Kate just got her big break, running an international tour for a rising band. Her job is everything to her…at least until she meets the band’s enigmatic bass player.
After they collide in one unforgettably erotic night on a hotel balcony, he comes to her with a proposition. As a former BDSM club performer, Danny’s spent so long fulfilling other people’s fantasies that now he wants to reclaim his own—and he says she’s the only one who can help.
Getting caught in bed with her rock star boss could cost her career, and yet there’s something about Danny’s quiet intensity that she can’t resist. He steals her heart, hard. But the end of the tour is approaching, and their jobs are headed two different directions.
To be together one of them will have to stop touring, but the only thing they crave as much as each other is music.
When I met the Cheeto-eating Danny O’Neil in Michelle Hazen’s A Cruel Kind of Beautiful I actually thought he was the broody sidekick. He was sort of an afterthought for me. I’m not sure if it’s because I was just so focused on Jera and Jacob or because I can be single-minded when reading, missing important cues, but he just seemed like that broody man-child that we all know. Truthfully, he starts Playing the Pauses exactly like that. Then, Kate Madsen describes his hands. His hands. Just HIS HANDS. And, I was done. When he opened his eyes, I was lost. This seems sort of shallow, right? Except, that hand description and the look in his eyes? It’s DANNY.
“Long, agile fingers sprawled on his knees, with a man’s thick knuckles and artist’s delicate bones. On the widest joint of his index finger is a tattoo of a bass clef and that finger taps restlessly while the rest of him is quiet.”
He’s quiet and strong. He’s restless. Music flows from him like the blood in his veins.
“But then Danny opens his eyes and I freeze as their intensity crackles down my body and nails me straight in the panties. He is pure, dark sex appeal, full-strength delicious kink.”
There’s more than meets the eye with him and as I read this line, I realized that I had completely misjudged this man. In this moment, I was Kate, discovering something unexpected and, for her, life changing. For me, I found a book that gripped me from page one until I closed the it. Danny and Kate’s love story is original, honest, raw, and fulfilling as they work towards their happily ever after.
At the heart of Playing the Pauses is two people who have struggled with their sexuality amidst the world of BDSM. Both know their kink, but have found that they lose themselves in the pursuit of it. When they meet, Danny and Kate are on a hiatus from the lifestyle, but in one of the sexiest scenes I’ve ever read, they find what they’ve been missing. Though she’s hesitant to get involved with Danny (after all, she is his band’s tour manager) she’s drawn to his need to find out what it is that satisfies him in the bedroom and naïvely thinks she can help him along while staying emotionally distant. You know what they say about the best laid plans.
Danny’s exploration soon turns into a passionate affair between two people who need control, but in completely different ways. Kate’s a walking Day-Timer Planner with a Mary Poppins handbag who has every moment of every day planned out and the ability to fix things when they don’t work out. She’s also a submissive who’s decided that she can’t giveaway that part of herself anymore because she hasn’t found a partner who doesn’t demand all of her. Danny is a dominant who quietly flies by the seat of his pants, concerned only with his music and the small group of people he cares about. The only time he demands control is during sex. When he realizes that he’s pleasing everyone but himself it’s soul crushing.
It’s hard not to connect with these characters. Kate found herself responsible for a needy parent at a young age and refuses to sacrifice her career for anyone or anything. She builds a wall around herself that keeps attachments at bay because she’s afraid she’ll end up dependent on others like her mother did. Danny is fiercely protective of those he loves and learned at a young age to keep quiet, though he doesn’t miss a thing. He can lose himself for hours designing a tattoo or sitting in the back of a van playing his bass. Most importantly, there’s a vulnerability to him that’s impossible not to fall in love with. The dichotomy of quiet strength and vulnerability is just irresistible.
As they fall in love, it was beautiful to watch Danny so open and matter of fact about it, even as Kate freaks out, trying to figure out a plan that will allow them to be together. More so, it was beautiful to watch two people, who have suffered in their romantic relationships, find that person that they can be themselves with. Someone who gets their kink, but more importantly gets who they are and what’s important to them and says “hey, we don’t have to sacrifice one thing for another, let’s live in the moment”. By the way, Hazen can write love scenes. Rather than a tumble a chapter, she gives readers sensual encounters between Danny and Kate that move the story forward. No throwaway scenes here.
Have I mentioned the music? The music is as much a main character in Playing the Pauses as Danny or Kate. Hazen is a master of detail in this book from the little snippets about the bands’ roadies that bring them to life to the intricacies of Kate’s job as tour manager. She writes scenes of The Red Letters on stage that transport the reader to the front row and you feel the music. There wasn’t a moment I was reading that I didn’t feel like I was right there, on the tour bus, jamming with the band members or listening to Clancy snore. I loved it.
And, while this could be read as a standalone, I don’t recommend it. Like the band members that make up The Red Letters, this series is perfectly woven together and one without the other would be missing something.
5 stars for Playing the Pauses. Heat level: 3.5
Playing the Pauses was published by the author in March 2018.
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