A guest review by Jenre
Fantastic, gripping and emotionally compelling story set in an AU where slavery is the norm.
Network news anchor Daniel Halstrom is at the top of his field, but being at the bottom of the social ladder—being a slave—makes that hard to enjoy. Especially when NewWorld Media, the company who’s owned him since childhood, decides to lease him on evenings and weekends to boost their flagging profits.
Daniel’s not stupid; he knows there’s only one reason a man would pay so much for what little free time he has, and it’s got nothing to do with his knowledge of current events. But he’s never been made to serve like that before, and he fears he won’t survive the experience with his sanity intact.
He finds himself in the home of Carl Whitman, a talk show host whose words fail him time and again when it comes to ordering Daniel to bed. Daniel knows what Carl wants, but it seems as if Carl isn’t willing to take it, and Daniel’s not willing to give it freely. His recalcitrance costs him dearly, but with patience and some hard-won understanding, love just might flourish where once there’d been only fear and pain. Can Carl become the anchor in Daniel’s turbulent life, or will he end up the weight that sinks his slave for good?
(WARNING: This book contains potentially triggering subject matter, including a violent on-screen rape. Please take heed.)
This book has only been out a short while but has already caused quite a lot of contention amongst readers. It seems to be one of those books which you either love or hate – and not just for the graphic violence or the rape scene. I am firmly in the ‘loved it’ camp, but I do suggest that you read a few more reviews before buying as there are many very valid points made by other reviewers who didn’t like the book as much as me.
The story is set in an alternative universe which is almost the same as the world we know except for one key factor: slavery. People can be bought and sold like cattle and forced to be subject to the will of their owners. It’s a chilling premise and one which made me feel very uncomfortable at times. The plot follows slave Daniel who is owned by a media company and is a successful anchorman for their news programme. When the company start to fall on hard times they ‘rent’ Daniel out as a companion to a competitor for a large sum of money. Daniel is terrified of intimacy with Carl, which leads to repercussions for both men.
The narrative is in the first person from Daniel’s point of view, something which works well as we get his views as a slave and the mindset that has been drilled into him from an early age, leading to a realistic and believable setting. In a way, Daniel has been very sheltered as a slave, and so when he is leased to Carl, it comes as a shock to him. It’s also ironic that his own misery and self-interest were the main reasons why he suffers later and this, more than anything in the story, made me want to shake him and show him how foolish he was being. As with many first person narratives, the other hero, Carl, is a little bit of an enigma. Daniel lives in fear of Carl and the intimacies for which Carl has leased him, but Carl isn’t actually all that harsh and scary as a master. His reasons for renting Daniel are to assuage his loneliness both in and out of bed and I sympathised with Carl’s frustrations that Daniel seemed completely different to his TV persona – and also that he wasn’t getting what he’s paying for. Again it is ironic that Carl’s selflessness and inability to force Daniel into doing what he wants is what ultimately leads to Daniel’s downfall. Neither men are wholly happy with the master/slave relationship and it is this breaking away of societal expectations which forces an event which eventually brings them together but not without a great deal of suffering first.
Be warned there are scenes of rape and extreme torture and punishment which may not be to some readers’ taste. I read those scenes absolutely horrified as to what was happening but also unable to stop reading as Daniel’s voice pulled me into the scene and made it impossible to put the book down. It’s not easy to read such scenes, but the violence was necessary and not gratuitous.
My only niggle about the book was the way the timing of the book changes towards the end. Most of the book takes place over a few days, then, after the climax, the story suddenly accelerates through a few weeks. This left me with a number of questions about some of the circumstances prior to the end which were glossed over a little and it also seems that the romance aspect is sudden – it isn’t, because it takes place over a few weeks but because those weeks are covered in only a few pages, it seems like it is. However, this niggle wasn’t enough to spoil my enjoyment of what was an engrossing and compelling story for me.
Overall, if you like BDSM, especially the master/slave dynamic then this book is a must. It’s been a while since I was wholly immersed in a book and so connected with a character and situation. I shall be seeking out the author’s other books very soon.