Extended Review: Joely Sue Burkhart's Yours To Take
Yours to Take is not my first Joely Sue Burkhart story, but it is the first contemporary erotica I have read by the author. And I have to say, I was blown away. This May 2012 novella is the third in the author’s Connagher series but it definitely could be read as a stand-alone. (That said, I am going to pick up the first two books in the series as soon as I can because this story was so much fun!)
You can check out my *Web Exclusive Review* for more details, but here is the story in two sentences: Does one red-hot heroine plus one sexy alpha male and one steamy submissive equal one person too many? Vicki can’t choose between Elias and Jesse, two very different men who make her heart race, so instead she’ll try to show the men that they can all have a life together.
Now, whenever someone says to me, “I’m on the prowl for a truly exceptional futuristic erotic romance,” I point them to Joely Sue Burkhart’s 2011 novella Lady Doctor Wyre. This was one of my top five erotic romances of the year. So it was a true pleasure to discover that several of my favorite elements of Burkhart’s sci-fi/steampunk mashup were also evident in the author’s present day stories.
So what is it that really makes Yours To Take stand out?
The world building is phenomenal. The story is short but Burkhart makes every page count to show readers a BDSM society that is truly alive and vibrant. Vicki and her guys are only peripherally involved in this scene. (Vicki, a budding fashion designer, is launching a clothing line that is billed as “BDSM day wear.”) But the Texas-set BDSM scene clearly exists. Furthermore, Burkhart makes it clear that readers hunting for more stories set in this world can turn to the other Connagher books, which are more fully immersed in this lifestyle. And even though some elements — like the fact that Vicki’s brother is famous for his role on the reality TV show America’s Next Top Sub — may seem far-fetched, I bet you a dollar that you will be so sucked into the story that it won’t even bother you.
The relationships between the three main characters are compelling, and not always comfortable. Yours to Take explores this romantic relationship fully from each of the three characters' point of view. You'll see the tale unfold through the eyes of Elias who struggles with his reluctance to share Vicki with Jesse, and the arousal that their loveplay ignites. Meanwhile Vicki walks a difficult line as a "switch", trying to be the Dom that Jesse wants — and needs — while also staying true to her relationship as Elias’ sub. And Jesse’s time on the streets has made him unsure of Vicki’s devotion, and Elias' acceptance. Unlike many BDSM erotica ménage stories, all three partners are not particularly happy with the idea of having a three-way relationship at the story's start, but Burkhart's skill at getting inside of her characters' heads and hearts makes this developing tale more captivating, and the conclusion much more satisfying.
The sexy submissive male is both unexpected and intriguing. I am the first to admit that I don’t like a submissive man. They simply don’t get my engine revving. But Jesse? That man is a tall drink of water on a hot summer’s day. The author does a fantastic job of showcasing how (and why) a submissive can be so attractive. Even if you are Team Elias, the author shows how Jesse’s desire for Vicki is potent and powerful. (Additionally, Jesse is able to articulate what he wants from Vicki as a Dom in a way that may just make your toes curl.)
The steamy scenes really sizzle and pop. Burkhart does not rely on tired metaphors or even penetration to create scenes that are something special. There is no perfunctory "insert tab A into slot B" here. Instead there are stolen moments, uninhibited caresses and even a very public interlude that all convey how special this three-way connection truly is. What makes these physical moments pack such an emotional wallop is how well readers know what is inside the characters’ heads. This extra layer really gives the “adult time” a natural feeling. The story is clearly an erotica, with a wide range of sexy scenes, but it never once reads like the physical moments are sex for sex’s sake.
Ultimately, Burkhart does a fantastic job of illustrating this new BDSM ménage relationship as it cracks out of its vanilla shell like a baby bird and then takes its first few steps. The story moves beyond interesting to downright fascinating, and is one that readers will feel comfortable with even if they tend to take their erotic romance sans ménage or BDSM elements.