A guest review by Jenre
Jade Swift has always wanted a man to fall madly in love with him and make him his own. He wants to be mastered. When he meets Marcus Wynterbourne, a dominant man with a passion for the whip, it is love at first sight.
Marcus is an MP, gay, and trying to live as freely as he can in 1885 when his sexuality’s not tolerated and his association with the beautiful Jade leads to rampant speculation. Hurt by a past betrayal, and unable to accept Jade’s loyalty because of his flirtatious nature, he casts Jade out of his house.
But Jade loves his Master and wants only to please him. Determined, he will do what he must to win his Master’s trust and restore his reputation amongst others who would ruin him.
I seem to have been reading quite a lot of D/s books recently but so far this historical is the first book I’ve read which explores the master/slave relationship.
The story is written in the first person from the point of view of 18 year old Jade. He’s been brought up in the theatre by his singer mother, and was a child star with an angelic singing voice. When his voice broke he found himself out of a job, and eventually his mother persuaded him to leave the theatre world and apply for a job as secretary to MP Marcus Winterbourne. As soon as Jade meets the stern MP he feels the stirrings of attraction which manifests itself as a strong desire to please his master.
Like all books written in the first person, this book’s strength relies on a sympathetic narrator. It was unfortunate then that I never really warmed to Jade. I found him irritating in the extreme as he whines, pouts and cries his way through the book, behaving like a spoiled child rather than the young man he really is. He’s selfish and vain, bursting into tears at the slightest provocation and generally being a complete nuisance. On many occasions in the book other characters refer to his intelligence, but for most of the book he doesn’t act intelligent, quite the opposite in fact, as he behaves in a rash, impetuous, childish manner and doesn’t think his actions through properly. After a while, I began to wonder whether his so-called intelligence sprang only from his ability to read and write, and being a historical where many people of his social class probably wouldn’t be able to read I could understand that.
Another aspect of Jade which I found quite baffling is that he doesn’t appear to have gone through puberty. He often refers to the fact that his voice has broken but then also tells us that he has no pubic hair, nor does he have facial hair. I thought this all rather odd and it reinforced in my mind that he was more like a child than a man, especially when coupled with his behaviour which matched that of a prepubescent boy. Jade’s reactions to Marcus were also very child-like in that he wholly accepts Marcus’ dominance of him and never questions why he should want to submit to Marcus in the way that he does. This made it difficult for me to understand Jade’s motivations as the only explanation he gives for why he obeys Marcus is that he loves him and wants to serve him. I would have expected an intelligent man to be able to articulate better the reasons for wanting to submit to, what would seem on the surface, cruel treatment from Marcus. Instead I was fobbed off with protestations of love when I wanted a deeper analysis of Jade’s emotional state. Marcus himself was a complete enigma – probably deliberately so as Jade cannot work out his moods or wishes half the time. Marcus is one of those Doms who is totally in control and never do any wrong which actually just made him seem a little smug.
Once Jade has been cast out by Marcus, I found myself liking Jade a whole lot better. The way that he deals with his new situation as footman shows that actually he does have intelligence. Much is made of the fact that Jade has grown up in the theatre and so it surprised me that for the first part of the book he seemed so overwhelmingly naive. However, in the second part he begins to show his cunning and a certain wry sense of humour which hadn’t been apparent earlier in the book. It was a shame then when Marcus came back into the book and Jade reverted back to his previous form.
I feel I ought to make some comment about the fact that this is an historical, but I feel rather ill qualified to do so. It seemed accurate and I even looked up some of the references to devices found in Marcus’ dungeon and they were correct for the time the book was written. I liked the scenes where Jade describes his life in the theatre and I also liked the hierarchy of the servants in both of the houses where Jade is employed, as both of these settings are very different to the usual ‘upper class’ settings in historical romance. Perhaps those of you with a greater knowledge of the Victorian period would be able to spot mistakes which passed me by, but I would still recommend this to those who like an historical setting for their books.
In some ways, I’ve found it quite difficult to set out my feelings about this book because I’m very aware that a reader who likes Jade will have a very different view to the book that I have. My grade is mostly based on that, rather than the quality of the writing – which was very good – and the setting or plot – which was unusual and interesting. Having said that, the character of Jade does rather dominate the book so I still stand by the grade I’ve decided on. What I will say is that, if you like historicals and Master/slave books then I would still suggest you read this book, as your feelings for Jade may differ from mine. In which case you may find this to be a well written and enjoyable book.