There’s a romance trope I really love and I wish I knew what to call it. It’s the one where the characters are unaware that they have two different relationships. In real life, they know each other one way–maybe friendly, maybe co-workers, maybe adversaries. But then there’s another relationship where they don’t know each other’s identity–maybe they’re online, maybe they’re writing letters to a stranger–and that relationship develops completely differently. Think You’ve Got Mail or Olivia Dade’s Spoiler Alert.
Anyway, it’s a great trope, even if you don’t see it very often, and in A.H. Cunningham’s new novel Plié, it’s just delightful.
Knox Davenport is a successful businessman and a single dad to Trinity, who just adores ballet and the ballet school she attends. Knox will do anything for his daughter, but “Ms. Mac”, the woman who owns the studio, is working his last nerve. He sees her as disorganized and a little careless.
Aisha McKenney has a lot on her plate. She’s got bills she can’t pay, a dance studio she’s struggling to run, and two grandparents who need a lot of care. She doesn’t need the hot dad of one of her students taking her to task for every single misstep.
Aisha’s solution to the bill problem is to go back to doing some work as a professional submissive. She’s done it before but needed some time away. Now it seems like a good way to get the bills paid. Knox, meanwhile, is exploring his Dominant side, and has decided to hire a professional submissive to help him hone his skills. You’ll never guess what happens next…
Oh, you guessed that he hires her without realizing it because they’re contracting through a local dungeon and both wearing masks? You’re right. (Don’t worry, not a spoiler).
There’s a lot to love in this book. It’s especially refreshing to read a book where the male Dom is the more inexperienced character and the female sub is the one who really knows what she’s doing. It’s so common to read books where the setup is the other way around, that you almost don’t notice how rare the other way is.
The book also takes seriously the idea of sex work being work. Aisha doesn’t do this for her own pleasure (although it can be very pleasurable). She does this because she needs to get her bills paid, and she is providing Knox with a service. When they’re in the “Gold Room”, the room where they play at the dungeon, she reminds him several times that he’s not entitled to know about her life or to know exactly what turns her on. And yet, the book is also really non-judgmental about Aisha’s choice to work. She needs money. This job pays money. What more is there to say?
The relationship between the characters is also handled well. They are drawn to each other in the Gold Room, enjoying their play, enjoying each other, while back in the real world they circle each other defensively, even if they are intrigued by each other. Cunningham does an excellent job of bringing them together in both of their relationships, of making it feel as though the two relationships play off of each other, building together.
And lastly (because of course you’re wondering by now if I’m intentionally not talking about how the sex was), this book is hot! The sex is creative and playful (which BDSM scenes really should be, since indulging kink is really a form of play), and really sexy. It all works together to leave the reader both delighted and satisfied.
Plié by A.H. Cunningham releases January 17th, 2023. Thank you to A.H. Cunningham and Bookmarked Indie for the complimentary copy of Plié for review.
And if you think you know what this trope of two people having two different relationships with each other, leave a comment!