Terms of Service (The Heretic Dom’s Club 2) by Marie Sexton

Title: Terms of Service Word Count:398 pgs
Genre: Contemporary Gay Romance

Blurb:Dr. River McKay moved to Denver with his husband, Terrence, hoping to give their failing marriage a new start. A year later, Terrence is gone and River’s left brokenhearted. Now, he’s decided it’s time to get back in the game. A chance encounter at the hospital introduces him to Phil, a strong-willed pharmacist who isn’t impressed by River’s degree.

Phil can’t deny his attraction to River, but dating is out of the question. Phil only does one kind of relationship — domestic servitude, where he gives the orders and his partner obeys. To his surprise, River agrees — not because he likes the idea, but because anything’s better than being alone.

They know the arrangement won’t last. Phil’s set in his ways and incapable of showing affection outside the bedroom. River’s unused to obedience and still in love with his ex. But their time together will change them, making them question everything they thought they knew about love, control, and relationships. When the unexpected threatens to tear them apart, they’ll have to choose between the comforts of the past and a future they can only find together.

My Review: After his marriage ends in a most disastrous way, Doctor River is left floundering. Although his husband cheated on him and is now dating a surgeon at the hospital where they all work, River still misses and loves his cheating ex Terrence. To alleviate some of the awkwardness, River works the graveyard shifts in the emergency room. River’s life is at a standstill and he feels like a pathetic human being without a purpose outside of work. That is until he meets Phil.

Phil is a pharmacist at the hospital where River works. After an extremely stressful night in the ER, Phil refuses to fill a prescription for one of River’s patients. Needless to say, their first meeting doesn’t go so well as River sees Phil as a challenge to his authority. River pulls out all his cockiness, deciding to show Phil who is boss. That is until Phil points out very calmly and slightly mocking that the prescription conflicts with the patient and could have eventually resulted in a heart attack with prolonged use. River is penitent and apologizes to Phil when he sees that his slip up could have caused harm.

The next time River sees Phil, he goes out of his way to mend fences. He starts up a conversation and one thing leads to another leading them to talk about the debacle that is now River’s life.Phil suggests hook up sites such as Growlr to River. River decides to check it out, but he chickens out on his first two dates. When he comes across Phil’s profile, he sets up a date thinking that familiarity will work in his favor. Phil is definitely surprised to see River at his door. Right away Phil lets the bigger man know what he is into. Phil is a Dom who subscribes to the BDSM principle of domestic servitude. River is slightly unsure, but intrigued nonetheless. Soon their unlikely arrangement begins.

Phil eases River into the lifestyle gently. He is very militant in his practices and he has 2 very important rules. First rule is that River has to obey all his orders explicitly and secondly River should never touch him. Phil is very clear about their arrangement, it is not to be considered a relationship, because that is something he cannot provide. There will be sex, intimacy and certainly pleasure, but that will be all.As a Dom Phil is as cold as ice and he is borderline OCD. However, his rules are in place due to his past experiences. It soon becomes clear that Phil has a lot of baggage, something that has caused him to become emotionally stunted.

As the weeks go on, Phil pushes some of River’s limits. River finds freedom in being chained and collared. He relishes serving his ‘Teacher’ and his inner exhibitionist is set free. River is introduced to Phil’s friends at their poker night. He is turned on when he sees Dom Gray getting a blowjob from Dom Warren’s submissive Taylor. He realises that he would love switching places with Taylor. When Phil sees River’s interest, he suggests setting up a scene where River will be used by his friends when its his turn to host poker night.

Things are going great for them, when River has a run in with Terrence who wants him to sign their divorce papers. River is at an all time low and indulges in too much Scotch. He forgets one of the main rules and touches Phil as a way of seeking validation. Phil pushes him away and warns him about their agreement. Resentment starts building for River as he realizes that this arrangement is almost one sided. He sees Phil as a cold fish in his time of need and the domestic servitude doesn’t seem as intriguing anymore. Even though he is ready to give up, he begs Phil for a drop of reassurance. Phil remains stoic and gives River ‘recess’. This leaves River alone to question if this is something he can really live with. He knows deep down that Phil will forever hold back a part of himself.

Before he can continue, he seeks advice from one of Phil’s friends, Dom Charlie. Charlie explains that Phil is a complicated character, but he can see that he values River by the fact that he has been introduced to his friends. Charlie emphasizes that River needs to be patient and reshape his thinking if he wants to be with Phil for the long haul. Charlie explains that River has to look for the underlying nuances to gain insight into Phil’s true feelings. Phil is definitely not unperturbed by River’s absence. It soon becomes clear that he just doesn’t know how to express what he feels. River goes back willingly and is fervent in his dedication to continue his domestic servitude.

River comes with his own set of baggage. He has hang-ups about bottoming which usually results in the embodiment of impotence. They have gotten hot and sweaty many times, but never as far as penetration. Phil decides to make that happen after allowing his friends to have many orgasmic rounds with River on poker night. River is super blissful and exhausted by the time they are alone. It’s closest he’s ever felt to anyone and it is truly a memorable moment.

To the outside world their increased closeness would not be apparent, but this is definitely true in the days following ‘recess’. They go camping and River sees a different more caring side to Phil when his impotence rears its ugly head again. River gets the best part of Phil when he switches up the dynamics and gives him the trust of bottoming for River. Phil is laid bare in all his vulnerability. His austere facade disappears as he opens up emotionally, blooming with passion. Their weeklong camping trip brings about a sense of peace and River has never seen ‘Teacher’ so relaxed. River loves this version of what they have and embraces belonging to Phil.They are definitely closer than they were, but rather than leaving with a renewed resolve. It leaves a whole bunch of unanswered questions for Phil to sort through his head. River sees that Phil needs space so he heads home. That’s where he finds his ex Terrence ensconced in their home waiting for him.

Things have gone south for Terrence after his lover gets charged for stealing pills from the hospital. He is now home for good with apologies rolling off his tongue and his smug attitude. River is faced with all he ever wanted from the moment Terrence walked out, but It leaves him confused and needing to talk to Phil. As soon as he explains to Phil, Phil sets him free . In his own way Phil is devastated, but he knows this is a choice that River has to willingly make. River wanted Phil to fight for him, but that’s not Phil’s style. River goes home and Phil turns to the comfort of his friends.

River tries to move on with Terrence who wants to know details about his relationship with Phil. River just glosses over the surface, saying that Phil likes control in bed. Even that is too much, it feels disloyal to talk about Phil and expose his lifestyle to Terrence’s possible ridicule. After about a week River sees the truth, the fact that Terrence has not changed and he is still the same conniving, selfish person he has always been. He finds out that Terrence intercepted a letter sent by Phil. When he reads the letter, he sees through Phil’s soul and he realized that maybe he doesn’t need Phil to fight for him, maybe he needs to be the one to fight for Phil. Phil lays himself bare and finally River understands the nuances that points to love. Phil has always been patient, giving and allowing River to be himself without ridicule or recriminations. Without hesitation River packs his stuff and goes home to kneel before his ‘teacher’. Phil is overcome with love and even though he is the teacher, he knows finally what it means to belong. I give this my ratings of 4- lose the underwear. It is a very unorthodox relationship, certainly not for everyone, but the love ,trust and vulnerability that shines through is embedded on my heart.

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