I LOVE KELLY. I just get her, okay? I am pretty child-like even though I'm in my thirties. I too love My Little Pony and food and the XX. She's a writer! She has a cat! Yay Kelly! She is an adorable mix of awkward and clinical whenever anything sexy is happening. A lot of times during this book I wanted to hug her and tell her things would be okay. The only thing about her is sometimes she seems simple and other times she seems fanciful. Of course both things can be parts of a single person, but it doesn't always feel like these sides of her gel well. The other thing I don't get is why she doesn't seem to like herself much. Maybe because her friends are all awful? Because they are. Judge-y, rude, gossip mongering assholes is what they are. Assholes who don't tip! (just the tip. heh.)
Tristan. He is kind of a mess. Though I should admit, straight stuff isn't my cup of tea. At least, not usually. Some of the alpha male fantasy is a bit lost on me because of that, I think, at least in a heterosexual context. I end up wondering why Kelly thinks he's so great. She has more personality than he does, like, in spades. He just exists to wear leather pants and have a great ass and say silly domly things.
So as to the story: some of the reviews of this book put forth the idea that Tristan moves too fast with Kelly. I found that for me, this is both true and untrue. I find it just fine that he showed her a porno to introduce her to the scene. I think porn in and of itself can be a wonderful thing, if it's made in a consenting manner, and at least one reputable company produces quite a bit in the BDSM vein. He sits with her and talks her through it, answering all her questions. Point for Tristan.
I also don't think BDSM is really like, what you do once you're bored with vanilla sex. There's no reason they can't go right to BDSM even though Kelly is a virgin. If that's what they both like then that's what they should do. She expresses interest to him, he takes her through what he might like to do with her, they have a safe word, all good stuff.
In other ways, I think he was too quick. He turns on the Master switch very fast, and like right after his previous girlfriend leaves him. In fact I don't really get much personality from him other than Designated Dom. He plays Super Smash Brothers with Kelly and they like Japanese food and such, but his character doesn't get much chance to shine. Plus, I think he's a fucking creep for like half the book. I HATE being flirted with the way he flirts with Kelly. It's invasive and inelegant and gross. Plus at a certain point she rather abruptly cuts off an online conversation and he apparently thinks the right thing to do is force his way in to her home and demand she talk to him. Now even this, as inappropriate as it is, I would have accepted if I had the impression that some past trauma was in play here. Like I have a weird thing about people not responding to me, too. But there's not enough meat (heh meat) to Tristan's character for me to assign this totally fucked outburst to something deeper. He also collars her WAY too soon. Of course collars don't mean the exact same thing to everyone in the scene, but to a vast swath it is like something approximating a wedding ring.
His Domly dom ways are sometimes unintentionally hilarious instead of sexy. e.g. "my dick feels like rubber." "it's like fucking a featherbed." I'd get in to a scene and then he'd hit me with one of those and I'd be crying laughing instead.
I thought the rape scene and the aftermath was really quite excellent. Tristan didn't fuck up here. He tells her what's going to be included, he gives her a week to think about it, he asks her several times if it's what she wants. The only thing is I wish there had been even more to it, maybe even just a mention that he would have a knife. Otherwise it was a very good edge play type scene. It is his job to stretch her boundaries--NOT break them--and he does that while still reminding her she can safe word out. Her reaction is so understandable...I found it heartbreaking actually. It happens to a lot of people who find out they're in to BDSM (especially edge play), and it can be hell to go through. It can make a sub in Kelly's position really wonder about who the hell they are after all, and that's exactly what happens.
The only thing is I don't understand why she thinks the right thing to do is go to the BDSM club alone. I think because I don't understand why she is so insecure in the first place, I don't understand why she acts out in this way in particular.
Knowing how fast Nenia writes, though, this is an overall excellent piece. There's atmosphere, there's life. It really feels like Kelly has an existence that breathes on its own.