Lauren has given up on finding what she wants in a relationship and is throwing it all into her work. She wants a bad boy dom, but she's afraid of getting close after several toxic relationships, and even more afraid of turning a good man bad.
Michael has made some mistakes in his inexperienced youth, but he has spent the intervening years growing past them and establishing his reputation as a man of good judgement, deliberation, and someone you can rely on.
Unknown to Lauren, they've met before, and neither of them can shake the memories of that unfulfilled night. Now Michael has the chance to pursue the woman of his dreams, but the question is, will she let down her guard enough to be wooed? Micheal's everything that Lauren is afraid of ruining in a man, can she live with herself if a relationship turns yet another man into a monster?
First off, this is the fifth book in the series, something I did not realize when I requested (and was approved for) a copy of this title. Reputable Surrender assumes reader knowledge of character history throughout the book, and in ways that are at times quite confusing. Much of the primary romance can be enjoyed without too much confusion, but major plot threads rely on events that took place in previous books, and they pop up with little introduction or context. There is a huge villain reveal with a character who is a complete unknown if you have only read this book, but one who seems to be an established part of another couple's history. The book largely ends with glimpses into the personal lives of several other couples who formed in the previous books, again, taking a reader who starts with Reputable Surrender, out of the main plot line into a different focus.
In many ways this is a book about Lauren coming to terms with her desires and how they can be met in a safe and mutually satisfying way. It seems that the series overall has a theme of finding family, security, and community. Lauren needs to learn how to face the skeletons in her closet, and learn to trust herself and others. Ultimately she finds a way to be happy with another and pursue her career her own way.
Personally I object a little bit to the sheer amount of assumption of consent on the part of Michael, but the author makes Lauren's enjoyment and consent clear. Most of my issues relating to Michael come early in the book (and early in the relationship). I mean, who in their right mind thinks it's a good idea to steal a kiss from a company consultant when leaving a company gathering? That's not just risking personal insult and ire, that's risking a sexual harassment lawsuit. Also, in the prologue when Michael and Lauren first meet, he's working security for a kink event, and goes off to play with her. How is that 'reputable'? If you're working security you do not abandon your post to get your jollies off, particularly when one of your duties is to make sure that no one ends up violated or injured (outside of consenting parameters).
I find parts of the villain story lines to be a bit heavy handed in Reputable Surrender, but I do acknowledge that there are many manipulative bastards out in the world, as well as others who take someone's interest in consensual and controlled roughness as a license to injure with impunity. The types of harassment that Lauren faces are not unimaginable, as is her misplaced guilt and sense of responsibility for the abuse. I think this could have been better balanced had not the previously utterly unmentioned off-his-rocker villain simply not popped up in this book.
One thing that Reputable Surrender (and I assume the other books in the series) makes clear, is that the adults in these relationships are sane and consenting. There is no "I'll endure this because he likes it," nor are the adults treated as 'damaged' for their desires. This is a book focusing on adults who know their desires and are looking to fulfill them, both desires for their life overall and desires of a more intimate nature.
Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of NetGalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.