Heads-up! This review is for an adult book, and this review discusses some of the sexual and kink aspects. I review enough YA on here that I don’t want wires getting crossed.
I was in high school when 50 Shades of Grey started getting popular, and even then I knew it was a god-awful representation of kink. I was surrounded by the sex-positive movement, people just starting to explore the BDSM community, and a queer community that was exploding into self-actualization. It was only when I graduated, however, that it became clear to me why the books I read felt so odd to me; 50 Shades of Grey was the only one I’d ever seen to even acknowledge BDSM, even in the queer lit I managed to get my hands on.
Obviously things have changed quite a bit since then, but as somebody who avoids pure romance, it’s still not often that I read anything with BDSM acknowledged as more than a one-off joke or something to make a villain more villainous. That’s why Stephanie Ahn’s Deadline is such a pleasant surprise. Following the adventures of Harrietta Lee, witch-for-hire and lesbian walking disaster, Deadline mixes Harry’s magical sleuthing with flashbacks to a bad decision that changed her life and toe-curling, beautifully written and accurate kink. (Harry is Korean, too, which adds to the ‘fuck you Harry Dresden’ vibes of the whole thing.)
It’s hard to put my finger on what I liked best about Deadline. ‘All of it’ is an accurate answer but not a particularly useful answer! It straddles the line between not taking itself too seriously and still handling its serious topics with grace and kindness, and its dramatics never become melodramatics. Harry is traumatized and lonely, but fast with a quip, and her bad decisions always make sense at the time – both to her and the reader. And then of course, the scene where Harry gets whipped is one of the best sensory depictions of sadomasochism I’ve ever seen. I can name a dozen torture scenes that lean into it, but this is the first consensual scene that I’ve read that leans equally into the pain and release.
Deadline is available on Amazon, as well as its sequel Bloodbath (which I haven’t yet read but I am VERY excited to read!)