First Impression ...That cover is so gorgeous. I've heard great things about Hill's books.
The Story... Two years after the death of her husband, Athena is searching. Serving as a Domme to her husband, now the role doesn't seem to fit. As she slowly wades back in to the BDSM lifestyle she and her husband enjoyed, Athena is changed when she sees a dynamic Dom, Dale, in a scene. Athena is drawn to him, as a submissive. A highly respected Domme, this change within Athena is a struggle. How can she reconcile her past with her needs for the future? With Dale's care, she is willing to explore the life of a submissive, move forward from her past role, and find a new way with her Master.
The Characters ... Honestly, the characters made Unrestrained. I've often mentioned that I find the world of BDSM and all the different roles and dynamics within that life to be fascinating. What drew me to this story was Athena's shift from Domme to submissive, and how thoroughly the author examined the desires and emotions and thoughts that result from the switch. I have to admit, I will not be able to give Athena's journey it's due. It would require a very lengthy review with more knowledge than I have. Hers was a complicated, thoughtful and ultimately freeing change. It was truly fascinating.
"You were trained, so to speak, to run things, to handle things. An ultimate service sub, if you want to think of it that way, trained by your husband to be his Mistress. As such, you equate your worth with service. It's a fine, noble thing in ninety-nine percent of that incredible, amazing life of yours that gives so much to others. But that's not what I want from you. That's not what you came to me for. We both know it. I'm your Master, Athena. With me, you let go of all of it."
"But...what does that give you?"
"I've told you." He chuckled, but it was a grim sound. "It gives me everything, sweetheart. That's the way I'm made. When you surrender, when you look at me with that dazzling, mindless trust in your expression, when I feel how you hand over every part of yourself to me, and you accept pleasure and pain at my hand...That's like a drug to me."
Dale, her Master, friend, and lover, was a complex and fascinating character as well. A retired SEAL, he hasn't let the partial amputation that changed his world, change him. He was a self-assured and powerful character. His pleasure is hers, and his complete control and care for Athena was inspiring. Though Dale was commanding, he wasn't an unlikable character like many Doms I've found in books. It was always apparent that his ultimate goal was Athena's happiness, which in turn brings his own.
The Writing ... The writing in Unrestrained fully immersed me into Athena's life, thoughts and desires. Though I own a few, this is the first of Hill's books I've read. I'm no expert on the subject of BDSM, but I feel as if Hill is, or at least an expert of depicting the life. I appreciate how thoroughly the characters are examined, how multi-faceted they were, and that the story was thoughtful, and not just out to shock and awe.
My one and only complaint: Dale's use of the word "girl" when talking to or directing Athena. I could be complete off base, but every time Dale called Athena "girl", I thought about the "Hey Girl" meme, and I giggle. Or I think of Justin Bieber. And I frown.
The Heat ... Was plentiful and delicious. Dale and Athena were uninhibited and honest in the wants, needs, and reactions to one another. With their having the type of relationship they did, the physical picked up almost immediately, but only enhanced the relationship and help progress it, rather than take it over. Unfortunately, I "had" to read much of Unrestrained in a semi-public setting. It was wicked hot and I had a few Awwwwkward moments. Fortunately, I love awkward.
Could I Put Unrestrained Down? The opening was intriguing, very much so, and quick to pull me on board. Though I never struggled with the story, it did have a bit of a slower pace and I found that my mind would wander at points. I do think the pace was necessary, but it did allow me to drift. The fascinating characters and subject always managed pulled me back.
In the End... At this point, it is a bit redundant for me to say that I found Unrestrained to be extremely fascinating. But it's honestly an absolute fact. Unrestrained appealed to me on a cerebral level, but also emotionally and physically. It was an excellent experience and I am so glad I gave Athena and Dale's book a chance.