Hard Rhythm by Cecilia Tan
Forever – Hachette Group, 2017
Madison Rofel knows her way around a dungeon. A kink club hostess and a sex toy blogger, she’s red-haired and voluptuous, quick-witted and sharp-tongued, ready to top or bottom as the occasion requires. Certainly she’s never been the type to fall at a man’s feet. She’s curious about Chino Garcia, the heavily-inked drummer for rock band The Rough, but she finds his cocky self-confidence annoying. So when he saunters into The Governor’s Club and challenges her to an endurance contest involving a studded leather paddle, she jumps at the chance to put him in his place.
Chino’s had his eye on Madison for a while. His band mates Axel and Mal are coupled with the club’s owners, Ricki and Gwen Hamilton, but Chino’s always been a bit of a loner. His easy smile hides the pain of his difficult past. Being with Madison, though, somehow makes him feel comfortable and in control.
Hard Rhythm is the third volume in Cecilia Tan’s Secrets of a Rock Stars series. As soon as the novel was released, I badgered the publisher for a review copy, because I enjoyed the first two books so much.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of erotic fiction involving power exchange. I know of few authors who can capture the complex dynamics of a D/s relationship with the skill of Cecilia Tan. She writes with subtlety and insight, revealing important truths about BDSM. Each kinky relationship is as different as the individuals involved. Honest communication is the key to making BDSM work. And when it does work, there’s nothing hotter—or more profound.
The novel kicks off with an intensely arousing scene between Madison and Chino, and doesn’t let up. Vibrators and sex videos, play parties at secluded bungalows, bondage, spankings, blindfolds and mind games—if you’re looking for erotic excitement, you will not be disappointed by Hard Rhythm. At the same time, this book is a convincing and satisfying romance. All the sexual experimentation flows from the protagonists’ efforts to know one another. They’re drawn to one another but despite their undeniable chemistry, each has trouble being truly open.
The conflicts keeping Madison and Chino apart aren’t as dramatic as the obstacles faced by Gwen and Mal in the previous book (Wild Licks). The emotional highs and lows are not as extreme. The kink is gentler, too. Chino’s a Dom, but not a dedicated sadist, and Maddie’s not your typical slave. I loved watching them discover the unique shape of their personal D/s connection. The message comes through loud and clear. Nobody can tell you what it means to be kinky. You have to find that out by yourself, with the right partner—someone you can trust.
One complaint sometimes leveled at BDSM by the uninitiated is that it’s nothing more than thinly disguised abuse. Hard Rhythm confronts this belief head on by showing readers what a real abusive relationship looks like—a stark contrast to Chino’s and Maddie’s loving, consensual kink.
There are lots of reasons to read this book: for arousal, for the romance, to appreciate Ms. Tan’s adeptness with words and images. But there’s also a powerful message here. Readers whose main acquaintance with BDSM is through FSOG will find Hard Rhythm something of an education.