“The Blindfold Date” is the story of Brian, a burly, ex-football-playing bear, and Ernesto, a handsome, blue-haired nerd on the spectrum. They meet via a unique dating app service, whereby clients have dinner at a restaurant and are guided to their chairs with blindfolds on. In much the same procedure as eighties TV dating shows, the clients are allowed to ask three questions of each other, then remove their blindfolds if they are interested.
Of course, this is when sparks fly between the two main characters. Brian is a bisexual man with limited experience of the same sex and a desire to submit. Ernesto is a gay man trapped in the shell of his autistic constraints, only able to express his sexuality in the strict confines of a bondage club. Their budding relationship evolves organically, uncovering a past history of unrequited love, physical abuse and social isolation.
Ms. Carmine treats Ernesto’s high-functioning disability with sensitivity at all times, delving into the rigid psychological world he lives in with great empathy and understanding. Often, I find that characters with spectrum disorders on screen and in print come across as self-centred, demanding individuals; there’s no mention of them striving to develop tools to help guide them through interpersonal relationships. But Ernesto is all heart. His intrinsic need to become closer to Brian drives him to challenge his limitations at every turn and his caring personality is allowed to shine through.
Brian is a lovable gentle giant: a vulnerable soul who’s eager to please and wears his heart on his sleeve. You can’t help but cheer these two wonderful characters on.
This book also ventures into the complex world of dominance and submission. Brian acts as an audience surrogate for those of us who know little to nothing about this kind of physical and emotional expression. His inexperience and keen desire to learn means we are given a thorough and detailed lesson in the ways of consensual play, all while we are being treated to sizzling bedroom scenes. (Well, any room in the house, actually.) Ernesto takes great care to guide Brian. He revels in his dominant role, whilst marvelling at being able to undertake these activities with a man he truly cares about for once.
Romance readers with a penchant for the wild side will find this book immensely satisfying and well worth the five stars I’m giving it.