Taking the Lead is my first book by Cecilia Tan, and also the first book in her Secrets of a Rockstar series. This book is a standalone, and the next book is about interconnected characters. I will admit that my main reason for reading this book was the cover. I knew I wanted to read it just by seeing it, without ever having read the blurb. Unfortunately as much as I loved the cover, this book just wasn't for me.
When Ricki Hamilton and her sister inherit their grandfather's estate, part of the stipulation is that they much run one of Hollywood's most exclusive clubs. The club is a BDSM playground for the elite, with only the richest and most famous being allowed to join. Ricki has no interest in running the club though, until she meets sexy rocker Axel. The chemistry and attraction between them is instant, but Ricki knows that hooking up with him would be a terrible idea. Not only does she need to avoid the publicity a relationship with a celebrity like him brings in order to keep the club a secret, but Axel makes her want things she never knew she needed.
I really liked Axel here. He was sweet and sexy, and I thought that he was a great guy. The one thing that didn't really work for me was that while embracing his Dom side, he constantly chased Ricki and seemed to have to come up with plans to get her to submit. That just didn't ring true for me for how a Dom would act, even one that admittedly didn't practice often. Ricki was a big part of my problem with this book. She was a bit all over the place, and I didn't really care for her. Not that I disliked her really, but she just didn't leave a strong impression other than that of someone who couldn't really make up her mind. She constantly ran from Axel (which became annoying as the story progressed since she never really stopped doing it) and there just wasn't a lot to her. I did think that these two had chemistry between them, and they were hot when they were together. But their connection was also something I had a hard time believing in, because I just didn't see much of anything developing between them. There wasn't a ton of dialogue or getting to know one another, and it just felt like most of the book was more internal when it came to these two. I wish we would have had more interaction between them.
The other big thing that really sealed the deal here for me was that this book was all over the place. There was so much going on and so many characters to keep track of, that it felt like the story was just spread too thin. There was the BDSM aspect with the club and Ricki and Gwen taking over, Ricki's agenda of trying to gear more movies toward a female audience, the makeover and restyling of Axel for his image and reputation, the relationship forming between Axel and Ricki and whether or not she could submit to Axel, all the while still trying to keep the club a secret and avoid publicity of any type or being linked to Axel. I just felt it was too much and too messy. With everything going on, the story wasn't holding my interest and I was bored easily. I wanted to skim through this one, and was disappointed that I wasn't into it. The other thing that bothered me was the BDSM portion itself. I felt like it just didn't work here and I thought that for running a club and being a part of that lifestyle, that there was a real lack of knowledge here for Ricki. It seemed that she was surrounded by people who knew all about it, so her initial reaction to Axel was a bit confusing and off-putting for me. I think that this book had a lot of potential, and I am sure that there are readers out there that will really enjoy it. However for me, this one just didn't work and I don't know that I will continue the series from here.
**ARC Provided by Publisher**