Tue
Mar 21 2017 2:00pm

First Look: Tamsen Parker’s His Custody (March 21, 2017)

His Custody by Tamsen Parker

Tamsen Parker
His Custody
InterMix / March 21, 2017 / $2.99 digital

His Custody, the latest romance by Tamsen Parker (School Ties, Due South, Craving Flight) is almost like two books in one—and that’s not because the point of view alternates from businessman Jasper Andersson to Tallulah “Keyne” O’Connell, who is the high school student he’s known since birth who comes under his care after both their families—including Gavin, Keyne’s longtime boyfriend and Jasper’s younger brother—die in a boating accident. In the first half of the book, both Jasper and Keyne are adjusting to this new, lonelier life; he has to battle her cousins for custody, and fight off his attraction to her when it starts to overpower his protectiveness. For her part, Keyne has to combat missing Gavin, who did everything with her, survivor’s guilt, and simply face each new day and believe there’s a reason to keep on going.

Though they’ve known each other their whole lives, Jasper and Keyne are learning the intricacies of each other’s personalities under the most devastating of circumstances. Jasper has given up the crutches of kink, drugs and drinking that had helped him before, breaking up with a girlfriend when she can’t handle the amount of caretaking Keyne needs from him. This early part of the book is a tricky balancing act, because both Jasper and the reader are well aware that Keyne is only 17, while Jasper is 31. Jasper frequently berates himself whenever he has impure thoughts about Keyne, clearly anguished over his feelings and urges: “It made him want to dig his own brain out of his skull and send it through the garbage disposal.” Yet they persist, much as he tries to rid himself of them (though he doesn’t date or have any scenes with other women). We get slight hints that Keyne has noticed him as more than simply her guardian, but nothing like the risqué thoughts that flit through Jasper’s mind, until later on, which makes sense, given that Keyne is also busy readjusting to life at school, applying to colleges, and simply figuring out who she is in her new upended world.

It’s in the second half of the book that not only does Keyne become a legal adult, but blooms into a young woman who, while not fully healed, has needs and desires of her own. It’s she who winds up initiating their lovemaking, taking their relationship from close and caring to something much more intimate. In fact, once she musters the courage to ask Jasper to dominate her, a whole world opens up to her, one she’d fantasized about but had set aside when her interest wasn’t requited:

She knew she wasn't like other other girls. They all loved to play damsel in distress, wanted to be rescued, but for them, it was the moment of release that was most appealing. For her . . . She liked being distressed. She wanted the prince to scale her tower, leave her in her bonds, have his way with her and when he was finished, then, only then, would he let her go, cradle and cuddle her and promise to keep her safe. She’d only ever be at his mercy again.

Safe meant being kept. Being guided, told what to do, having responsibility removed. Gavin wouldn’t have understood, didn’t understand. He didn’t want to control her, make her do things. He wanted to please her too desperately. And even if he could’ve stomached doing the things she thought she wanted, and she didn’t think he would’ve been able to, it wouldn’t have been the same, because he wouldn’t have liked it. Wouldn’t have wanted it, and that sense of play-acting would’ve ruined the whole thing.

But Jasper, with his hard kisses and his hand wrapped around her throat, he said he understood. Maybe he did. He kissed her like he did.

From that moment onward, their kinky relationship quickly escalates, as they indulge in all the erotic exploration they’ve been craving. What Parker perfectly captures is the novelty of their bondage, spanking, and other BDSM play, for each of them—Keyne, because she was a virgin before Jasper (Gavin had wanted the pair to wait), her submission simmering just below the surface, and Jasper, because Keyne isn’t the experienced career savvy submissive he’s used to playing with. Instead, she’s raw, eager and gets blissed out by every nuance of their explorations, from her request to call him “Master” to sleeping with an ankle cuff locking her in place, to the powerful spankings he delivers and sex toys he makes her try. Keyne seems to have found an essential part of herself, able to truly release her demons and sorrows and revel in the act of surrendering when she’s with Jasper.

At first all he did was touch her; slid his big hands over every inch of her body, his mouth following some of the trails he left. After he’d rendered her pliant and boneless, that’s when he started to hurt her. Starting with soft bites, it wasn’t so long before he was sinking his teeth into her flesh in a way that she was almost certain would draw blood, but never did. It should’ve been alarming, the way he was attempting to devour her, but she loved how it felt. The pressure, the smarting of it . . . the way the imprint of his teeth was left on her skin. If her hands had been free, she wouldn’t run her fingers over the indentations so she could relish them in yet another way. As things were, she could look at them, and sigh as he marked her again and again.

But despite their newfound passion, she’s also heading off to Yale, close enough to home that she can visit often, but Jasper once again faces a struggle between his heart and his conscience, and issues a decree: Keyne must date other guys during her time at college. He doesn’t want her to feel trapped with him, or like he’s denied her to the chance to play the field during her college years. Keyne, who’s finally found a man who gets her inside and out, not to mention gives her multiple orgasms and the most glorious kinds of tortures, is irate over his decision.  Just as they ‘ve seemingly found their kinky match made in heaven, they each have to figure out how to navigate their lives without the other to lean on.

I’d be lying if I said there weren’t parts of His Custody that made me uncomfortable in the first half, but I think, on some level, they’re supposed to. Jasper is not a perfect man, but he is one with a good heart, and his struggle between doing what’s right for Keyne—from protecting her financial interests to her emotional ones—and listening to the flickers of his dominant persona, are riveting. But for me, it was Keyne who stole the show here. Seeing her come to life, going from a shell of a person to one who thrives in a relationship she’s not “supposed” to be in according to the dictates of society, is heartwarming, while the sex scenes are hot as can be. Readers familiar with Parker’s work will welcome this latest novel, threaded with kink as well as a powerful and moving plot, while newcomers will appreciate the power each of them holds over the other, and the way they move beyond their pasts to help each other grow and evolve, in the bedroom and out.

Editor's Note: When not frolicking on authorial adventures, Tamsen Parker is also an H&H blogger. 

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Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) is a freelance and erotica writer, and editor of over 50 anthologies, including The Big Book of Orgasms69 Sexy StoriesOnly You: Erotic Romance for Women; Serving Him: Sexy Stories of Submission and others. She tweets @raquelita and blogs at Lusty Lady.

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