Emma Green has never been very confident. When Ian Cooper, an old friend, asks to rent out the back room of her bookstore for a bondage workshop, she agrees because she needs the money. She isn’t expecting to participate, and she definitely isn’t expecting to enjoy it. But all of Emma’s expectations fly out the window when she tentatively agrees to be Ian’s bondage model for workshops and exhibitions—and her success in the role upends all previous notions she had about her body and her desirability.
Now, Emma must learn to reconcile these conflicting images of herself while dealing with another conflict: Is Ian just another playboy, or everything she’s been looking for?
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No sound was quite as satisfying as the little bell hanging above the front door of the shop. Emma Green looked up from the book she was reading, marking the page in the crisp-spined hardcover with a fingertip as she looked for the new customer. The young woman paused right inside the door, blinking to adjust to the dimmer light after the bright outdoor sun, scanning the quiet bookstore. Her gaze landed on Emma, leaning on the glass countertop and smiling in welcome, finger still marking her page. The girl’s answering smile was too quick, all thin lips and anxious eyes, the “please don’t notice me” evident in her drawn posture. She was in her early twenties, probably attending one of the local Boston universities near the shop. Emma recognized the look well, her anxiety all too familiar.
“Let me know if I can help you find anything.”
The girl’s nod was nearly imperceptible. She lingered near the day planners at the front of the store for a while, long fingers worrying the edge of her infinity scarf. She had a wan, studious look, the kind of student who could spend hours in a bookstore. Emma opened her book and found the line where she’d left off.
When she looked up again, the girl had wandered past the counter and was staring with great focus at a bookcase of home repair books. What she really kept glancing at, though, was the “Relationships and Sex” section one bookcase over. Putting that bookcase within eyesight of the register was one of the first things Emma had learned in designing the store layout. Initially she had preferred to give people privacy to browse, but after pulling the third pair of panties out from the shelves, she’d moved it up front. Some people had no class. Unfortunately, it caused a fair amount of anxiety for customers like this one.
To ease the young woman’s mind, Emma made a show of flipping the pages of her book, even turning slightly away on her stool. As if she cared where this girl browsed, so long as she didn’t slip her panties in between the books. Hopefully she’d actually buy something, or several somethings, and maybe she’d come back with a dozen friends who would all buy five books each, and Emma would be able to pay the heating bill. Sighing, she held her novel splayed open on the counter with one hand while she took a sip of coffee from the mug next to her.
Emma became so caught up in pretending to be absorbed in her book that she actually did become absorbed in her book, somehow missing the sound of the bell over her door.
The voice right in front of Emma made her jump, her flailing hands knocking her coffee mug forward on the counter. The man jumped backward but wasn’t fast enough, coffee splashing up onto his shirt and pants.
“Shit!” Leaping to her feet, Emma jerked the book out of the way of the spreading puddle. “Oh, shit, Ian, I’m so sorry. I didn’t hear you come in.”
“Yeah, I figured.” Ian Cooper stared down at himself. The stain went down one side of his blue button-down and onto his pants. “Well, at least the pants are brown.” She could hear the wry amusement in his voice, and she relaxed. At least it wasn’t a stranger. She and Ian had never developed more than a casual acquaintanceship during the misery of Catholic high school, but now he was a frequent customer, and they had the kind of superficial ease common to people who saw each other frequently but spent little time together.
He looked around at the counter and behind him, then back down at himself. “Do you have a bathroom in the back or something? I know I’m not an employee, but maybe you could make an exception since you assaulted me?”
“It was an accident.” Emma led him past the girl, who was now sitting in the “Relationships and Sex” section, an erotica anthology open on her lap. Emma slid open the curtain to the back room and gestured to a door in the corner while she gathered up some paper towels for the front counter. “Take your time.”
While she mopped up the spill, the only customer got back to her feet with the anthology and a copy of Sex Matters for Women. The girl’s posture had relaxed quite a bit in the interim; apparently watching the shop owner dump hot coffee on a customer was a good cure for social anxiety. “Is he okay?” She set her two books down on the counter in the spot Emma had just cleaned.
“Oh, yeah. Probably. I know him, though.” Emma tossed the wet paper towels in the counter and picked up her mug, which fortunately hadn’t fallen off the counter. It was one of her favorites, a white Etsy ceramic mug with black script that said “Prufrock Is My Homeboy,” referencing her favorite T. S. Eliot poem. She set it aside and began scanning the books.
The girl looked off toward the back room, tucking a few strands of blond hair back under her loose knitted cap. “He your boyfriend?”
“What? Oh, no. Ian? No. He’s just a friend.” Even “friend” was generous: He was someone who bought books on a regular basis.
“Oh. He’s kinda cute.” The girl looked Emma up and down as if seeing how she measured up to Ian. Emma flushed, conscious of how her sweater didn’t disguise all her excess softness, the curves of her body and generous hips that were impossible to hide without wearing two sizes too big all the time. Another reminder that, despite their both having been a little socially awkward in high school, she wasn’t exactly in Ian’s league. Or anyone’s league, probably. Books and business, she could handle. Dating? Not in her wheelhouse.
“That’ll be twenty-nine seventy-five.” Emma managed to keep her own sudden discomfort out of her voice. This conversation could not end soon enough. She might have broken some customer service records with her speed in running the debit card and finalizing the transaction. Her farewell “Come back and see us again!” was friendly enough after years of working retail, but she wasn’t sad to see the store empty again.
Except for what that meant to her heating bill, of course.
Ian emerged from the back room a minute or two later, shirt damp but a bit less brown, dabbing at the fabric with a hand towel. “Wish you had one of those air dryers.”
“They’re unsanitary.” Emma winced as she studied his shirt. “Sorry about that again, Ian. Do you have a jacket or anything?”
“I left it back at the office. It looked sunny enough.” He pushed his square-framed glasses back up his nose, a gesture so familiar that Emma expected it every time. “Isn’t March supposed to be going out like a lamb or something?”
“Or something.” Emma peered out the glass door. “There’s still snow out there. So what’s up? I haven’t seen you since . . . I don’t know, a few weeks, maybe?”
“It hasn’t been that long, has it?” Ian rubbed his smooth chin. “Huh, maybe you’re right. Anyway, I came in for something to read on the plane. Doesn’t Malcolm Gladwell have something new out?”
“Yeah, I’ve got it up here on display.” Emma took the glossy red hardcover from the feature table up front and handed it over. “Where’re you headed?”
“Ohio. Only for the weekend.” He flipped the book over to read the reviews on the back. “Have you heard anything about this?”
“I read it last week. I liked it.” Emma shrugged. “You’re going away for business? It’s weird that they’d send you now. Isn’t it, like, prime tax season? I thought that was ‘all hands on deck’ for accountants.”
“No, not for business. Just for fun.” He thumbed through the book, stopping to skim a few chapter headings, his lips pursed in thought.
“Nobody goes to Ohio for fun.”
Ian looked up, a half smile on his face. “People go to Ohio. I’m going to Ohio.”
“No accounting for taste.” Emma returned his smile. Casual conversation was easy when there was no relationship pressure, nobody’s expectations to try to fail to meet.
Ian tossed the book down on the counter and grabbed the one she’d been reading. “Speaking of no accounting for taste—I didn’t even know they made romance novels in hardcover. Must be fancy.”
Emma grabbed it back, feeling herself flush. “I try to keep up on all the bestsellers. It’s my job.”
“Sure, sure.” He took off his glasses and looked at them, frowning. “Look, there’s coffee spots on here.” He began cleaning them with the dry, coffee-free side of his shirt.
Emma rang up Ian’s book and bagged it. “Twenty-eight fifty.”
“What a rip-off,” he said, but his smile indicated that he was teasing. While Emma scanned his debit card, she could feel him watching her. Not in a creepy way, or even in a sexual way, just . . . watching. She wished he were looking somewhere else. His forehead was creased in thought as she slipped the receipt into his bag and handed him back his card. “Emma, what do you use that back room for?”
Emma raised her eyebrows. “Storage?” Wasn’t that obvious?
“It’s big. You’re barely using any of it. You should have events back there or something. It’s a really nice space.”
Emma looked over toward the back room in reflex. It was all right: hardwood floors, exactly like in the main shop, decent lighting, but nothing special. There weren’t even any windows. “I never thought about it.”
Ian raised one shoulder in a shrug. “Something to think about.”
“Have fun in Ohio,” she called after him. “If that’s possible.”
His laugh seemed to fill the space even after he was gone.
When Ian got back to the office, he took the last fifteen minutes of his lunch break to thumb through the Malcolm Gladwell book. He probably could have gotten it cheaper on his iPad, but then he wouldn’t have a reason to stop by Emma’s shop. Of course, his visits didn’t usually involve having hot coffee spilled on him.
His phone beeped, the reminder he’d set earlier to check in online for his flight. As he printed out his boarding passes and conference paperwork, he imagined Emma’s reaction to the real reason for his trip to Ohio. Sweet, straitlaced Emma would probably fall over if he told her he was leading rope bondage workshops at a kink conference. It wasn’t something people expected of him: As an accountant, he was supposed to fit the stereotype of an accountant.
Ian pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. Well, he was geeky enough for some of those stereotypes, but his interests in kink skewed those perceptions quite a bit. The women usually interested in him weren’t the kind to get on board with rope bondage. And Emma? He’d even thought about asking her out a few times, but the thought of broaching that subject with her was enough to keep him quiet. Plus, she’d never responded to his casual flirtations and seemed content that they remain friends. She’d never found out about the secret crush he’d harbored for her in high school, and in the intervening years, he’d set those feelings aside.
Coming out of his reverie, Ian tucked the paperwork into a folder inside his briefcase and scanned his calendar. After the kink workshop, he’d be hung up for the next couple of weeks during the height of tax season. He wasn’t going to host any workshops until after the fifteenth, but if he hoped to have a beginners’ class at the end of April, he should probably book the room now. Checking the clock, he realized he had ten minutes left in his lunch hour. He called the hotel where he usually held his workshops, dialing the extension for the event sales coordinator.
“Hey, Linh. It’s Ian Cooper.”
Linh’s familiar lilting voice answered him. “Mr. Cooper, it’s good to hear from you. What can I help you with?”
“I’d like to book my usual room for the end of next month. What dates do you have available?”
There was a pause, then some clicking sounds as Linh searched through the inventory. “We have open availability every weekend except the seventeenth. I should let you know that there has been a rate increase since the last time you booked.”
It was certainly any business’s prerogative to raise rates for inflation. “What’s the new rate?”
Linh quoted a price and Ian almost dropped the phone. “That’s almost double. What happened?”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Cooper, but it’s beyond our control. Corporate changes.”
Ian did some quick mental math. That would cut in to his profits significantly. “I’m going to have to get back to you, Linh. That’s a significant increase.”
Her voice sounded polite and apologetic. “I’m sorry, Mr. Cooper. Can I help you with anything else today?”
“No, that will be all. Thank you.”
Ian checked the clock. He didn’t have time to pursue this any further now. Surely he could find another meeting space in the area when he got back from Ohio, and in the meantime, he had a client meeting to attend.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was a great book with a great plot It was fun to read and enjoy. Thank you.
Was a little nervous because the star rating wasn't amazing but was pleasantly surprised by this book. It's not your standard hot and heavy bdsm book. It's very real. The characters felt realistic. The sex felt realistic. Just very normal people engaging in bondage. Not BDSM power games. No weird contracts and clubs and blackmail. Just two normal people developing a relationship with a bonndage and occasional exhibitionism element thrown in. Overall, the author did a wonderful job!!
I've never seen the ropes as clearly while reading bondage erotica. Lovely!
A much different take than the norm on BDSM usually there is lots of domanance and cursing. This book is more about insecurities and lack of communication. I identified with the relationship breakdown w Mother and daughters and friends. I think this was well written because you used a sensitive geeky man rather than one who on ly to blink and women are all over them . It is true that it is the quiet ones you have to watch out for
This book was not at all what I expected it to be. The core of this story is bondage, plain and simple. That being said, I was expecting contemporary, but with the subject matter, I also assumed things were perhaps going to get a bit raunchy. It turned out to be entirely sweet and sexy. Which I didn’t mind at all. Emma Green owns her own bookstore and mainly keeps to herself with the exception of some outings here and there with a couple of her girlfriends. She’s insecure in many ways and strives to be accepted and please people. One evening, her high school friend, recurring customer and crush, Ian Cooper, suggests renting out the back room in her shop for special events; specifically his event. Which happens to be a rope bondage workshop. Needing her help as his model at the last minute, Emma lets her intrigue guide her into saying yes. Despite having feelings for each other, neither one can find the courage to reveal the truth. What they can do however, is give in to their sexual desires. Emma was a character that really stood out to me. She had real imperfections, struggles, and insecurities that made me stir up a connection to her instantly. The lack of confidence she started out with dissipated slowly throughout the book. She grew into a stronger female who felt empowered, beautiful, loved, and sexy. She no longer felt obligated to be liked by everyone and anyone. Even Ian had a stack of insecurities which is rare in romance books, especially those of the erotic nature. Both their timid personalities made for a uniquely interesting dynamic. It seemed like the only time they were sure of themselves individually and together was in heat of the moment. There was a lack of communication on both ends because of their insecure feelings about themselves. The secondary characters and scenes not involving Emma and Ian were uninteresting to me so I found myself skimming over them each time. A couple of them didn’t even seem necessary for the story. BDSM has been connected to the book in some descriptions, but there’s not a whole lot of that shown except for the bondage aspect. Ian isn’t so much a Dom, but rather a switch; as is Emma. I loved the way he described and defined bondage. He did so in a way that displayed his passion behind the act and wasn’t made to seem like a taboo hobby. There was a lot of emphasis on rope tying: the variations of knots, descriptions on how to do it. It sort of read like a how-to book mixed in with a romance novel. And I mean that in a good way. The sex scenes were hot in a beautiful, passionate way; not crude in the least. For readers looking for more sex than story, I wouldn’t advise picking up this book right away. However, I do think it’s a really cute book with a mature understanding and portrayal of bondage and lighter kink.
Well, this was a sweet contemporary romance but not quite the edgy affair I was hoping for. It’s the story of Ian and Emma. Emma owns a bookstore and is struggling to make ends meet. Ian, an old High School friend, pops in occasionally to buy books and notices she has a spare storage room and asks to rent it for one of his ‘workshops’. Turns out he is a rope bondage instructor and his model cancels at short notice and Emma steps in and I think you can guess where we go from there. While I did enjoy this, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I think it’s possibly my expectations that were misplaced though as I was looking for a kinky little number and that’s not quite what I got. This is very much BDSM lite focussing only on the B in BDSM and Ian isn’t a dom – he’s more of a switch who likes to tie girls up and likes to be tied himself so if you’re looking for a commanding, self-possessed dom, you’re not going to find it here. I also found this HUGELY frustrating – Ian and Emma are quite possibly the most awkward new lovers in the known universe. The minute sex was over, they couldn’t meet each others eyes and were like bashful school kids. Both of them have strong feelings for each other but are too reticent to say anything and plenty of misunderstandings ensued! It was a bit like the blind leading the blind here. They’re both as bad as each other. Emma is seriously lacking in confidence and self-worth and I found being in her headspace for 300 pages a rather difficult place to be. She doubts herself at every juncture and and appeared to have virtually no self-esteem. After a while, she’s just plain exhausting. Also, the secondary characters – I found myself skimming over those scenes. In that respect, it read rather like a second book in a series and Ian’s best friend Brent and his wife Missy felt like they’d been the central characters in a previous book but a bit of research reveals that to be wrong and I found it hard to see the author’s motivations in lavishing quite as much attention on them as she did. They don’t add to the story and I hurried them along to get back to the main event – Ian and Emma. What was done REALLY well here was the rope bondage scenes. While not always sexual, they’re intensely sensual and obvious strong attention to detail and loving affection went into writing those scenes. They’re so well described that I could follow them perfectly as Ian wound the ropes around Emma. Even when they’re not leading to sex, I found these scenes incredibly HOT and they were absolutely the highlight of the book for me. So, it’s an enjoyable contemporary romance with some gorgeously sensual rope bondage scenes and a central couple that I kind of liked even though I wanted to slap them with a wet kipper sometimes. 3 knotty stars
3.5 stars--PLAYING KNOTTY is an adult, contemporary erotic romance storyline that focuses on rope and knot play-the ‘bondage’ part of BDSM. This is bookstore owner Emma Green, and accountant/bondage instructor Ian Cooper’s storyline. Most of the storyline takes place in and around Boston and Emma’s book store-PROLOGUE. Told from alternating third person perspectives, the premise follows Ian Cooper as he endeavors to find a suitable location and model for his next bondage instruction class. Enter former high school acquaintance Emma Green, who has some available space at the back of her store. It just so happens that Emma is in need of a quick influx of cash and Ian offers room rental and modeling fees if Emma is willing to be his ‘bondage model’. What ensues is Emma’s introduction into rope and knot play, something she takes to like a duck to water. Emma has some issues of self esteem; raised by a mother who was always concerned about physical beauty and image, Emma has always believed she is not quite good enough, pretty enough, slim enough or smart enough to make it on her own. Ian happens to be the man who sees a beautiful woman who has no problems with the kinky side of Ian’s life Nine years earlier, Ian had a small crush on his high school friend and lab partner Emma Green. Fast forward to present day and all of Ian’s fantasies are about to come true. The sexual relationship is enhanced by their mutual arousal through rope and knot play, and in this their friendship and working relationship takes the next step forward. The secondary and supporting characters include Emma’s employee and wanna be poet Bethany; Emma’s friends Alina and Margot whose expensive tastes are not conducive to Emma’s current financial situation : Ian’s best friend Brent who owns a small ‘gamers’ shop ; several members of Ian’s workshops and weekend bondage role players; and Emma’s slightly dysfunctional family including her younger sister Julia whose own life is now affected by their mother’s need for perfection and control. Saying that, I did have some issues with the couple’s lack of communication outside of the ‘bondage scenes’. Most of the anxiety and uneasy situations in their relationship were caused by confusion and misinterpretation of body language and communication with one another in their daily lives. In this, my enjoyment level of the storyline was affected by the misunderstandings and heartbreaking beliefs that neither one was interested in a permanent relationship yet no one was willing to make the first move. I know this is where the storyline conflict arises, but it made for some awkward and frustrating moments. There is also an enormous amount of detailed description and information about bondage play that shows the author’s research and personal experience with ropes and knots. At times, I found myself lost in the intricate explanation and information trying to imagine in my mind the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of the narration. I found myself struggling during the ‘how to’ and ‘play by play’ scenarios-I think my eyes glazed over a time or two. Elia Winters puts her own spin on the BDSM writing genre-one where bondage and knot play are at the center of our couple’s sexual awakenings and arousal. If you are looking for something a little different; a little out of the ‘ordinary’ give Playing Knotty a try. PLAYING KNOTTY is an interesting read; a detour from the usual BDSM storylines where the hero has a need to discipline the female. The rope/knot/and bondage
Playing Knotty, Elia Winters Genre: Romance Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews Well, this isn’t a very long read, around 3500 kindle locations, but its packed with heat, and a fun story. Emma- I loved her, she’d worked hard to get past her mothers constant comments about her weight, and yet its easy to see how it still affects her, how she tries to dress to disguise her curves, even though as Ian says, she’s gorgeous. Its affected her confidence to in that she doesn’t stand up for what she wants, even with her friends, but has this need to go along with whatever they say, as she just wants everyone to like her. That's down to her mother, and when we see them all together at a family meal its easy to see why. Later in the book when her mum does some explaining I found I felt so sorry for her, and could see her reasoning even if it was flawed, and that from really disliking her and seeing her as a bully I came to like her...I enjoy when that happens, when my perceptions are changed, and it made me think how easily we judge people sometimes without knowing all the facts. Then Ian comes along – he’s an accountant but also does rope bondage workshops and is active in the Kink world. It comes as a huge surprise to Emma, but in fact it really brings her out. She can see that Ian’s aroused by her curves, that he enjoys seeing her tied up, and it makes her feel very sexual too. So much so that right from the first time they’re soon in a hot and heavy sexual frenzy each time they work together. She’s come along way but...she still lacks confidence, and doesn’t know if what she and Ian have is a relationship, or just hot and convenient sex. She wants more but years of just fitting in with others leaves her unable to ask him. He doesn’t make it clear what he wants, but we can see that for him its because he knows she lacks confidence, and doesn’t want to push her outside her comfort zone and lose what he hopes could be more than just friendship and sensual sex. Its looking good, they get closer, Emma gets more confident and then...an overheard snippet of conversation brings things crashing down. Can they get back on track or is it all going to fall apart?Well, I was so frustrated – wanting to shout “JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER” -but no...things got more stilted and I was in despair for them. I really wanted to shake the pair of them Stars: Four, a fun and erotic read. ARC provided by Netgalley and publishers.