Book Reviews

What He Learns (Desires: New Beginnings) by E.M. Denning at Paper Gold Publishing

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Age Gap / Romance / BDSM
Reviewed by Barb on 15-March-2023

Book Blurb

A new dominant
A jaded submissive
What could possibly go right?

Sterling's plan is simple. Learn how to be dominant, woo his crush. The only problem is he doesn't know how to do either of those things. Getting a job at the local kink club seems like a good place to start. Meeting a kind and older submissive on his first night on the job throws a wrench into his plans.

Despite how hard he tried, Kelly was never enough for his ex-husband. Years after their amicable, yet heartbreaking, divorce, Kelly has come to terms with how things ended. Hoping to put all his doubts aside, he's ready to get back into the scene.

Kelly's first night coincides with Sterling's first shift at Desires, and he can't help his interest in the much younger man who has more questions than answers. It doesn't take long for them both to realize they have something important to offer the other. Sterling needs practice and Kelly... well, after so long away, he does too.

Questions turn into scenes and scenes turn into more, and they're just getting started when Kelly's doubts creep back in. If he wasn't enough for his ex, how can he be enough for a man like Sterling? Can Kelly learn to trust again, or will they lose everything they have built together before love can even be found?

Book Review

This is a very sweet story about Sterling, a young man who desperately wants to learn to be a “real” Dom so he can someday have his crush, his friend Jade, kneel for him. Sterling has studied videos and read books but it’s not until he takes a job at a kink club that he finally gets to see D/s relationships in action.


Kelly, a bit older and a bit more jaded, and definitely a submissive, hasn’t been to his club since he broke up with his former lover/husband/Dom over a year ago. Though they are still friends, Kelly is not interested in his kind of domination—one that is geared toward 24/7 dominance. Kelly wants to please a Dom, kneel for him, take care of him in all ways, sexual and nonsexual, but outside the bedroom, he seeks independence and mutual respect. When he meets Sterling, the new bartender and wannabe Dom at the club, he is impressed and befriends him. In fact, after their talk, he offers to teach Sterling, from a sub’s perspective, what it means to be in a D/s relationship at home, at a club, in a scene, but not 24 hours a day. The two become friends and when Sterling finally experiences what it is like to have Kelly kneel for him, he knows he didn’t make a mistake in wanting to learn more. His desire for Jade quickly fades as Kelly becomes the focus of Sterling’s mind and heart.  


Their story takes place over a relatively short period of time, yet it feels like a slow-burn, as the couple moves through various stages of attraction at the same time Sterling is working on domination. There’s angst—primarily Sterling’s worry that he is not tough enough, not enough of a Dom. And Kelly has moments of doubt that Sterling will want to be like others who are more assertive and then he’ll want a full-time sub, something Kelly would not allow himself to be again.


I enjoyed the author’s style and the progression of the story, and I most certainly enjoyed Sterling’s and Kelly’s HEA. Both characters were well-developed and quickly became favorites. Readers will not find heavy BDSM in this book, but it would serve as a nice intro for someone looking for mild kink.





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. The first edition of this book was provided by theauthor via GRRT for the purpose of a review.


Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 211 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 09-February-2023
Price $4.99 ebook, $11.99 paperback
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