Review: Calling the Shots by Christine d’Abo

Calling the Shots by Christine d"AboFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: audiobook
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Long Shots, #4
Length: 180 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: October 8, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

He’s had a wild ride, and now sex club owner Josh Scott is looking for a change of scene. But first, he’s determined to bring two friends together, and he’s willing to be a third wheel to move things along…

Beth Norris is eager to be set up with hot bartender Oliver Stephenson, but she’s equally attracted to matchmaker Josh. Soon she’s fantasizing about both men at once—and about being the one to call the shots in the encounter…

Ready to move on with his life post-divorce, Oliver is conflicted by the realization that he’s attracted to women and men. Or more specifically, to Beth and Josh. He tries to keep his distance, but it’s not long before the chemistry between the trio combusts in a night of mind-blowing sex.

In the light of day, it’s clear something deeper than desire is growing between Josh, Beth and Oliver. But though Josh has helped others find love in unconventional relationships, is he willing to take a chance on one himself?

My Review:

This is the fourth book in the Long Shots series, and the action in this book firmly (ahem) shifts from the Pulled Long coffee shop to Mavericks sex club across the street. It’s been two years since all of the Long siblings found their HEAs in first three books (Double Shot, A Shot in the Dark, and Pulled Long, all reviewed here)

Pulled Long by Christine d'AboBut one of the matchmakers in a number of those stories was Josh, the owner of Mavericks. His business may be thriving but he’s not a happy man. Like Ian Long in Pulled Long, he spends way too much time working, and way too much mental energy being messed up about things he can’t control to get within a mile of happy.

Josh created Mavericks as a place where people like himself could have someplace to safely be exactly who they are, whatever their particular kink might be. The watchwords at Mavericks are “safe, sane and consensual”. The problem with being the owner is that Josh has to remain in control at all times. Not in the sense of a Dom controlling a sub, but in the sense of he can’t let go of his emotions and just be. He can’t get indulge himself or get emotionally involved with the members of his club…or his staff.

And that’s what makes this story so interesting. Because no matter how fascinating, or how hot, the BDSM lifestyle available at the club and the encounters described as the protagonists start to get their romantic act together; at heart this is a love story. It’s an office romance/crush on the boss story.

The difference is that Beth has a crush on her boss, Josh. Oliver has a crush on both of his bosses, Beth and Josh. And Josh believes that what he wants, a stable ménage with Beth and Oliver, is an impossible dream, both because all of his previous attempts at such a thing have failed, and because he’s certain that what they feel for him is just a crush, but that what they feel for each other is real. He decides to matchmake them into a real relationship, then leave them to their HEA.

It takes a lot to convince Josh that this time, he really can have it all.

Escape Rating B: The love story works surprisingly well. The author has to manage three points of view in a romance, where the reader is used to only hearing from two participants. But she convinces us that each of these people is getting what they need from what is otherwise unusual arrangement. This is their HEA.

They all come into this damaged by events in their previous lives. They all have secrets in their past that they need to air before there can be any trust. And Beth and Oliver have to convince Josh that their threesome has a chance at becoming a stable relationship, because Josh is older and simply has more experience at trying to make relationships like this work and failing miserably.

It’s a lot to back into a novella. The emotional side holds up well. The suspense subplot about vandalism in sex clubs, that didn’t work nearly as well as the romance.

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