Cherished

Cherished_cvr-2-210x330Title: Cherished
Author: Sara York
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary. BDSM
Length: 51k
Rating: 1 star out of 5

Review by Zac D

Review Summary: A good premise and blurb, and a half decent character in Wesley, but huge inconsistencies and a serious issue handled with a sledgehammer make this book hard to swallow.

Blurb: Scotty Fuller is a man who demands order. His job as a librarian gives him the solace he needs, and a BDSM club provides him with the kind of entertainment he craves. That is until a cute young college student threatens to unglue his carefully pieced-together life and rip open old wounds.

Wesley Reese is a shy college student with a problem: he’s crushing on the librarian. On a dare he asks the handsome older man on a date, but dating Scotty requires more from Wesley than he can give. When the bondage restraints come out, Wesley knows he’s in too deep.

Will he change for love? Will he lose himself forever? Or will each man finally be… Cherished?

 
Review: I’ll admit it right now, I’m no expert on BDSM. I haven’t read a huge amount of it, and I went into this book prepared to face things my ignorance would prevent me from immediately understanding. However, given the lack of trigger warning, I was sorely unprepared for the appallingly handled scenes of sexual violence.

More of that later.

Let me start with the aspects of the book I enjoyed. Wesley. Despite his propensity to burst into tears at any given moment, I liked Wesley. The kid was sweet and shy, awkward and slightly ridiculous. Some of my favorite things. His insta-love feelings for Scotty are slightly simpering, but I got over it.

I also enjoyed the ‘scene’ between the other MC, Scotty, and another ‘sub’ Kevin. Despite Scotty’s inner monologue trying (and failing) to convince me that cheating is only cheating if penetration is involved, the dynamic felt right, and managed to shine through the dodgy writing.

Unfortunately, the positives ended there, for me at least, and the first warning sign that this book wasn’t going to work for me came when Scotty, a librarian, first lays eyes on Wesley, a young student he worries (given how hot he thinks he is) might still be in high school.

Now, my issue with this sequence is difficult to explain, because Scotty doesn’t exactly think anything would stand up in court, but the tone of the scene left a really bad taste in my mouth. It set Scotty up as creepy, and slightly sleazy, and it was a sensation that stayed with me throughout the book. This feeling increased with every page, especially when I realized every single sex scene in this book is performed without a jot of preparation. Even the consensual ones.

The setup of the BDSM club, Barringers, is all wrong too. Like I said, I’m no expert, but from what I know of BDSM, the clubs are stringently managed, with the safety of sub and doms alike, absolutely paramount. Not so in Barringers. In this place, doms seem to be permitted to ‘get a bit rough’ with subs with no security or consequences. The atmosphere is not one of erotically charged submission, but more one of crass bullying.

Sticking with the BDSM theme, this where Scotty becomes a thoroughly dislikable character. I know some people find it hard to connect with doms in general. I’m not one of them–I get it, I just don’t do it–but I challenge anyone to connect with Scotty. Hell, I don’t think the dude even likes himself, or the lifestyle he chooses to be so deeply involved in.

When I read BDSM, I enjoy an MC describing a lifestyle they are truly passionate about. A lifestyle they believe in, and showing me a world I know little about. But here, the general impression I get is that Scotty is thoroughly disillusioned with the whole thing. Also, stilted dialogue and a brattish internal voice paint him as a whiny control freak. I usually get epic feels for MCs with tortured pasts. Not here. Here it seemed a license for Scotty to be an asshole, and I didn’t like it. To me, it felt like sexual abuse was being used as a crude plot device, and not used well.

Which brings me to my next point. The rape scenes. I just…no. Not only did the first one smack me in the face right in the middle of some mindboggling headhopping, but it also left the very serious issue of nonconsensual sex…rape…trivialized and sidelined in a way that is utterly unforgivable.

‘It wasn’t like he’d been raped.’

Wasn’t it? I think it was, and the fact that Dustin, a secondary character, didn’t seem to comprehend what had happened to him was written in such a way that by the end of the chapter, I was left feeling as though this was because it didn’t really matter. That rape was something that just happened in every book. No need to explain, or take the time to explore the devastating emotions. Just throw it in and blunder on.

Keeping with the rape theme. Later in the book, Wesley is assaulted by the same man. Beaten, broken and on the verge of another violent rape scene. He’s rescued eventually, but what follows is probably one of the most vile things I’ve ever read. Scotty takes Wesley home and proceeds to throw a tantrum about his perceived loss of ‘control’. The whole thing was…hideous. And not just because the issues at hand are controversial. The technical quality of the writing and editing is also very poor. The character POV’s switch from sentence to sentence with no warning at all, and at times I had no idea whose perspective I was supposed to be interpreting.

By the time the death of another character, Jesse, is glossed over without little reaction from Wesley (they are supposed to be close friends), I’d just about lost my wits, or the inclination to care.

There is a lot going in this book. Perhaps too much, and as a result, nothing is explored properly, or well. The BDSM theme is patchy, and inconsistent. The numerous scenes of sexual violence swing between blasé and grotesque, and the actual romance of the book is lost in the ego of a thoroughly unlikable MC.

Rant over. I didn’t enjoy this book, and I didn’t enjoy writing this review. I picked it up because the blurb intrigued me. Persevered because I liked Wesley and I hoped some clumsy handling of sensitive themes would get better. It didn’t. Shame, because with a more likeable MC than Scotty, some stronger writing and edited to be coherent, this book could’ve been good. Maybe.

Unfortunately, it was not. One star.

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12 comments

  • I’ve seen your warning on Goodreads and I have already taken this book of my TBR list. You have no idea how much I appreciate it, I don’t have money to waste and, frankly, this book would push almost every NO button of mine. While I sometimes enjoy reading BDSM, but… no. Thank you.

    Reply
  • I have always enjoyed well-written BDSM stories especially those with the safety of the protagonists uppermost. Many BDSM books are some of my favourites. Safety seems to be totally disregarded here and I’m always concerned that some readers, inexperienced in the lifestyle, would try to practice what they read and get hurt or hurt someone else. This is not a lifestyle to be trivialized and BDSM stories with what appear to be minimal research make me really angry.

    As for the rape (s), that is even more egregious. More and more M/M books are including horrible rape scenes with no regard for the protagonist’s well being, mentally or physically, because there is a prevailing attitude that gay men should expect to be raped “after all, what’s the big deal – they are gay, and being raped goes with their lifestyle”. Also these books sell because some readers love them. I refuse to read books with rape scenes in them, so this one is definitely not for me.

    As Raine said, the title is definitely at odds with the story.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the support, Wave. You know I tore my hair out over this one. Thing is, I’m prepared to accept I’m no expert on BDSM, but the problems with this book run far deeper than my own ignorance. And, like I said to you a few days ago, my views on this book are not unique.

      Reply
  • Thank you for the honest review. One of the main reasons I like this site is that, even if I may disagree, I know that the reviewers don’t automatically give high reviews. It makes me trust the high ratings more.

    Reply
  • If a book has rape(s) in them, I would appreciate a trigger warning. While I normally like this author’s books, I’ll have to skip this one because of that issue. I understand writing a 1-star review is tough, but you explained your reasons why it didn’t work for you. Thanks for the review, otherwise I would have bought it based on my past good experiences with this author.

    Reply
    • Since reading the book, I’ve seen a warning on the publishers website, but there is none in the book itself. I tormented myself over whether to just ditch the book and not review it at all, but in the end, I figured there was more wrong with the actual writing than it simply not being to my personal taste.

      Thanks for the comment 🙂

      Reply
  • I think BDSM is the most difficult genre to get right for me. This sounds pretty dreadful. The title seems totally at odds with the action. Thanks for the painstaking review, cos I was tempted and am so pleased I did not get this one.

    Reply
    • I didn’t take the one star review lightly, and despite being a contrary old queen, I didn’t enjoy doing it either. Wave will tell ya, I tore my hair (what’s left of it) out over this one.

      For me, any emotion the book could’ve held was tainted by the crass handling of sensitive subjects.

      Thanks for reading 🙂

      Reply

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