The Deep End: The Honey Series by Kristen Ashley
Erotic Romance. First standalone in a series that is related.
Throw your preconceived notions out the window. Your notions about female Dommes and male subs will be seriously challenged in The Deep End, a new erotic romance from Kristen Ashley featuring a very masculine, very alpha sub. Since Kristen Ashley is hands-down my favorite author, I knew she’d be able to pull that off somehow, and she did, spectacularly. There were other things about The Deep End that I wasn’t completely comfortable with, but the alpha sub aspect was never an issue.
WARNING: This is a long, but spoiler free review. If you like your reviews shorter, skip to the Likes & Dislikes and Down & Dirty at the bottom.
I highlighted about 80 quotes, so choosing the ones that illustrate my review and don’t give the story away is a challenge. There are so many fantastic KA quotes. And that’s the thing you need to remember. Kristen Ashley is a master story teller, and her amazing work is on display here, despite the fact that the story is very much a clear departure from what she has written in the past. I must say, I had a really hard time at the beginning. I even texted my friends saying “Oh no! This may be the first KA book I can’t get into!” But soon enough, I was into it and hooked.
Here was the main issue for me. The Deep End is third person. I am totally a first person girl, and the way KA usually does her first person is my absolute favorite. After just reading Sommersgate House, which was third person as well, I had the same exact disappointment, I just don’t connect as deeply in third person despite loving the story. Kristen Ashley isn’t new to third person, but to me, all her best books have the female voice in first person.
“You are un-fucking-believably beautiful. You’re also un-fucking-believably hot. But I wouldn’t guess with the acres that make all of you, every inch of it so damned sweet, you’re a walking wet dream, that when you get riled you’re also un-fucking-believably cute. And there is no way in fuck five minutes ago, you told me a gorgeous redhead was gonna lead me to a room and make me her pony, I would be cool with that. But standin’ here with you, I’m totally fuckin’ cool with that.”
As you can see from that quote, we have a Kristen Ashley alpha, and he is spectacular. He is a big, big man, a firefighter, and he is all man. But when it comes to bedroom games, he likes kink, and he likes to be dominated. But not once did he seem wimpy- submissive, just that he is holding back his alpha animal tendencies, and he is on the edge of losing it all the time. It’s delicious.
“Would you like to fuck my fist, Olivier?”
“Fuck yeah,” he replied immediately.
“Is that how you answer your Mistress?” she inquired.
“Fuck yeah, Mistress.”
She felt her lips quirk and pressed closer. His body stilled then continued quivering.
“Ask, Olivier, and ask nice. You want my answer to be yes,” she ordered.
The response came immediately.
“Please, Mistress Amélie, let me fuck your fist.”
She moved her hands from his balls, retraced her path along the crease of his thigh and smoothed it over his buttock, one thumb running along the side of the crevice in his ass.
His hips jerked again.
“Please, Amélie, I need to fuck your fuckin’ fist,” he gritted.
“Then perform for me, my steed,” she allowed.
Amélie is the character I had a little trouble with. The thing I love most in a Kristen Ashley book is not the alpha men, it’s the cool as hell women that I totally want to hang with. And for me, loving the heroine is the key to loving the book. I didn’t dislike her, I just never felt like I got to know her. (Though I did almost a full re-read for this review, and liked her much more the second time around.) First of all, third person always makes it more difficult to get to know a character because we aren’t in their head. Second, she is a Domme, so she has to be in control and kind of formal at all times. Third, she is French originally and holds her self more formally and uses French words. Fourth, she was born into class and money. Fifth, she rarely even used contractions, she spoke stiff and formal. Together it all made her seem rather cold and stand-offish. The glimpses of the real Amélie came later in the book, but they had to replace the feelings I already had, so it was an uphill battle.
Amélie is top Domme in an exclusive Pheonix sex club, The Bee’s Honey. In 7 years, she has never found a relationship that worked but she enjoyed her “toys” (male subs). The club requires several letters of recommendation from previous partners and is very expensive, but they offer scholarships to applicants that may fill a need. Amélie sees her friends falling for their toys, and she is ready for more than just play. She would love someone to spend her life with, but she likes a manly alpha that she can dominate in bed, a rarity she doesn’t think she will ever find.
“Through this, she knew all along she held that delicate, pulsating hope many women nurtured that there was someone out there. Someone you’d know you wanted to go to sleep next to every night. Argue with about whiskers in the sink. Plan vacations with. Have everything feel better when something terrible happened and his arms closed around you. Watch his features soften with delight when you told him you were carrying his child. Someone you could tie to a bed and make perform for you, forcing mind-scrambling orgasm after orgasm, him needing that in all the forms you could imagine, unashamedly gifting you with the trust you’d give them to him. And then the memory of each and every single one of those precious moments when time wore on and age made this no longer something you both could share. Until you both quit breathing.”
Olivier has had strange urges since he was a kid. He confided in a friend who set him straight then got him into the Honey where he heard about Amélie and he waited for her. Oliver was so fascinating. He was an alpha male in every sense of the word, so he was having quite a battle with himself and his sexual urges to be submissive. As soon as Amélie saw him, she knew he was what she had been looking for.
“He was colossal.
A mighty beast.
A magnificent beast.
She was looking for a wild, protective alpha who would heel in the bedroom.
“He was a brute, an incomparable steed.”
She took him into her special room at the club immediately. And holy hell, despite the fact that I had some difficulty picturing the positions and hooks in the floor that he was tied to, the scenes in the club, with people watching were totally hot, yet very intimate, because the amount of trust Olivier places in Amélie is so intimate. More than the first half of the book takes place at the club. They have sex immediately, and watching the trust build between them was mesmerizing. But despite them both wanting more, they don’t know how to make that happen. I loved that they were different in a scene and out. They were Olivier and Amélie in a scene, but I truly loved when they were just Olly & Leigh.
Before she could even make eye contact, he kissed her… She melted into him and gave him his kiss, giving herself something even better. Getting that kiss. When he lifted his head, his eyes flashed and his lips tipped up in a grin.
“Now you can bring on the Mistress if you want, gorgeous.”
She felt her own lips tip up. “You’re incorrigible.”
“And you fuckin’ love it.”
The sex scenes were very detailed and very graphic. And they were H-O-T!
“Fuck me, baby. Take my ass. Jack my junk and goddamned fuck me.” Before she could demand it, her training kicked in, and he finished in a way that was so . . . deliciously . . . Olivier, “Motherfucking please.”
While I was never really uncomfortable with the sex, there was one aspect of their play that I felt like it should make me uncomfortable, though when it comes to kink I try to be nonjudgmental. It’s just that he was her “steed”. Her room had a specially built stall and she had certain toys that made their play more into horse-play. I kind of felt like this was a little too much of a line for me personally, like “daddy” was in Knight. But I can get past stuff like that, especially because their romance started to take precedence over the sex.
My favorite parts were the light parts between the two of them. When he was being all alpha, then gives her permission to get all Dommy.
“You’re being very bossy, Olivier.”
“Good, that means you might paddle my balls later. Now, get your ass over here so I can kiss you and finish eating.”
Interestingly, I spoke with another blogger and one of my favorite things was one of her least favorite. I loved that there was a bit of an exciting side story and mystery. To me that was classic KA and it really held my interest. She wanted more about the center couple and found it distracting.
I think there will be lots of varying opinions on The Deep End. The central love story, and the struggles a female dominant and an alpha male submissive have to go through in life I’m sure are very real, and in this case they are exacerbated by the fact that she is wealthy and he isn’t. (Speaking of which, I loved his dad, and I wish we saw more of him and other secondary characters.) But I honestly had no major problems with the story. I just never fully warmed up to Amélie, because her warmth very rarely came out.
“You’ve got an explosive temper and—”
His head shot up. “And yours?” He gave a fake shudder that was actually quite impressive. “Ice-cold.”
My favorite part? Despite his bedroom proclivities, Olly is all protective, possessive alpha.
- I absolutely LOVED Olivier. He was totally alpha besides liking sub play in bed.
- The vanilla scenes where he just takes her were my favorite, even though I like the kink too.
- I totally get the alpha sub thing and had no problem with that aspect.
- I loved the actual love story.
- I really enjoyed seeing Olly get more comfortable with who he is.
- It was SO hot!
- So erotic and passionate.
- So many amazing Kristen Ashley quotes.
- Olly’s dad. I wish there were more of him (and other side characters).
- The side mystery.
- The epilogue.
- 3rd person.
- No matter how hard I tried, some positions he was strapped in just didn’t make sense in my mind.
- I’m not a big fan of the animal thing…I can’t help but wonder if she fantasizes about horses?
- It took a long time to warm up to Amelie. Her formal and standoffish ways never 100% warmed up for me (though re-reading helped a lot).
- The first few chapters of world building were rough, and I was worried I wouldn’t like it.
- I wish there was more of the couple out together, in the real world, interacting with others.
- I just never fully connected.
The Down and Dirty:
I’m kind of all over the place with this review, because there was so much I loved, but there were a few things that were hard to get past. And they weren’t the things I expected at all! I think the thing that really hurt the story for me was third person. I never fully immersed into the story and never fully warmed up to the kind of snooty and formal Amélie until I did a quick reread for this review. The beginning was slow building and it took a while to get in the groove of the third person, but once I did, I really fell in love, so give it a little time to warm up. This is erotic romance folks, erotic being the operative word. The sex comes first and foremost, and it’s a very different kind of kink than I have read about before. You know how some Doms like to treat their subs like pets? Well, same here, but he’s her noble steed. Though the male sub part didn’t really bother me (it was actually a lot hotter than I expected) I didn’t love the horse references, but I felt like I shouldn’t like it more than anything.
I completely LOVED Olly and I loved the idea of a big alpha sub. He has all the possessive, protective, grunty alpha tendencies of all of Kristen Ashley’s heroes, and there was even something alpha about him when he was strapped down and harnessed, like you were harnessing a beast that will lose control as soon as he is released. So hot. I loved watching this big manly man struggle with his nature and put such a deep trust in his woman.
I never doubted Kristen Ashley could pull off an alpha sub, and she did it beautifully. If you read The Will, I find that Amélie reminds me a bit of Josephine with her formal standoffish ways, but due to the 3rd person narration I never fully warmed up to Amélie the way I did Josephine. I still loved the story, and can’t wait for the Farthest Edge in June. I think I will listen to this one before the next comes out because I think this is one story that will get better with each read as you notice more and feel like you know Amélie better. The Deep End is at heart a beautiful love story with a lesson to be true to yourself, and I love that Kristen Ashley was true to herself and took a chance with something different.
Rating: 4 Stars, 5+ heat
Purchase The Deep End: The Honey Series by Kristen Ashley
Kristen grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana and has lived in Denver, Colorado and the West Country of England. Thus, she’s blessed to have friends and family around the globe. Her family was (is) loopy (to say the least) but loopy is good when you want to write. They all lived together on a very small farm in a small farm town in the heartland. She grew up with Glenn Miller, The Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon and Whitesnake (and the wardrobes that matched).
Needless to say, growing up in a house full of music, clothes and love was a good way to grow up.
And as she keeps growing, it keeps getting better.