Elaine MacLeod is at odds with herself. She’s the renowned Head Mistress of Rowan House and once was willing to let that title define her, but she’s become dissatisfied. She’s beginning to wonder if finding a soulmate, or soulmates, is something she wants despite years of cynicism around love and relationships. Fortunately, front and center in her life is the reality that Rowan House needs to hire another Mistress to accommodate their guests. She can do what she does best and push all those feelings to the side rather than deal with them. Elaine is sure there isn’t a Mistress who will meet her high standards, until Petra Grendhal arrives to audition for the position.
Robin Broadacre would do anything for Elaine. Elaine rescued her from certain death at the hands of the men who previously controlled her life her. She loves Elaine even though she is certain her feelings aren’t reciprocated. When Robin volunteers to be the submissive for Petra’s audition, it rankles Elaine because she realizes her desire for Robin goes above and beyond their roles in the house.
Elaine is drawn to Petra’s fiery strength. Petra is an equally talented Mistress, and this stokes a passion in Elaine that’s as surprising as it is strong. Robin feels it too. When Petra decides to go to Oslo to interview for another position as Head Mistress, Elaine and Robin do their best to wait patiently and hope she returns. When Petra goes missing, Elaine and Robin make their way to Oslo where they come face to face with the men who tried to kill Robin and destroy Rowan House.
It’s a fight for their lives, and there’s only one way to win.
Elaine is a brilliantly complex main character. Her reputation as a superb and talented Mistress is well known and her hot temper is very familiar to the women who live and work at Rowan House. She’s a study in control and can handle any situation she’s faced with. She’s also a walking, talking dichotomy. Her cool veneer belies the loneliness she’s come to accept in her life. There’s no shortage of submissive women who’d love to pledge themselves to her, yet she realizes that honest intimacy and unconditional love is what she’s been missing. The fact she questions if she’s worthy of those things makes her all the more interesting. The tenderness she shows Robin and Petra is beyond touching, and I fell in love with her for it. I appreciated seeing the war raging inside her between the commanding Mistress and the woman who longs to be known and loved. This was definitely the hook for me in this story, and I was completely invested in how Elaine was going to resolve her inner conflict.
Robin is both sweet and world-weary. Her backstory includes drug abuse and being forced into human sex trafficking. Even though she’s found a safe and accepting place at Rowan House, she’s still guarded. Past abuse can’t be healed according to a schedule. Robin is a fighter, and although she has moments when she’s overcome by fear, they are offset with an inner strength that surprises Elaine. The one constant in her life is her love for Elaine. Robin would do anything for Elaine, and she does. My heart went out to her because she’s in a position where she’s not sure how the woman she loves feels about her.
Petra is the unknown quantity in this book. Her arrival at Rowan House isn’t completely welcome, but Elaine understands the house needs an additional Mistress. It’s fun watching the two women size each other up at the beginning of the story–who’s going to be the alpha female? That question is more complicated than it seems. Petra also has a complicated past and her own insecurities that make for a very layered character. As a Mistress, she’s used to being in control, but she’s never met anyone quite like Elaine. Her attraction is immediate, and she finds herself willing to interact with Elaine in unexpected ways. When both Elaine and Robin realize they have feelings for Petra, it challenges the three women to reevaluate their roles in the house and how they might have a future together.
The Writing Style
Double Six is written in third person from Elaine’s point of view. There are three main characters in this book, but it’s definitely Elaine’s story. Murphy does an outstanding job letting the reader see everything that’s so fascinating about Elaine. Throughout the novel, the reader’s privy to the gamut of emotions Elaine is feeling as she tries to figure out how to make sense of her feelings for Robin and Petra. Murphy lets the reader hear the continuous self-talk going on in Elaine’s head. This device gives the reader a window into Elaine’s heart that nobody else sees. This is highlighted by the sweet, intimate moments between her and Robin, and the ultimate gesture she makes to let Petra know how much she’s valued. Elaine is a contradiction–a Mistress who’s always in control and a woman whose emotional turmoil is decidedly out of control. It’s compelling, and it makes this story shine.
One of my favorite things about this book is how Murphy gives the characters conventional emotions in a very unconventional world. Her attention to detail is superb. Her descriptive passages bring Rowan House to life. I feel like I know every room in the house, how it’s decorated, and how it’s used. Many of the emotionally packed scenes take place in the house’s dungeon–a very unconventional place.
However, the BDSM scenes that the three women take part in aren’t just about sex. All the interactions show what the women are feeling in their hearts and minds. There’s no denying that these scenes are off-the-charts hot. Murphy brings every delicious moment to life, and they are indelibly etched in my imagination. The most important thing, however, is that these scenes aren’t gratuitous. They allow the characters to express inherent and authentic parts of themselves in a way that’s deeper and more complex than just soulful dialogue. These scenes are followed by gentle moments of after care that have as much impact.
The bonus with this book is that Murphy provides an intense thriller aspect to the story at the end. Goodness knows, I love a main character who can skillfully dole out a spanking, but give her skills in hand-to-hand combat with no reservations about using them and I’m in love.
Where to start? I can always count on Murphy to portray sex workers with respect. She consistently highlights the concept of consent and gives her characters a sense of agency that isn’t always present in novels or short stories featuring these women. Before Elaine, Robin, and Petra engage in any sexual activity, they discuss what’s off limits for them, and their boundaries are never questioned. I’ve said it before; female characters in sex work are often one-dimensional placeholders, and that’s not the case in Murphy’s books.
I like that Murphy’s books include diverse leading ladies. Representation matters, and seeing women of color in lesfic is good for everyone involved. She makes a point of recognizing the inherant racism her characters face, and that serves to gently remind me of my own white privilege.
Absolutely none for me. I want to make it clear; the sex scenes are very graphic in nature and involve power exchange, bondage, and pain. That’s par for the course in BDSM. If that’s a problem, this book isn’t for you.
I absolutely adore this book. There’s no question the BDSM scenes are incredible, but there’s so much more going on in this story. Murphy explores the underlying desires and insecurities felt by the three main characters involved in this lifestyle, but their psychological uncertainties are universal, so I had no problem identifying with these women. Double Six is a character driven story. It’s about relationships and discovering who you love and how you want to express it. This book may have a strong erotic theme, but it’s a love story first. While a polyamorous relationship might not be for everyone, in this book it’s the only happily ever after that was going to satisfy me. I know I’m going to reread this book regularly. I’m not going to lie and say that the sex scenes aren’t part of the reason, but they’re not the only reason. Elaine, Robin, and Petra are decidedly unique characters, and they’ve taken up a space in my heart.
Excerpt from Double Six by Brenda Murphy
Elaine folded her napkin before she placed it next to her plate. “I trust Tessa was acceptable this afternoon?”
Petra raised her wineglass, swirled the contents, and took a sip of the deep red wine. She placed the wineglass precisely on the tablecloth and pursed her lips before she answered. “Adequate.”
“Was there something you wanted she wasn’t able to provide?” Elaine sat forward in her seat.
“She was, as I expected, and as I said, adequate. I didn’t expect any different.”
Oh fuck that, dissing our subs? “Adequate”—what the hell does she mean? “If there was a problem you need to tell me specifically what it was so I can address it.” Elaine glared at Petra. “Our subs are selected for their skills, pledged to the house, and expected to meet our standards at all times.”
“Don’t worry. I addressed it.”
“What?” Elaine leaned forward. “You are not in charge here.” She rapped her knuckles on the table. “You are a job candidate and not to ‘address’ anything with any of the subs unless it is cleared through me.”
Petra glanced at the door leading from the dining room. “When is the official tour of the house?”
Elaine placed both hands flat on the table. Ignoring me? Oh hell no. “Did you hear what I said?”
“Oh, I heard. I chose not to respond.” Petra smiled at Elaine, a predatory smile, and her eyes gleamed. “If I am auditioning for a place here wouldn’t you want to know I’m capable and willing to address anything less than perfect in a submissive’s behavior? Why else did you send me a submissive with an attitude that needed adjusting? Although from the expression on her face when she left my room, I think she quite enjoyed the tune-up.”
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Rowan House Series
Bits and Bobs
ASIN number: B081C3LCTK
Publisher: NineStar Press
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