Before we get too deep into the review of Double Blind, if you don’t know or haven’t heard Ms. Cullinan wrote a free novella that should be read prior to Double Blind called Hooch & Cake <—FANTASTIC!!! And… it holds insights into Randy’s evolution and did I mention it’s free?
Title: Double Blind (Special Delivery #2)
Author: Heidi Cullinan
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
From the Publisher
Know when to show your hand…and when to hedge your bets.
Randy Jensen can’t stand to just sit by and watch as a mysterious man throws money away on the roulette wheel, especially since Randy’s got his own bet going as to the reason this guy is making every play like it’s his last day on earth. The man’s dark desperation hits Randy right in the gut. Half of him warns that getting involved is a sucker’s bet, and the other half scrambles for a reason—any reason—to save the man’s soul.
Ethan Ellison has no idea what he’s going to do with himself once his last dollar is gone—until Randy whirls into his life with a heart-stealing smile and a poker player’s gaze that sees too much.
Randy draws Ethan into a series of wagers that leads to a scorching kiss by midnight, but he isn’t the only one with an interest in Ethan’s vulnerability. Soon they’re both taking risks that not only play fast and loose with the law, but with the biggest prize of all: their hearts.
Warning: This story contains high-stakes poker, gangsters with a weakness for kittens, foursomes, and kinky consensual sex.
This book has been previously published and has been revised from its original release.
This is only my third experience with Ms. Cullinan, but it’s clear to me she’s an exceptional talent. He has the gift of storytelling, of taking the reader on the ride. She delves into her characters, makes us see the world through their eyes. She’s done a superb job of making Randy three-dimensional. The Randy we were introduced to in Special Delivery is only one facet of Randy. The vulnerable Randy that is lonely and struggles with feeling like an outcast and misfit is the Randy we get to know in Double Blind.
Randy is one of those characters that leaps off the page. He’s a renaissance man. If there is something that he can’t do or fix I’ve no doubt he could fake or bluff his way through it until he was an expert. He’s that guy. He’s complex and real. He’s smarmy and sweet. He’s endearing and infuriating. Just when I want to staple things to him, he does something so completely unexpected I want to hug him. Randy’s a far cry from perfect which makes him human and, by extension, a riveting character. Plus, y’know, I gotta respect a man that goes to Whole Foods hoping to “be inspired by the culinary gods”. *fistbump*
Double Blind takes place in Las Vegas which is befitting of Randy’s personality-big, in your face, unapologetic. I’ve been to Vegas a couple times and while it’s bright, gaudy, ostentatious and garish, I inevitably see the underbelly, the seediness of it. If I dwell too much or look too closely, I find it kind of depressing. I think watching Leaving Las Vegas before I ever went to Las Vegas was probably a bad call on my part. Double Blind takes a peek into that underbelly and, as you can imagine, some of it ain’t pretty. There are quite a bit of mob references both contemporary and historical. There is much information regarding the mob’s involvement in the rise of Las Vegas. In many ways, Double Blind reads like a travel guide for Vegas which was both informative and distracting. Also, there is probably too much of what I’ve dubbed ‘gamblespeak’.
I’m going to compare and contrast for a sec bear with me. Double Blind uses the same basic formula as Special Delivery. If you’ve read my review for Special Delivery then you know how it affected me. Many, many components went into making it a magical experience. The relationship development between Mitch and Sam pulled me in and, generally speaking, I like D/s relationships that are clearly defined. I loved Sam and his humiliation/degradation kink and the way that incorporated Randy, but more than the sex there was the poignant sub-plot of Sam’s mother and his struggles with what remains of his family.
The foundation of Special Delivery is their adventure through the west in a big rig. I love to travel. I love hearing about other people’s travels, so that was a win for me, but it was also Mitch’s job. Randy’s job is mostly based in Vegas and is heavily tied to gambling. While I understand the need for the relationship between Ethan and Randy to be predicated on gambling, it simply holds no interest for me. The relationship progression between both couplings is probably about the same length of time, but I felt it building with Mitch and Sam. The relationship felt organic and, dare I say, authentic through the alley, phone sex, dinner and trip through the west. In Double Blind it was just… there. At times it even felt a little desperate. Plus, let’s face it the plot twist in Special Delivery was Randy. I mean, lightening doesn’t strike twice. Thus, Double Blind didn’t have the same magic of Special Delivery. For me.
The pacing bogged down with all the gamblespeak, casino shenanigans and Las Vegas ballyhoo. Frankly, I started skimming after a certain point. If you are interested in bluffing or learning how to gamble with an emphasis on poker, you have hit the proverbial jackpot. Congratulations! In my opinion, the sub-plots of Crabtree/Herod and Sam/Randy overtook the primary and the sacrifice was the relationship development between Randy and Ethan. I hate to say it. I really do, you know how I feel about these two, but I think Sam and Mitch detracted from Randy’s story rather than adding to it. It seemed like Randy and Ethan spent more time apart embroiled in their own sub-plots than together. Even the sex seemed awkward as though they were trying too hard, trying to fit a square peg into a round hole or maybe even trying to be Sam and Mitch. Quite simply, Randy and Ethan didn’t get enough air time.
Don’t get me wrong there are some amazing moments in Double Blind. The characterization of Randy is phenomenal. True, some of it was unexpected and I did kind of miss crass and crude Randy, but I enjoyed learning more about him and seeing him open up, make himself vulnerable especially the moments between he and Sam in therapy. And p.s. Ms. Cullinan nailed all the projecting within the therapeutic environment. Well done.
The sexy times are both hot and at one point hilarious. Two words: strip poker. Trust me. It’s worth it for that alone and the scene between both couples. YUMMERS! Plus, my lil Sammie uh… yeah… umm… WOW. I had NO idea. Let’s just say I’d really like a short about the evolution of Mitch and Sam’s relationship. *cough*
I’d recommend Double Blind to Randy fans.
Where to Buy
I would like to thank Samhain for providing me with a copy of Double Blind in exchange for an honest review.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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