into a completely different person, a dominating jerk who makes her feel incredibly uncomfortable. In spite of her desire to learn more about this lifestyle, she's decided she wants to leave, until she's given the option of staying in the care of Master Dan, an experienced dom. Deeply attracted to the tall, dark, handsome man and wanting to appease her curiosity, she agrees to remain at the club, only intending to observe. However, soon she finds herself being taken to the heights of ecstasy by Master Dan's expert hands and quickly falling for the dom, but will she be able break through his frozen heart?
Dan Sawyer is a police detective and widower who lost his wife three years earlier. Still in mourning and feeling guilt over her death, he hasn't had any interest in taking a sub for more than one night. When the club owner pairs him with Kari, he's happy to show her ropes just for the evening, but he quickly finds her sweet innocence and passionate responsiveness incredibly alluring. Not wanting to get more involved, Dan tries to avoid her, but his friends at the club keep conspiring to bring them back together. Soon his sweet, little submissive is burrowing her way into his closed-off heart, but it may still take some convincing to prove that he's the right man for her and that he has more to offer than he thinks.
Dark Citadel is the second book in Cherise Sinclair's Masters of the Shadowlands series. This one follows Master Dan who we briefly met in the first book. He's still mourning the loss of his wife three years earlier and although he's a regular dungeon master as Shadowlands, he never takes a sub for more than one night. He's helping Master Z, the owner of the club, teach a beginner's class when Kari comes in for the class with a date. However, her date behaves like a caveman, making her want to leave, until Master Z gives her the option of staying in the company of an experienced dom, namely Master Dan. Kari suspects she may have some submissive tendencies and wants to explore that possibility, and since she's very attracted to Master Dan, she can't resist the offer. After one delicious night together, Kari wants to continue her explorations, but she doesn't really want any other dom besides Master Dan. While Kari has gotten under Master Dan's skin, he doesn't think he has anything to offer a sub other than a single night of pleasure, but she just might prove him wrong.
Kari is a sweet, gentle high-school biology teacher who was brought up in a buttoned-up family who didn't talk about sex. She hasn't had the best luck in relationships and feels like sex may be a bit overrated. But when her current boyfriend, Buck, suggests that they attend a beginner's BDSM class, the things he describes to her that he's learned about the scene turn her on, making her curious. Although she's been hesitant to let Buck try these things on her, she agrees to go, but once there, Buck starts acting like a domineering jerk, making Kari uncomfortable enough to want to go home. When Master Z proposes that she stay in the care of Master Dan, her attraction to the big, handsome dom and her curiosity overrule the fears and misgivings in her head. In Master Dan's experienced arms, she discovers her passionate side and finds more pleasure than she's ever felt in her life. But when he behaves rather coldly at the end of the evening, she isn't sure what to think. As luck would have it, she ends up having two more nights with him to figure out where he's at and whether he can ever come to care for her in a more committed relationship. I deeply related to Kari's sweetness and light, as well as her sense of being a fish out of water in the BDSM scene. She has a constant war going on inside her mind between being turned on by the things she's seeing and doing at the club and feeling like there's something wrong with her for wanting these things. I thought that her newness to the scene was well-done with her slipping up a number of times, which of course, can get her into trouble with Master Dan, but at the same time, she comes to trust him-and only him-with the care and pleasuring of her body.
Master Dan is a police detective and a widower who lost his wife in a car accident. He bears a lot of guilt, blaming himself for her being where she was at the time and hasn't been able to move past her death for the three years since. He's not looking to take on a permanent sub again, which is why he never spends more than one night with any of the subs who frequent the club even though he's one of their most experienced and sought-after doms. When Kari shows up with her date, Dan is attracted to her sweetness and innocence, which is why after things go south for the couple and Z gently pushes him and Kari together, he agrees to tutor his "little sub" but just for the evening. In the short time he spends with her, Dan knows that she's already getting under his skin, so he decides to put an end to it like all his other encounters. But when she comes back for the second night and seems poised to go with another dom, his possessive instincts kick in. It takes even more matchmaking on the part of his friends, though, and seeing Kari in her "natural habitat" outside the club, as well as an incident at the club, for him to finally realize that he may have found a woman he can't live without. I didn't end up falling for Master Dan quite as hard as I did for Master Z, but he's a very appealing hero nonetheless. I enjoyed the way he eases Kari into the lifestyle, gradually working his way past her fears and doubts, while carefully reading her reactions. He gently pushes her out of her comfort zone, without being overly pushy, and in the process gives her the most mind-blowing sex of her life.
Since Masters of the Shadowlands is a fairly long-running series, several characters who have their own books in the series make appearances. Of course, Master Z (Club Shadowlands) owns the club and works with new trainees, while his sub, Jessica, befriends Kari. We're introduced to Master Nolan who has just returned from a tour of duty with the military. He becomes the hero of the next book, Breaking Free, as well as book #11, Protecting His Own, along with Beth who is seen very briefly, clearly afraid of the games her dom wants to play with her. Nolan seems a bit harder around the edges than Z or Dan, so I'll have to see if I end up liking him as well. Then there's the bartender, Master Cullen, who I love for his outgoing personality and seemingly easygoing nature. I look forward to seeing him as the hero of the fourth book, Lean on Me. Then there's Master Raoul, the DM who teaches one of the beginner's classes and becomes the hero of the sixth book, To Command and Collar. We're also introduced to Sam, who'll be the hero of book #7, This Is Who I Am. Last but certainly not least, Ben, the doorman and security guard, will be paired with Mistress Anne, who is briefly mentioned, in Servicing the Target.
Overall, Dark Citadel was a very enjoyable story. At just under two hundred pages, it's on the shorter side, straddling the line between long novella and short novel. It follows a similar track as the first book, diving right in with the steamy, sexy goodness and then later slows down just enough to give us a small peek into the characters' lives outside Club Shadowlands. The story only spans the course of less than a week, and Dan and Kari only spend three nights together before getting their HEA. However, there are no unrealistic declarations of love, only a tacit agreement that they want to be in an exclusive dom/sub relationship. Also, much like with the first book, I wouldn't have minded it being a little longer to flesh out the characters and their relationship a little more, but there's just enough to make me feel like I knew them and that they were a good match. The way that Dan treats Kari and her willingness to comfort him over the loss of his wife add just the right touch of romance to what otherwise is a scorching hot erotic love story. So far, this series and the author are two for two on perfect reads for me, which makes me very eager to continue the series soon.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations including BDSM elements, voyeurism/exhibitionism, sex toys, and anal play, all of which could be objectionable to sensitive readers.
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