Review: The Dominant Male

The Dominant Male by Sarah Holland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gabriel Stone is one of those heroes we just love to hate on, but ugh, he ended up charming me, anyway, even though he is a self-proclaimed “proud chauvinist” and sexually harasses the heroine at every opportunity. If Gabriel Stone were an IRL character, he’d be one of the powerful men being currently brought down by the #Metoo movement and it’d be a shame because by the end of the book, he’d presumably become a reformed rake and going to be living a happily ever after with the heroine and in twenty-five years, have a handful of grown kids and touring the Caribbean with heroine in their giant yacht or something. But because he has to face all his accusers accrued over years of being a sexually harassing chauvinist pig, he’d probably lose a bunch of his money and the numerous court cases would put a strain on his marriage, and Rhiannon and the children would probably leave him. Good thing Gabriel Stone is not a real-life person!

Rhiannon is engaged to Bobby Pratt (perfect name for an asshole second banana) when she meets Gabriel Stone at a charity function where she’s dressed as some offensive Romani stereotype fortune teller, reading tarot cards for the guests. Rhiannon has a gift of the second sight and the cards tell her Gabriel Stone is trouble. The second the man enters her tent and touches her, Rhiannon’s life is turned upside-down. She had never felt such intense sexual attraction with anyone before and that’s a big, bright red flag because she’s engaged to be married and her relationship with Bobby Pratt is pretty chaste. Gabriel Stone wants her and won’t take no for answer, insisting she will become his, no matter what. He even donates one thousand pounds to the charity without blinking. To prove that their interaction means nothing her, Rhiannon rushes over to Bobby to seek affection, kissing him in front of polite society, but her fiancé is horrified as usual, as he believes public displays of affection are disgusting.

Meanwhile, Rhiannon’s troubles with Gabriel Stone are just starting. She works as a creative director at a successful ad agency and GS has just approached her company to take over the advertising for his very exclusive and expensive watch (exclusively for men) brand. The catch: he wants Rhiannon to do the project. Rhiannon doesn’t want to do it, of course, because she doesn’t want anything more to do with GS, but GS is in cahoots with her boss and is threatening to get her fired. GS also has blackmail material on her: years ago, the company almost lost a major account due to Rhiannon’s naivete, but her quick thinking also saved it. Her boss never knew about the cause of the leak that almost cost them the account and GS is threatening to tell him all about it if Rhiannon won’t work with him. All together now: what a dick! GS invites Rhiannon to his house for dinner and sends her an outfit for her to wear, which is a slave harem girl costume. Rhiannon is outraged, so she puts on her most professional outfit and brings her portfolio to go to GS’s dinner party. As it turns out, the costume was a test to see if Rhiannon would actually do it and she didn’t, so she passed! At dinner, GS shows her a giant painting in his dining room of a beautiful woman lying prostrate at a man’s feet, looking seductive and submissive, yet triumphant at the same time. GS tells Rhiannon that the woman is his idea of a perfect mate and that someday, he intends Rhiannon to be this woman for him.

HALT!! SPOILERS BELOW!!! IMPORTANT PLOT POINTS AND WHATNOT REVEALED!!

Rhiannon is supremely attracted to Gabriel because he’s very dominant and take-charge and this appeals to the secret sexually submissive in her, but she’s ashamed of it because of a very bad experience when she was younger, which is why she sought a prig like Bobby Pratt, with whom she has been in a sexless, affectionless relationship for five years. She was involved with a man called Jack Ratchett (another aptly named character) who got annoyed with her for being so prudish that he manipulated her and tied her up, then played with her. She didn’t have an orgasm or anything, but the experience of being so helpless while being tied up sexually excited her and she was afraid she was some kind of sexual deviant for feeling that way. It made her feel dirty, so she went the complete opposite direction in an effort to cleanse herself, but ultimately, her womanly passions will not be denied and her body cries out for GS, even though she knows he might lead to her downfall. Of course, Bobby accuses her of being the Whore of Babylon and with the help of his mother, makes Rhiannon feel like the sluttiest, most slatternly, dirtiest slag in all of London, so she tries even harder to stay away from GS.

GS, for all of his faults, actually thinks the world of Rhiannon’s talents. He genuinely admires her work as a creative director of a successful advertising agency and backs her all the way in a male-dominated field. The slogan for the watch that Rhiannon comes up with is: “For the man who controls everything, even in time” and the chauvinistic muckity-mucks at Gabriel’s company love it. The men at the board meeting tell her that it’s obvious there must be a chauvinist in her life that she loves, for that is the only way she could produce such an ad, and that is how she realizes that she must love GS, indeed. LOL. Sure, he’s a domineering, arrogant, chauvinistic pig, but at least he actually respects her as a person and doesn’t think she’s a loose-moraled slutbag whore who spreads her shit around town like it’s the nineties and she’s Sharon Stone or something, for having sexual feelings and desires like a normal person.

Gabriel Stone is really the quintessential Harlequin Presents Hero™. He’s wealthy, arrogant, cocksure, and ridiculously handsome. The thing is, he knows it and is self-aware, which is his special charm. I especially enjoyed this exchange:
She kissed him, whispering, "I love everything you are."
"Ditto," he murmured huskily, kissing her.
That’s just so classic Gabriel. He does a lot of objectionable things in this book that’ll make you want to beat him with a cartoony over-sized mallet, but there’s just something about him that’s kind of adorable. He does seem to genuinely want and admire Rhiannon and compared to the other scum-suckers in Rhiannon’s life, he really is a prince. Which is not saying much, to be honest. There is something that bothered me, which might bother some of you as well: Rhiannon, after some token protests, doesn’t hesitate to full-on make out with Gabriel even though she is in a relationship with Bobby the whole time. Is it because she doesn’t see him as a man? I know Bobby is a dillweed and a prat, but Rhiannon cheats on him, so this makes her a Cheating Heroine. Based on my Harlequin Morality Scale™, it’s a bad thing, but… what do you guys think?


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