Title: Safeword (Power Exchange #2)
Author: A. J. Rose
Cover Artist: Theo Fenraven
Publisher: Voodoo Lily Press
Amazon: Buy Link Safeword (Power Exchange)
Genre: M/M Romance/ Crime / BDSM
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 rating stars
A Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: This sequel to Power Exchange is a fine follow up that cleverly reframes one of the flaws in that book and makes it an integral and redemptive part of this one.
Blurb: Everywhere Detective Gavin DeGrassi looks he’s reminded of his attack by the Breath Play Killer. It’s in the house he lives in with his partner and Dom, Ben Haverson. It’s in the sympathetic yet pitying looks he receives from his fellow detectives when he returns to the force after a year-long hiatus. It’s in the suffocating coddling of his entire family, and the relentless reporter demanding an exclusive of his ordeal.
Most of all, it’s in his lack of submission to Ben, who isn’t convinced Gavin’s recovered enough to trust the power exchange between them.
The miraculous recovery of two teen boys from a twisted kidnapper gives him heart, and Gavin’s determined to prove he can handle anything despite increasing strain between him and Ben, painful nightmares, and panic when anyone touches him.
But his next case is too close for comfort: a friend and colleague found raped and murdered in a fate chillingly similar to what could have been his own, and this killer isn’t stopping with one cop. As the body count rises and taunting souvenirs are being hand-delivered to Gavin, he faces a frustrating lack of leads, a crushing need to prove himself, and a sinking suspicion the imprisoned kidnapper’s reach is further than originally thought. A miasma of uncertainty and fear threaten to suffocate him when he asks a question with which he’s overwhelmingly familiar: what happens when a victim is pushed too far?
Power Exchange, reviewed here, was a thoroughly readable and enjoyable novel that combined Gavin personally coming to terms with his submissive sexuality while professionally dealing with a particularly frightening murder case. I really enjoyed the main characters and the exploration of BDSM through Gavin’s eyes was very well done. My main quibble with this book was the easy solution to the murderer’s identity and the less than brilliant management of the case by Gavin.
However, in Safeword I was very impressed by A. J. Rose’s clever explanation of this creative faux pas as Gavin’s totally believable reaction to the huge changes in his life – his suddenly complicated personal life had affected his concentration on the job. I love this retrospective reframe. It really worked as a reality check and as part of the characters coming to terms with what has happened to them.
This book deals with the slow healing process for Gavin and Ben. Set suitably in winter it takes a long while for them to start to heal, and within this believable emotional calendar spring does not appear unseasonably early. They have to work using different methods to find a way back to the Dom/sub relationship that was so important to them before. Ben’s ingenuity sets up some sweat inducing scenes. However it is the way they have to struggle to get their emotional balance back that is most impressive. They both show strengths and weaknesses at different times and no one rescues anyone else.
The intertwining of their lives with Gavin’s work cases is not usually a plot device I am particularly fond of. Nevertheless here it is essential as it mirrors the action in the first case while providing redemption of a kind for them both.
The police case worked very well, reinforcing attention on the victims of crime, rather than the solving of the criminal’s identity. Once again the steady pace of the police’s procedure added to the believability of the story. Gavin’s support for the youngsters involved showed his empathy and his essential good guy personality. While his reactions to some of the arses at work showed he was no push over. The mix of supportive and homophobic reactions to Gavin seemed realistic, and additionally gave me people to dislike. I like it when my sympathies really get involved. It was particularly satisfying when a bad character got a bad hand dealt to them….I am a nasty vindictive reader. I thought the interactions with the other characters in particular Myah, Gavin’s work partner, and his family gave a good three dimensional depth and momentum to the story – outside of Gavin and Ben’s problems, life has carried on. This gives them space to continue growing their relationship.
I think it would be particularly enjoyable to read these two books back to back, as one definitely enhances the other.