Title: Slave Master’s Choice
Author: Kimberly Gardner
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: M/M BDSM fantasy romance
Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
A fluid, easy read with a very mild Master/Slave theme but which left me a little unsatisfied with the characterisation.
When Alejandro finds himself captured and taken into slavery in the hostile kingdom of Inemor, his first priority is getting free and going home. The last thing he expects is to become His Majesty’s favorite plaything. But between his natural penchant for the touch of a man–a thing forbidden in his homeland– and the sensual attentions of the charismatic slave master, he discovers captivity is far more liberating than freedom.
Once a pleasure slave himself, Kedmund is now master of the king’s elite cadre of playmates, a post which grants him sexual access to any slave at any time. But no man has ever touched his heart until Alejandro. Though he fights his attraction to the beautiful slaveboy, he finds himself continually drawn in, risking more with each encounter until desire becomes his greatest nemesis.
But when murder is done and Alejandro is accused, the ultimate question of loyalty or love threatens both their lives and all that matters is the Slave Master’s Choice.
Slave Master’s Choice begins with the character of Alejandro waking up injured in a strange house. He’s the only survivor of an attack on his group of soldiers who were on a scouting mission in a neighbouring country to his own. Once just about recovered he sets off to the nearest city, hoping to find a way of getting back to his own country. However, things do not go to plan with Alejandro is captured and placed into slavery. His good looks count in his favour as he is sent to be a sexual slave in the King’s household where he meets the slave master, Kedmund.
Those of you who have seen this book is a master/slave romance and have been put off by that idea, then don’t be. The slavery theme is present in the book but it’s also very mild, almost sanitised with many scenes happening ‘off page’. In fact this was a bit of a criticism of the book, in my opinion, as I felt a little cheated out of reading the emotions around being forced into sexual servitude. Alejandro’s first and subsequent times in the King’s bed are all told to us second hand. In some ways I can understand that – some readers do not like any on page sex between characters other than the romantic pairing – but it did mean that the reader ends up getting told a lot of Alejandro’s experience as a slave either through Alejandro’s thoughts or through the observations of Kedmund, rather than experiencing it along with him.
Another reason not to be out off is that, given the subject matter, this isn’t actually that heavy a read. There’s some angst, but it’s not as a result of the situation that Alejandro finds himself in. In fact he rather likes being the sexual favourite of the king because homosexuality is not tolerated in his own country. To me this seemed a little far fetched, especially when at the beginning Alejandro wants to return home, but suddenly seems to forget all about it and chooses life at the palace instead. It was little inconsistencies such as these which meant that I didn’t empathise as well with Alejandro as I might have done if he’d remained the tough soldier-like man he is at the start.
I did, however, like Kedmund a great deal. He’s an older man (although we are never told exactly how old) who was the previous king’s favourite bed-slave and as such gained an important place in the household after the previous king’s death. One thing I thought was explored well was Kedmund’s tenuous authority within the palace and in particular how his status as a former slave makes him despised by some. I thought the fantasy world building surrounding the slaves and how they are integrated into life with the free people was well thought out and Kedmund’s role where he straddles the line between free and slave makes him an interesting character. I also really liked his relationship with Pelli, the young man who works with the slaves, towards whom he has a father-figure type of role. This again made Kedmund a very sympathetic character in my eyes.
A final niggle was that the end of the book was a little jumbled and confused, with many characters acting rather irrationally with no real reasons given for their behaviour. In particular I was a little disgruntled that the villain of the story didn’t get any comeuppance as I was waiting eagerly for his downfall, which unfortunately never came. The story does end on a HFN which suggests there may be a sequel in the works. In which case I’m hoping for a better showdown and defeat of the bad guy!
Overall, I had mixed feelings about this book. It was a really easy read with a fast pace and writing that flowed. Despite the theme, the story was fairly upbeat for most of the time, and the sexual tension between the characters worked in the story’s favour. However, the fact that we get a lot of Alejandro’s experiences second hand, and also some of the inconsistencies with his characterisation meant that it was a book I enjoyed but which didn’t stand out from the crowd. If you like slave/master romances then you may well like this one, although it’s very tame. If you don’t like the more hardcore slave/master books but are interested in the fantasy theme, then this is a book you may well enjoy.