Ambitious Romance – Tamsen Parker’s Personal Geography

Imagine: You get a call out of the blue from a well-respected trainer you’ve almost certainly heard of, and if you haven’t, someone you know has. He offers you a weekend of no-strings-attached play with a trained submissive provided you pass the screening process. She’ll come to you, and should you choose to spend the weekend with her somewhere other than your home, all expenses will be taken care of. If it sounds pretty alluring, it’s meant to.
– Parker, Personal Geography: 19-20

Not only is the deal alluring, so is India Burke. She is the “submissive” and the protagonist of Tamsen Parker‘s Personal Geography, the first novel in the Compass series. India was introduced to BDSM by her best friend Reyes, a gay BDSMer she met on her first day in college. He is a BDSM trainer, and gets hired by people who want to “learn the ropes“. For India, he is friend, confidant and deal broker. Whenever she needs a “lost weekend” away from her high-stakes job, he finds her a Dominant; performs a thorough background check; negotiates her contract for her; and sends his partner Matty to stay nearby in case anything goes wrong. (Rey’s job sounds pretty amazing, maybe something to consider if the BDSM consultant thing doesn’t work out.)

Mapping the story

India Burke is a strong; independent; and ambitious woman, who has found a safe way to get the release she craves. In her words:

It’s not like I’m looking for Prince Charming. I don’t have the time, never mind the inclination, to be looking for The One. I just need Rey to find me someone who can dull the sharp edges, slake my thirst to be dominated. At least until next time.
– Parker, Personal Geography: 2.

But of course, since this is a romance novel, Prince Charming is what she gets. He takes the shape of Crispin Ardmore, a handsome; intelligent; free spirit, whose style of domination fits perfectly with her desires. What is interesting about these books, is that India does not have to give up anything in order to be with Cris. He likes her fierce independence; enjoys her intelligence so much that he adds a clause to the contract so that it provides time to speak freely before they fall into their roles; and, most importantly: he cooks for her.

Exploring their personal geography

Though they both have their histories (yep, not your straight-up pornography) and had their share of damaging experiences, neither uses BDSM as a way to “heal” themselves. Instead, they crave a release. This is incredibly clear when India goes through a hard time at work, and when she arrives at the airport to meet him has the following interaction:

“I need to shut my brain off. I need you to be strict with me. More than usual. Please.”
Please have this in you, Cris, please. Not that he hasn’t shown himself capable, but it’s alternated with periods of sweetness – and sweetness leaves too much room for my mind to wander. No, sustained and harsh control will be required to wipe my mind of what’s churning there.
– Parker, Personal Geography: 181-182.

And folks, he delivers.

The Compass series consists of six books, all filled with well-rounded characters, interesting story lines, believable relationships and HOT sex scenes. We see different kinds of BDSM relationships, in the lives of people who all know Rey in some way or another.

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