The corresponding YouTube review video is available here.
Deference is the first book in the Temper series by Lila Mina (who can be found on her website here and on Twitter), and Temper is a very apt name! It’s perfect for anyone with a martial arts kink and there is definitely a lot in the way of passionate tempers coming from the main characters in this book. It is a very hot book, with lots of intensely kinky sex scenes, featuring the development of a polyamorous queer w/w/m triad. I would recommend this to anyone interested in very hot polyamorous BDSM action who also loves Japanese culture. As usual, I will do my best not to provide any significant spoilers! Please note that I do intend to do a video version of this review (and the other book reviews I’ve written) on YouTube, but currently am having technical issues with my mic and can’t record, so that’ll be coming in the future.
Deference features the main character, Lana, who is a foreigner running away from past trauma while living and working in the beautiful country of Japan and also studying martial arts with her teacher, Honda. The story follows Lana’s relationship with both Honda and his wife, Yuki, as everything with them becomes more and more intense.
The writing style is very engaging, though there are some mistakes here and there an editor should have caught, and a few moments that could have had better word clarity. But the meanings are conveyed enough that I could follow just fine. Another small nitpick I have is regarding the italics used for some foreign words, but not others. And sometimes the same word such as tatami would be in italics in one moment, but not in the other. So while this book could technically use some cleaning, the overall writing style is still powerful enough to hold my attention and not pull me out of the moment when reading a possible typo or not understanding a Japanese word, and the writing flowed well to get across the intended thoughts.
While I was a little overwhelmed with all the technical martial arts terms I’m unfamiliar with, I very much appreciated the author’s genuine expertise in the subject! There were descriptions of moves and sparring that were intriguing to the uninitiated (aka, me). I feel like the attention to detail about many Japanese terms and cultural items brings to the book a certain knowledge that keeps it from being just one of those “I have an Asian fetish” stories and gives the characters and setting proper respect. Please note that this is said with the disclaimer that I’m speaking as a white woman and viewing this as an outsider without much knowledge on what it’s like to live in Japan or be Japanese. But, I do think the book successfully straddled erotica and reverence for Japanese culture in a way that’s a delicate balancing act.
The dialogue for the characters, particularly in casual settings like with office mate banter, was something I really enjoyed. With the main characters, specifically Lana and Honda, the book jumps right into the heat very quickly, which was fun and something I like. I don’t think that Honda as a romantic lead is really my type, personally speaking. He has a few lines bordering on sexism early on that made me less interested, but the power play and Lana’s interaction with him were quite entertaining to read, as there is definitely chemistry there that sparks and burns right off the page.
I really liked the BDSM elements, in particular the use of safe words early on – bravo! Lana uses a safe word, and it’s listened to. Perfectly done. There was respect in the interaction, and it was great to read. That said… one thing I wasn’t the biggest fan of was how Honda and Lana handled their Dominant/submissive dynamic. Honda for the most part told her what he wanted and what he expected and told her to take it or leave it, pretty much. Which, it’s good to know what you want and to express that. But most of the focus was on what he wanted. I can see how his form of authoritarianism can be attractive to some as a dominant character, but, for me, Honda was just a little too focused on himself and for sure needed to do more aftercare for submissives. Everything is about his needs and demands, and I wanted him to care more about Lana and her needs by listening to her more. He did make a point of getting Lana to voice her physical limits, which is a very good thing, but respect for a submissive is deeper than that. Without saying more to avoid spoilers, there were just a few times Honda sent up red flags for me. While I am more lenient with some other books with their characters who are, say, in a fantasy world, living in the middle ages, don’t have access to modern sentiments/internet, or are about immortals with literally medieval mind-sets, this book is placed in modern times with a character presented as a man in our modern world (I have suspicions otherwise, but nothing confirmed) and so I feel I need to hold the characters to modern standards regarding BDSM. But, all that said, book characters don’t need to be perfect paragons. That makes for boring stories. So, while I didn’t like aspects of Honda when evaluating him on a personal level, as a character he’s intriguing – especially when he gets called out for the stuff that gave me red flags – and I want to know more about what makes him tick and where his character arc will progress.
Another minor note regarding the sex scenes with Honda – while the scenes themselves were very detailed, there wasn’t any method of birth control mentioned, which bothered me a little since it is set in modern times. They’re having all this crazy sex all the time and all I could think was, “Girl, get a condom! You’re gonna get pregnant!” The only pill Lana is on seems to be for heartburn.
While the chemistry between Lana and Honda was good, what really got my heart racing was the chemistry between Lana and Yuki, Honda’s wife. Yuki as a character drew me in right away with her graceful presence on the page. She was a true delight with a memorable entrance. She also has an interesting backstory and I want to know more about her and her life. On the polyamory side, I liked that Yuki was upfront about her interest, that she and Honda were clearly an open-minded couple and expressed themselves to Lana that way together once Yuki was in the picture.
In regards to worldbuilding… it’s less actual building of a new world and more descriptions of our real-life world. As previously stated, the attention to Japanese culture is excellent and really drew me in, so I really want to give high praise for that. Unfortunately, this book was described to me as a paranormal romance when I was looking for recommendations, so I was expecting more supernatural elements to be included in the worldbuilding. There was some kinky stuff that made me think vampire, but kinky knife play and blood play does not a vampire make. There are no ghosts, werewolves, shifters, yokai, or any paranormal beings that make a blatant appearance beyond a veiled insinuation. There is a possible hint of something paranormal, but it’s around the 250 page mark which is just far too late in the book for my personal tastes, and it was very ‘blink and you’ll miss it’. If the sequel gets more paranormal, that would make sense, but I feel the expectation of paranormal should be met in the first installment of the series to set the tone if it wishes to be classified as such. There were hints, but not enough for me personally.
The plot has some intrigue, in regards to Lana’s work issues, some hints of mystery and backstory that don’t get answered yet, and other little nuggets, but overall the book reads as one that’s meant to focus on the erotica and relationship between Lana and Honda, with other plot elements filling in the world as sort of a veggies dish next to the main meal of steak and a starch. Veggies are good and necessary for a well-rounded meal, but I didn’t order steak to eat broccoli, I’m here for the meat! [pun intended]
The mystery of expecting paranormal aspects is interesting with the few bits that pop up, but there’s no good pay off. Perhaps the book could have done with less erotica in a few areas, to streamline the overall plot a little and make room for more supernatural activity.
I was very interested when big things shake up [no spoilers, but spoilers!] and found that part of the plot probably the most compelling part to read. It allowed for moments to see a little more personality from Honda in particular, rather than just showing off how dominant he is. The ending is in line with the rest of the book, and leaves some open-ended cliffhanger concerns – a good hook for a second book if there ever was one! I do find myself wanting answers to questions left dangling and will probably try to make time to read the rest of the series if I ever manage to get through my current “To Be Read” pile.
Twilight Pineapple time! In this book, Honda isn’t really perfect as a partner, which makes for an interesting character and isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But every unhealthy issue in a book needs to be addressed in some manner or form, or it can easily become a bad thing. Enter Gabriella, our Twilight Pineapple for the evening! A Twilight Pineapple is any literary device, either in the story or as a note by the author, to indicate that some sort of unhealthy relationship example provided by the story is not positive and should not be emulated. Gabriella is a friend who sits and has a heart to heart discussion with Lana, providing an outsider’s more objective perspective on how to proceed and how to make things better. Specifically, she instructs that better communication is needed. Which is absolutely fantastic and an example of an excellent Twilight Pineapple. Yuki also provides very good Twilight Pineapple moments that help offset some of my concerns about Honda, but I don’t want to get too into that without revealing spoilers.
This book’s biggest issue is being marketed under the wrong genre. There isn’t enough paranormal to satisfy those of us lusting after supernatural creatures, and it’s far more erotica than romance. So, it is neither paranormal nor romance in this first installment. If someone offered it to me and told me to read it as an example of a martial arts BDSM erotica with a Master/student theme set in Japan, I would have gone into it with different expectations that I think would have been more accurate to the content, as it works very well when described that way.
Please also note that if you’re looking for a polyamorous romance only, this is not the book for you. This is a BDSM heavy book, and some aspects of that BDSM may make some people uncomfortable (particularly things like knife play and fisting) if you’re just looking for a cute throuple story.
I would rate Deference by Lila Mina the following, with 5 being the max:
⭐⭐⭐ 3/5 stars for the writing style. It was good and enjoyable, but needed cleaning. Not bad at all, but not extraordinary.
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4/5 for the characters. I wasn’t completely sure what way to go with this, but even though I don’t particularly like Honda as a person, he’s interesting as a character, and I can appreciate that. Lana is feisty, and Yuki is enchanting, and the supporting cast fills their roles.
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4/5 for the worldbuilding. I really appreciate all the knowledge and inclusion of Japanese culture! It was expertly done, if a little overwhelming at times. But I had to take a point off because I feel cheated in the lack of almost any blatant paranormal worldbuilding. If this book wasn’t sold as paranormal, it would have been a 5/5 for me, since the knowledgeable writing is very interesting.
⭐⭐⭐ 3/5 for the plot. My impression reading this is that the plot wants to do more, but is distracted by horny goodness. Which is a fun read! But the paranormal aspect needed elaboration in the plot.
⭐⭐⭐ 3/5 for the romance. This book isn’t really romantic? It’s erotic, which is excellent and points for really hot BDSM. But romance and erotica aren’t the same. However, I could see romance developing further, especially with Yuki, in future installments, so hope that happens!
🩺🩺🩺 3/5 for the health of relationships. I had to take points off for some red flag behavior on Honda’s part, but have to give points because of the balance set by Yuki and Gabriella. I also find Yuki’s interaction with Lana to be very healthy and the polyamory to be very nicely written.
Total rating: 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 because I will always round up! There are some great elements that make Deference worth reading, for sure! But a few elements that were missing in what I was hoping to read. If you’re looking for something sexy, Japanese, martial, and BDSM related, pick up this book and you’ll have a fantastic time.
🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 5/5 for heat level. This is not part of the rating, just a statement! Very hot, lots of sex. This is erotic and passionate.
You can find Deference on Amazon for purchase as an ebook or paperback!
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