Their Experience Was STAGED–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m really excited to share a review for a new alternate universe M/M romance from Kim Fielding. You already know I enjoyed A SECOND HARVEST and LOVE CAN’T CONQUER, but STAGED is something altogether different. It’s a new episode in the Belonging ‘Verse series offered by Riptide Publishing, and it’s a really unique story setting. All the stories take place in a world very much like ours, except slavery was never outlawed…

Staged (Belonging, #3)About the book:
Once the second-prize winner on My Slave’s Got Talent, Sky Blue has spent the past few years singing at a failing New York nightclub. While Sky has never had control over his fate, his life seems to take a turn for the worse when he’s torn from the familiar comfort of performing and sold to a rich and enigmatic man.

Morgan Wallace takes his newly purchased slave to San Francisco, his intentions unclear. On the one hand, he treats Sky with more kindness than Sky has ever known—treats him like a real person. On the other hand, he shares Sky at parties hosted by his sadistic new friends.

A confused slave is an endangered slave, and Sky isn’t even sure of his master’s real name. Is he Morgan Wallace, wealthy and cruel, or Mackenzie Webster, caring and compassionate? Caught between hope, fear, and an undeniably growing attachment, Sky struggles to untangle which parts are real and which are merely a performance. His future, his heart, and even his life may depend on it.

Reader discretion advised. This title contains the following sensitive themes: dubious consent, explicit violence and non-consent.

My Review:
This book is the third set in the “Belonging ‘Verse” series that explores an alternate world where slavery was never abolished, and is set in current times. It is a stand alone read.

The book has these warnings: dubious consent, explicit violence, and non-consent. You need to understand that this is a fictional slave society. Slaves are not allowed to refuse any task or action desired by any master, even ones not their own. This book contains rapes and horrific beatings of slaves, including the MC, Sky Blue.

Sky Blue is a slave, born from a slave in a whorehouse, though his father was a well-known freeman singer. He was sold at age 8 to a music producer. He later took second in a slave singing competition, and toured the world with the all-slave band 2Nyte. These days he sings in a rundown club, and he knows his days are numbered there. He’s not surprised when he’s sold to a slave trader, and he’s fretful, awaiting purchase in a filthy warehouse where he’s caged all day and night. Then he’s bought.

Morgan Wallace seems wealthy and kind, at first, but he’s never handled a slave before. Sky is anxious for direction, and has no idea what to do with himself. He travels from NYC to San Francisco and there he learns the worst of his new experience. He and Morgan make the rounds at all-male, private, BDSM parties. Which are horrifying. Truly. Not only are the slaves there mistreated, they are disfigured and raped for the dubious enjoyment of their masters. These are freemen who take great pleasure in breaking the toys of their fellows.

Morgan seems genuinely apologetic and torn regarding his employment of Sky at these parties. He seemingly takes no pleasure in it, and spends days tending Sky’s wounds in the aftermath. He buys Sky all sorts of gifts, and it’s utterly confusing to Sky. Why? Why torture? Why make amends? Can none of these people see him as human? The answer to that is: NO. Sky challenges Morgan’s beliefs regarding the intellect of slaves, but Morgan’s in a position where he can’t stop his association with the horrible cretins, and manumission (freeing of a slave) is not allowable–unlawful–in any case. That said, he has a genuine affection for Sky. Sky’s also perversely attracted to Morgan–and often takes the upper hand in their private, intimate activities. Sky’s never had a home, only a place to stay where he was communally housed with other slaves. The apartment that he and Morgan share is the first place that feels uniquely home to him.

I don’t want to give away the big twist, but I will acknowledge that I expected it. Morgan’s activity is too shady, and his remorse too sincere. He’s clearly playing a dangerous game with Sky and his new BDSM associates, and he’s unable to pull out, even if it means hurting Sky more and more. Still, Morgan recognizes that Sky is as much a man as he is, and just as intelligent, debunking the indoctrinated fiction that slaves are somehow lesser beings, and unable to feel any sense of their position. This makes Morgan realize that his actions are all the more heinous.

I loved how Sky was so in touch with his humanity, and the limitations and injustice of his station. While there is absolutely a thriller/horrifying aspect to the book, the ending is truly tender and spectacular. Sky never imagined what his fate might be, but he made actual decisions–generally forbidden–that directed the course of his new life and happiness. When he had the opportunities to escape, he demonstrated, without any shadow of doubt, his humanity and commitment to Morgan. It was really so sweet, and I was happily rewarded by bearing witness to Sky’s HEA.

Writing a book from a slave’s perspective is never easy, I imagine. This whole alternate universe is a statement about control, and the lack of it. It allows deep investigation of the darker side of humanity, perspectives that linger malevolently on the side of our current experience, but have never really faded: entitlement, prejudice, absolute power, exploitation, and the like. It’s not a pretty picture–and surely exists on the fringe of society today. By internalizing these stories, readers are able to gain a new empathy for those who don’t have any real power over their destiny or livelihood. I enjoyed the previous two books in this series for that same reason. That said, none of the books are upbeat or happy, though they do end with an HEA, as well. There are no actual repercussions for owners who abuse their slaves, while there are many torments to which a slave can be subject, not the least of which is being sold off to work in dangerous mines. There is a small movement to abolish slavery, but it is still in its infancy.

You are warned in the blurbs–non-consent, violence and dark themes within. Let the reader be wary.

Interested? You can find STAGED on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and AllRomance. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
venicebigKim Fielding is the bestselling, award-winning author of numerous m/m romance novels, novellas, and short stories. Like Kim herself, her work is eclectic, spanning genres such as contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and historical. Her stories are set in alternate worlds, in 15th century Bosnia, in modern-day Oregon. Her heroes are hipster architect werewolves, housekeepers, maimed giants, and conflicted graduate students. They’re usually flawed, they often encounter terrible obstacles, but they always find love.

After having migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States, Kim calls the boring part of California home. She lives there with her husband, her two daughters, and her day job as a university professor, but escapes as often as possible via car, train, plane, or boat. This may explain why her characters often seem to be in transit as well. She dreams of traveling and writing full-time.

Catch up to Kim on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

How He Became A PROPER LOVER–Review and Get Your Free Book

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a newer series I have gone crazy for: The Ganymede Quartet books by Darrah Glass. I reviewed the first book, A MOST PERSONAL PROPERTY, before and it’s a really interesting, fun, sexy read. A PROPER LOVER is the second in a series of alt history/historical books where slavery still exists in the year 1900, and wealthy people purchase same-sex slaves for their adolescent children, so-called “companion” slaves, to allow for disgorgement of sexual tension in a “healthy manner.” The protagonists are teen boys, but this is an ADULT book. There is boatloads of graphic gay sex, which doesn’t trouble me a whit. You are hereby warned.

A Proper Lover (Ganymede Quartet, #2)About the book:
What does it mean to belong to someone?

Henry Blackwell is the happiest he’s ever been, and it’s all because of his companion slave Martin. Every experience, whether it be mundane or spectacular, is improved by having Martin at his side. The better Henry gets to know his slave, the deeper his feelings grow. Though the physical attraction between them is undeniable, Henry’s sure there’s more to their relationship than just sex. He can’t be certain, as it’s never happened before, but he believes he might be falling in love.

Henry’s friends are ready and willing to put their own slaves aside in favor of female companionship, and they’re beginning to wonder why Henry isn’t interested in girls. Henry only wants to be with Martin and doesn’t know how much longer he can use “late bloomer” as an excuse. The holiday season approaches, along with the promise of parties with friends and family. Henry doesn’t want to share Martin with his friends, but he doesn’t like being left out. Will he stand up for himself—and Martin—when it counts?

My Review:
Here’s what I love about these books: the love.

Henry Blackwell is the son, and heir, of the richest man in NYC in 1900. He also has an “unnatural” attraction to his companion slave, Martin. They engage in sex whenever and wherever possible. It’s socially acceptable for Henry to “use” Martin, but not to kiss him, or to ensure that Martin is satisfied. No, proper slave owners simply take their own pleasure and pay no heed to their slaves wishes, or comfort.

But, that isn’t Henry.

He adores Martin, and spoils him whenever possible. Part of Henry’s generosity comes from his own father’s egalitarian example: the Blackwell slaves are some of the most respected on account of their fair treatment. The rest? Henry craves affection. His mother and father are extremely distant parents. The only real love Henry has ever known has come from the slaves of the house and his Uncle Reggie, who moved to Italy nearly a decade ago. And Martin seems more than acceptably affectionate with Henry, too.

Though they have only had sexual relations for a few weeks Henry is sure he loves Martin. This he hides deep inside. It’s hard enough wondering if Martin could return his sentiment, but fearing a luke-warm reception to his fervor keeps Henry from revealing his true feelings–at least verbally. The boys spend a lot of time physically demonstrating their passion.

Before this time Martin believed Henry had no interest in him, and even cast some “slave magic” spells to attract Henry’s regard. Martin confides this to Henry, who endeavors to demonstrate that his love for Martin is not of the magical variety.

The book is so fun. I love the historical setting, and the deepening of the relationship between Henry and Martin. It is for Martin that Henry breaks through his shell, and endeavors to be a better student and brother.

All of Henry’s friends regularly share their slaves, trading them for sexual favors like one might hand off a piece of gum or a sweater to a pal. Henry abhors this idea, though he gets drawn in inadvertently, leaving open the question of fidelity for one’s slave.

I’m so glad it ended how it had! And, I look forward to book three most eagerly. I received an ARC of this book because I’m a super fangirl and begged the author.

Interested? You can find A PROPER LOVER on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

You can test drive this series for free by reading A SUPERIOR SLAVE, the prequel to A MOST PERSONAL PROPERTY, available on Goodreads Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

You can find Book 1, A MOST PERSONAL PROPERTY, on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

And Book 2.5, A MASTER’S FIDELITY, is also free. And, I loved it. Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

About the Author:
Darrah Glass is a writer and generally inquisitive person who likes her fantasies to be as historically accurate as possible. She loves research, sex scenes, and researching sex scenes. She’s married and happily childless, does yoga, never cleans her house, likes shoes and toenail polish, and is vain about her hair. As far as her priorities are concerned, she’d rather write than do just about anything else, and she drives a 15-year-old car but carries really nice purses.

You can catch up with Darrah on Goodreads, her website and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends! 🙂

Taken by A MOST PERSONAL PROPERTY–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing an alt/history novel where slavery is legal and wealthy families buy companion slaves for their teen children as a symbol of status, and well, for companionship. A MOST PERSONAL PROPERTY by Darrah Glass is a gay novel, and though the characters are all 16 it is NOT YA.

I’ve read a few interesting iterations on this theme of male sexual slavery. Notably COUNTERPUNCH by Aleksandr Voinov, ANCHORED by Rachel Haimowitz, and AN UNUSUAL WHORE by Belinda McBride.

I’m not sure why this subgenre of gay romance is so compelling, but I find there’s a lot of heart in these stories. And, especially in, perhaps irrationally, hoping that masters come to an arrangement with their intimate slaves that is more one of equity, than of superiority.

A Most Personal Property (Ganymede Quartet Book 1)About the book:
In the heat of August 1900, Henry Blackwell—rich, handsome, and painfully shy—anticipates the purchase of his companion slave, that most personal of properties, with equal parts excitement and dread. There are limits to what a gentleman might do with his slave and still remain a gentleman, and what Henry craves goes far beyond what’s allowed.

Martin, a slave from House Ganymede, is the most beautiful young man Henry’s ever seen, and he’s ready and willing to do as Henry commands, but Henry’s afraid to ask him for what he really needs. A master needn’t care what a slave thinks or how he feels, but Henry can’t help wanting Martin to like him anyway. If Henry could be certain Martin wanted the same things he does, he might be bold enough to reveal his secrets.

Unfolding against a backdrop of progress, privilege and turn-of-the-century amusements, the four installments of the Ganymede Quartet present an erotic coming-of-age fantasy of Gilded Age New York in which young men from the richest families form intense bonds with the slaves who serve them.

My Review:
I loved this book. I read the FREE prequel, A SUPERIOR SLAVE, and adored Martin, the Top Boy of all the Ganymede Companion slaves up for sale in August 1900. (See my review here.) It oriented me to the alternate reality/Historical world in which these books are set.

In Martin’s world, rich people buy slaves for their pubescent children to use as sex surrogates. So, a wealthy boy of sixteen would go to an auction of male Companions. He would purchase one who would become his valet, and trusted life-long Companion, meaning that sexual relations with his Companion was a socially acceptable alternative to low-class whores, unsavory working-class women, or self-polluting masturbation, well at least until he married. At that point his companion would become a personal secretary with no further sexual duties.

This story is told from the POV of Henry, a wealthy boy with a big secret. He’s queer. He’s always desired boys, mostly his best friend Louis’s older brother James. He wishes for a Companion, not because he is anxious to have sex–as all his rich friends are–but because he doesn’t wish to be different from them, left behind. His nouveau riche father is respected, but Henry recognizes that his social station is tenuous. And, while his friends have all been having chats with their fathers regarding slave ownership, Henry’s father has made no mention of it–despite the fact of Henry’s father having his own Companion.

How humiliating it would be to not have a companion slave! If Father wold not give him one, maybe he would at least allow Henry to go to a different school, some abolitionist institution where his companionless state would not be unusual or shameful.

But how would Henry get anywhere in life without a slave of his own? A man of their class without a companion might as well be no gentleman at all.

Turns out, Henry worried for naught. His father did in fact plan to purchase a Companion for him. Of course, there is that old chestnut: be careful what you wish for…

What Henry wanted out of life was to share something tender with another young man, to reveal his secret self and act out all his shameful fantasies with his precious friend, and he wanted to be able to do this without censure or reproof.

Although Henry would never be allowed to have this sort of relationship with another free boy, he could have some of what he wanted with a slave; he would be encouraged to have it, even…However there were limitations on what a gentleman could do with a slave and still remain a gentleman and everyone understood what they were. There would be no kissing, no caressing, no mutuality; such things were the province of fairies and queers, and Henry would not be allowed to become and invert.

He wasn’t willing to concede he was a fairy, but he might well be queer.

Quite the conundrum when he meets Martin at the auction.

Every line of his body was taut and graceful. Again, he met Henry’s eyes and gave him a shy, beguiling smile. Henry looked away to hide his blush. The boy was so beautiful he made Henry’s heart ache.

Martin is won at the auction, after a furious bidding war, and Henry is at once elated and frightened.

“He belongs to you now.” Father reminded him. “He’ll attend you at school , of course and Timothy will want to teach him a few things. Beyond that, you may do with him as you see fit.” Here, Father cleared his throat. “Within reason.” Henry blushed and turned away as Father added in a low voice, “You’ll remember what we’ve talked about. He’s a handsome boy, and you’re both of an age…” It was too mortifying for words and Henry hoped that Martin hadn’t overheard.

Even the normal duties of Martin attending as a valet are fraught with troubles for Henry.

Martin helped him pull his shirt over his head and put it in the laundry basket with the collar and cuffs. Before Martin could put his hands on Henry’s fly, Henry hurried to unbutton his own trousers and let them drop to his ankles; he did not want Martin touching his waist, his hips, his thighs. He did not trust his body to behave in proximity to Martin. He stood in his undershirt and drawers feeling miserably vulnerable and exposed.

Martin knelt at his feet, removing Henry’s socks. He looked up at Henry and smiled. “Do you change your underthings with your dinner clothes, Sir?”

If he said yes, he’d have to be naked in front of Martin. “Uh, no,” he said.

But none are more problematic as when Martin makes his other, more interesting, purposes plain.

“Is there anything I might do for you, Sir?” Martin asked. getting more slowly to his feet. “Anything at all?” When Henry did not immediately answer, he added, “I should be very happy to serve you. That is what I’m here for,” in a low, intimate tone.

So, while Henry is totally gone for Martin, he’s terrified of being found out a queer. While all Henry’s friends make hard use of their Companions, Henry is a paragon of restraint. So much so, Henry is afraid Martin suspects something is wrong with him.

“Is there anything I might do for you, Sir? You’ve been so generous with me, Sir. I’d be pleased to be of service.” He stood before Henry, hands behind his back, shifting from one foot to the other. He looked so hopeful. He had to be wondering what was wrong with Henry. Maybe he even guessed.

Fast forward to the HEA. Because there is one. Henry, slowly, learns to manage his fears–prodded on when one of Henry’s classmates assaults Mertin. In the period between, from purchase to service, Henry and Martin develop a solid rapport. Martin is Henry’s intimate confidante, and his closest friend. And the passion they later share is only more sweet for all the development.

Martin, though, seemed happy with Henry’s paltry compliments. He ran his hands over Henry’s body, such voracious hands. “You want to be a real lover to me, don’t you, Henry?”
“Yes,” Henry said fervently. “Yes, I do.”
“Then we’ll be lovers, Sir, and no one else need know.”

No mistakes, this is a scorching read. Not suitable for kiddos, but truly enjoyable for those who like historical romance, and particularly gay romance. I loved the language. I loved the setting, and the period. I loved the long wait, as Henry worked through his fears. I ached for both him and Martin–who is totally smitten with Henry and can’t understand why Henry recoils from his subtle advances. I eagerly await the next book in this series.

Interested? You can find A MOST PERSONAL PROPERTY on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I read a review copy from NetGalley.

A MOST SUPERIOR SLAVEA Superior Slave (Ganymede Quartet Book 0.5) is a FREE prequel novella which absolutely drew me into this world, and made me fall in love with Martin and his simple dream of being purchased by a good-looking young man who would be kind, honest and loving. Oh, and who might have younger siblings that he could play with. Oh, and who might become a discreet lover. Okay, perhaps Martin had pretty high ideals. For a slave, they’re unrealistic, flighty and uppity desires. But, heck, those are the same dreams to which I think anyone might ascribe. This book is told from Martin’s POV and involves a whole lot of polyamory. After all, companion slaves need to know how to have sex if they’re going to be good companions. And Martin, well, Martin is the best.

You can find A MOST SUPERIOR SLAVE on Goodreads Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

About the Author:
Darrah Glass is a writer and generally inquisitive person who likes her fantasies to be as historically accurate as possible. She loves research, sex scenes, and researching sex scenes. She’s married and happily childless, does yoga, never cleans her house, likes shoes and toenail polish, and is vain about her hair. As far as her priorities are concerned, she’d rather write than do just about anything else, and she drives a 15-year-old car but carries really nice purses.

You can catch up with Darrah on Goodreads, her website and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends! 🙂

She Survived Being NEARLY BROKEN–A Review

How does a girl survive sexual slavery?

Today’s book is a heavy one–no doubt. NEARLY BROKEN by Devon Ashley is a contemporary New Adult romance that deals with the horrifying world of human trafficking and sexual slavery.

Nearly Broken (Nearly, #1)Claire was only seventeen when she was abducted from her Portland, Oregon home. Not that she remembers that life.

Hiding out in a tiny town, Megan hides the scars caused by the fire that set her free. The fire that she set to kill her captor and escape the brutal rapes she had been enduring the past six months.

Now, two years after her abduction and escape, a new man enters Megan’s life. Nick, a new cook at her diner is relentless in his interest. But, who could love such a filthy girl? And, a scarred one, to boot! At least this is how Megan thinks. She’s had too much turmoil to ever be “normal”, and yet Nick doesn’t seem to care. Because he’s a seemingly homeless drifter, like herself, Megan agrees to let Nick sleep on the couch in her apartment. The attraction between them grows, until something terrifying happens–Megan discovers a photo album in Nick’s possession. Filled with pictures of a missing girl named Claire who looks just like Megan. The love of Nick’s life…

Megan has no memories of being Claire–can’t really accept that she was someone once beloved by many–but she agrees to travel back with Nick to meet Claire’s family and take a DNA test to prove that she and Claire are the same person.

Just when Megan seems to get some of the Swiss cheese holes of her memory filled, she’s thrown into another impossible situation. It’s a shocking and terrifying ride for a girl who has lost so much already.

In the past month I’ve read two sex slavery stories–not the playful BDSM romances, but novels featuring survivors of child exploitation and horrifying abuse. This one featured a female lead, and was just as terrifying as you can imagine the reality being. I was so grateful the book didn’t end on a cliffhanger, not that the end is truly upbeat. Megan has a lot of therapy and healing ahead of her, which will likely be a big part of the sequel, NEARLY MENDED.

(If you are interested in a male perspective of sexual slavery, you might want to check out THE DARKER SIDE OF TREY GREY, a M/M romance that packs a serious emotional punch.)

Interested? You can find NEARLY BROKEN on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Devon Ashley is a rather prolific writer–she has many books available, including WAITING ON MY REASON, a realistic contemporary romance I reviewed a couple months ago. NEARLY MENDED, the sequel to NEARLY BROKEN is coming out soon, as well. Check out Ms. Ashley’s Website for more info on her books!

Thanks for stopping by and keep reading my friends 🙂