This review originally appeared at Seductive Musings:
Review: Not Until You by Roni Loren
Copies of all eight parts of this book were provided to me by the publisher for an honest review.
Although this is not the first eserial I’ve read, it will be the first one I’ve formally reviewed. With that in mind, this review will consist of a short recap and critique for each of the 8 parts which make up Not Until You, and then a final review for the overall story.
Cela Medina isn’t your average 24 year old woman, not by a long shot. She’s just finished her doctorate in Veterinary Medicine, graduating with flying colors from Dallas University. And thanks to her overprotective family and seven long years of graduate school that barely left her time to sleep, she’s completely inexperienced in the ways of the adult world, especially when it comes to men. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t interested in learning more, and when she decides to seize an opportunity to be with her two hot male neighbors, Cela gets more than she bargained for.
Ian Foster is the self-made millionaire and sometime Dom who we met in “Still Into You” when he had hoped to start a BDSM relationship with Jace’s little sister, Leila, who was taking a break from her marriage but ultimately chose her husband, Seth, after they both realized they wanted to make things work. In “Not Until You Dare” we know him as Foster, Cela’s next door neighbor who shares an apartment with Pike, a laid back fun loving musician who is as much an opposite personality to Ian as you could possibly imagine. Their friendship provides a welcome counterpoint to the intensity of the relationship that progresses slowly between Foster and Cela throughout the story.
Not Until You: Part I – Not Until You Dare
In “Not Until You Dare” we get to see how Cela has spent her whole life doing everything her family wanted and had never questioned it, not until she was done with school, looked up and realized that she’d never done one thing fun for herself. She’s heard both her hot guy neighbors having loud sex with women they’ve brought home, and when they offer her the chance to experience it for herself, she decides to make this the one fun thing she’ll do before going home to join her father’s practice and slide back into the good family girl mold for the rest of her life.
I was a big fan of Ian Foster in “Still Into You” and happy to see him get his own story. Despite all her academic achievement, Cela was so sheltered that she almost read more as someone still in her teens, and that grated on me a bit at first. But I loved how Foster and Pike were able to finesse her into admitting all the things she’d never gotten to do, with an eye towards helping her make them happen. “Not Until You Dare is a great introduction to the story and had me looking forward to finding out exactly how their night together was going to play out.
“Not Until You” alternates between two points of view: Cela’s first person and Foster’s third person. The switching back and forth works well for the most part, although I would have preferred first person for Foster as well.
Ratings for Part 1:
Sensuality level: 4 (no actual sex, just discussion and fantasy thoughts)
Not Until You Part II: Not Until You Risk
After hours of dancing wildly between Foster and Pike at a local nightclub, Cela agrees to go to a hotel with them both, still not quite sure she hasn’t just passed out from all the tequila they had drunk together while filling out her Never Have I Ever list. Foster’s Dominant nature immediately appeals to Cela, and keeps her from panicking as he and Pike give Cela a night none of them will ever forget.
Cela’s ability to submit so completely and quickly drives Foster wild, despite her air of innocence and obvious inexperience. But then he realizes there is one more thing she left off her Never Have I Ever list, and it’s the biggest one of all.
The sexual interplay between Cela, Foster and Pike is a delight to read and the contrast of the two men’s personalities is never more obvious than when they are teaming up to pleasure Cela. But Foster’s reaction when he discovers the extent of Cela’s innocence was frustrating for me to read, even though it did fit in to his belief in how to treat women in and out of bed. The fact that Cela insists that it was all just a one time fantasy fling doesn’t ease his discomfort, and Part 2 ends with that uncertainty between the two of them.
Ratings for Part 2:
Sensuality level: 4 (M/F/M foreplay, light BDSM)
Not Until You Part III: Not Until You Crave
When Cela, Foster and Pike return from the hotel, they have to deal once again with the real world, which includes Cela’s overprotective older brother, Andre, and Foster’s real concern that what he needs from Cela may be more than she can give. I hadn’t realized until now that Andre is actually one of Jace’s two lovers who we met in “Melt Into You”, the second book in this series. He’s obviously never shared the true nature of his relationship with anyone in his family, but lets Cela know he will respect her decisions even though he’s worried about her well-being. He also warns Foster separately that he had better not mess around with his baby sister.
In Part 3 we also get to see more about Foster the businessman, who made it his life’s work to track down missing children after losing his own little sister to a kidnapper when he was just a kid himself. Both Cela and Foster try to avoid each other, but the pull between them is too great to resist and late-night texting ultimately turns into another sexual encounter which seems like another goodbye, this time for real. Eventually, Foster opens up to Cela about BDSM, the Ranch and his sexual needs as a Dominant, hoping this will scare her off once and for all. She wants to convince him that this is the perfect opportunity for a short term fling since she’s leaving town soon. But Foster is done with flings and one night stands. He wants a real commitment and he’s not willing to settle for less, so it’s goodbye once again as Part 3 ends.
I have to say that the whole hello again / goodbye again dynamic between Cela and Foster was starting to wear on me a bit, especially since they did it so often just in this one part of the story. But by this point, I liked the characters more than their actions, and was still curious to see how they would manage to resolve their differences yet again.
Ratings for Part 3:
Sensuality level: 4
Not Until You Part IV: Not Until You Trust
Cela is starting to reconsider her plans to go back home and work for her father. The veterinary clinic where she’s been working part-time would love to have her stay, but she’s not sure what would keep her there now that Foster is apparently out of her life for good. Pike’s visit to the clinic is a welcome distraction and with Foster out of town, she’s more than willing to help Pike get settled in his apartment with the dog he decides to adopt. The moment when Foster arrives home unexpectedly to find Cela attempting to instruct Pike on how to show dominance over the recalcitrant dog is one of the funniest scenes based on gross misunderstanding that I’ve read in quite some time, and shows that Foster is not only still totally hung up on Cela but that she is more than ready to take what he’s ready to give her. And yet after another amazing night of sexual dominance and submission, this time it’s Cela who walks away, afraid of what she’s done and might do in the future.
Meanwhile all the plans that have been made regarding Cela’s future are still in motion, as her father announces he’s bought a house for her that’s right across the street from her parents. When she visits Andre at the loft he shares with Jace and Evan, she discovers the true nature of their triad relationship that he has hidden from his entire family. She also has an illuminating discussion with Jace’s brother, Wyatt, about her planned future in the family business. His experienced perspective helps her reconsider her decision to go along with what her family wants, and she decides that what she really wants is Foster. That’s when she blackmails Andre into taking her to the Ranch to confront Foster in his element and let him know she can stay as long as he wants her.
Another round of Cela and Foster coming together and splitting apart, and I’m wondering if the serial format makes this repetitive behavior more or less annoying. And yet, because I’m a sucker for true love and the Happily Ever After, I’m still ready to find out what’s going to happen next and how Foster will handle Cela confronting him on his home turf.
Ratings for Part 4:
Sensuality level: 4
Not Until You Part V: Not Until You Beg
Cela is finally ready to take control of her present and future and she’s not going to let her brother or anyone else stand in her way. Foster is determined to try to move on from Cela, if he can just find the right submissive. What he doesn’t realize is that the scene that was arranged for him by Grant, the Ranch’s owner, is with the woman he keeps seeing in every other submissive with whom he tries to forget her. She knows it’s a huge gamble, but the possible payoff for both of them is worth all the risk. Foster wants a committed D/s relationship and that’s what Cela wants to give him. Whether or not they can succeed remains to be seen.
This was my favorite part of the story up to this point, as we finally get to see Foster and Cela working on becoming a real couple in the BDSM lifestyle. Foster works to train her as he would any other woman new to submission and Cela works on learning to trust in Foster and in her own strength and resilience. But the pressure from home and her family isn’t going away anytime soon, and Cela worries that Foster’s protective instincts aren’t really any different than her own family trying to run her life for her.
At least this part didn’t end with one or both of them pushing away the other, and that was a nice change. Instead we are left Foster promising Cela his own brand of punishment for lying to him about not having told her family that she wasn’t going to come home to stay after all. This was the best type of serial cliffhanger – one where we anticipate something really good about to happen instead of wondering why they were apart again when it’s clear it only makes them miserable.
Ratings for Part 5:
Sensuality level: 4 (voyeurism, public BDSM play
Not Until You Part VI: Not Until You Surrender
Cela discovers that she hurt Foster when she lied to him, because it made him believe she wasn’t taking him or their new relationship seriously. She also seems to understand that his concern for her safety and well-being was genuine and not a way to control her the way her father has up until now. Yet when Foster attempts to mark her as his by requesting she wear one of the location tracking ankle bracelets made by his company, she reverts to her original worry that he’s trying to control her life just like her father and asks him for more time to consider his request. Foster, who is equally worried that she’s still not ready for his type of relationship, immediately assumes she’s done with him and has her escorted out of the building. The woman who arrives only moments later asking for Ian (!) confirms Cela’s belief that it’s really all over this time. When Cela finds out the next day that there’s no job available for her at the local clinic after all, she decides that changing her life wasn’t meant to be and prepares to return to the bosom of her loving family with all her future already planned out for her.
For me this was the most frustrating part of the story, not just because they keep making the same mistakes over and over again, but because they actually seem to learn why they are wrong, and then still do the same damn thing again. I really wanted to smack Foster more than Cela this time, as he went right to “oh you don’t love me, so you should leave and I’ll call my reliable sex buddy for comfort” with almost lightning speed. I would have liked to see her stick around and fight for him, but she’s so used to giving in to what her family wants that when it seems like her only option, it makes sense that she would take it. I don’t know how Roni Loren is going to get them back together yet again in a way that doesn’t seem completely insane, but I’m not ready to give up on Foster and Cela just yet.
Ratings for Part 6:
Sensuality level: 4 (outdoor nudity and bondage)
Not Until You Part VII: Not Until You Believe
When Foster arrives from his out of town trip, he’s shocked to find Cela has moved back home, Pike attempts to school him on just how badly he’s messed things up with Cela and Foster realizes that he needs to find her and try to set things right. Meanwhile Cela is discovering that her planned out life is just as lonely and frustrating as she’d anticipated when she’d originally tried to rebel against her father’s plans. Her father refuses to consider any medical decisions but his own, and she might as well be living in her old room at home for all the independence she has in her aunt’s old house across the street. She tries to forget Foster by going out with Michael, a local dentist whom she had briefly dated in high school, but there’s just no spark between them.
When Cela’s longing for Foster becomes too much to bear, she puts on the HomeSafe ankle bracelet that Foster had given her as a reminder of him. Unbeknownst to her, this activates its tracking mechanism, which provides the impetus Foster needs to finally move to claim what is his. But Cela’s father isn’t going to let her go anywhere with him without a fight.
It’s both ironic and clever that the tracking device that had seemingly split Cela and Foster up for good was now the catalyst for bringing them back together again. Of course they were never going to be happy apart, but there was no way Cela was going to make the first move again after being hurt so badly by Foster’s ham-handed response the last time around. But this time neither one will be denied and when Cela stands up to her father on Foster’s behalf and Foster grovels to her most sincerely in return, it almost makes all the previous shenanigans between them worthwhile. All that’s left now is the triumphant finale where Foster and Cela get to have their happy ending, and I’m more than ready to get there.
Ratings for Part 7:
Sensuality level: 3
Not Until You Part VIII: Not Until You Love
After all the misunderstandings and back and forth drama throughout this story, this is where it all comes to its final fruition. Foster has declared his love for Cela and she is almost ready to do the same… when the bottom drops out of Foster’s world. The goal he’s worked toward his whole life – finding out what happened to his kidnapped sister – is suddenly achieved, and that knowledge devastates him completely. When he retreats from everyone and everything, it takes Cela’s complete submission and unconditional love to pull him back from the edge of utter despair.
This was the payoff I was hoping for at the end of this story, where both Cela and Foster finally truly learn from the mistakes they’ve made along the way and grow into the full loving relationship that they both realize they can only find with each other. It’s a beautifully written and heartfelt conclusion with all the emotion and passion that comes from a love so hard won and richly deserved.
Ratings for Part 8:
Sensuality level: 4 (more intense BDSM including bondage, flogging and anal sex)
In conclusion, I enjoyed reading “Not Until You” and I think the serial format worked well for the story that Roni Loren wanted to tell. I definitely felt the pain of having to wait for each part to become available, but was happy to see that each one had its own individual story arc, as opposed to just cutting off the story when a particular page count had been reached. It was worth all the waiting to get to see Foster and Cela find happiness and I’m glad this format was available for readers to get their story. Roni Loren has outdone herself with “Not Until You” and the included excerpts from “Caught Up In You”, promise an equally great time to come in our next visit to the world of The Ranch.
Ratings (full story):
Sensuality Level: 4