Capture & Surrender (Market Garden #5)
by L.A. Witt and Aleksandr Voinov
I recently joined NetGalley, which is a site where semiprofessional reviewers like myself can request digital galleys of books in exchange for reviews. Since I figure I’ll probably be writing about the books I read anyway, this exchange is amenable to me. Anyway, full disclosure: this book is from them.
When Capture & Surrender came on my radar via the Amazon suggestion panel, I was unaware that this was one if several books in a series. Unlike their cousin the Audible app, both the Kindle app and the Amazon app for Android make it difficult to know when a book is part of a series, and even more difficult to know which book it is, or even what order they go in. It doesn’t help that most publishers will maybe add the phrase “a Fuck Bubble book” at the end of their plot summary like I’m supposed to be like “Oh, Fuck Bubble, I know exactly what that means!”
Anyway, this is book five of the Market Garden series, and it follows kinky brothel owner Franks’s journey to love again after his partner’s death of AIDS. When I first realized this was a series, I incorrectly assumed that the other four books are also about Frank, but they are actually about three different couples who form out of or around the prostitutes on Frank’s staff, which makes more sense. I was wondering how a romance/erotica series would deal with something as bummerey as a main character’s death from AIDS. Turns out, they just make sure it was in the past.
While our leading man has probably been supporting cast in all of the books, this is the first one entirely about him. I got the idea that the writers know Frank very well, and there were a lot of times I wished I knew him as well as they did, but whether this lack of information comes from my own ignorance of the cannon, or some other issue, I can’t tell. I definitely felt like I was picking up in the middle of something, but I wasn’t getting a lot of context clues as to who Frank was as a person. During the course of the book, he mentions his past, and I realized that I would much rather read about young street-smart Frank struggling to reconcile his working class, criminal background with his identity as a gay submissive in a homophobic world. And yes, I know, there are probably millions of books about exactly that subject, and I shouldn’t be such a philistine. In fact, I should sing the praises of Witt and Voinov for writing a book that actually deals with aging, sickness, and death with sensitivity and grace while managing to maintain some solidly hot sex along the way. When I incorrectly assumed that the previous books were about Frank, it bothered me less because I thought the stories Frank alludes to had already been told. Now I know they have not, and I’m sad that the only version of Frank in print is an aging depressive with intimacy and self-esteem issues who goes more than a little too crazy over new dick for my general liking.
As for the sex, which is what we’re all here for, I have to say the BDSM in this book amounts to little more than rough handling and dirty talk. It’s good, it gets the job done, and in fact, is some of the better written stuff on the market from an emotional point of view. Especially given the context. But don’t expect anything more than some commanding suggestions in terms of sub/dom play. The majority of the scenes tend to be brief and superficial, but there is a real gem early on in the book between Frank and two of his dear friends that is really, seriously amazing. The fact that the characters have intimate knowledge of each other, that they all love each other as friends, and that the fuckfest itself is a life-affirming act is absolutely clear in the writing, and its depth lends a heart-string tension to what could have easily been a throw-away session to hold reader attention while the romance builds.
Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars. It’s not this book’s fault that it was completely different from what I expected. It’s a well written piece of fun that was easy to read, and had hapily unexpected hidden emotional range, even if it was a little character weak.
While I was writing this, Ben came up and said “I feel like your reviews should feature incredibly over-wrought metaphors for the state of your vagina. Like, ‘this book left my cunt drier than the Nazca region of Peru.'” Then he added. “You can have that one.” What a giver.