Can a person who is not into BDSM be turned into a dominant? This is the question Ms Barnaby tackles.
Ben Martin is a painslut who uses BDSM as a band-aid for the emotional issues he refuses to face. The pain of the body helps him reset and keep his nightmares at bay. His service Dom, Kage, is good at pushing the boundaries and providing the pain Ben needs.
First, let's get the items that I didn't like about this book out of the way. I don't like stories where the submissive uses BDSM as self-therapy to hide from addressing their problems. Second, I do not like stories which drag a vanilla person into the lifestyle and the person miraculously becomes a perfect Dominant to an experienced submissive. Both of these are hot buttons for me. So why does this story still rate a four star? Is it the passionate man-love? No. Is it the amazing BDSM scenes? No, although that does play a part in the rating.
What made this story so good for me is that it moved me and hit home. Jude loves Ben. He's been Ben's roommate for a couple of years. He is vanilla and finds physically hurting a person completely abhorrent. This one scene is what undoes me. It's so painful to read that it manifests into physical pain for me.
"I will do this," Jude said quietly, one finger tracing up and down Ben's thumb as he spoke, "with one condition." Ben's expression went from hopeful to wary in an instant. He glanced at Gio for a moment and then back to Jude.
"What is the condition?" The question came not from Ben, but from Gio.
"I will give up my soul in this dungeon. I will find a way to make peace with this, but in return, you have to see the therapist Gio suggested," Jude said and watched the changing expressions on Ben's face. (page 156)
This says it all for me. The amount of love Jude holds in his heart for Ben is exhibited in two ways which Ms Barnaby demonstrates so eloquently. Just in case the reader misses her quick one-two punch to the gut, she explains it through Gio. Essentially, Jude offers to sacrifice his own sanity to ensure Ben will receive the care he needs.
I've thoroughly enjoyed every book written by Ms Barnaby. She generates the right amount of angst with a very sharp point. This induces an emotion in me which makes the book rate higher. Because not only will I remember it, I will remember how I felt. The pain she arouses is exquisite and just the way I prefer.
Let's examine the BDSM in this story. She's done a great job of capturing a perspective to BDSM lifestyle. This imbalance between an experienced submissive and a novice Dominant is all too real. Ben's selfish manipulations are easy to understand and a trap too easy to fall into. For kinky readers who are submissive and enjoy the pain brought through a combination of submission and impact play, Ben's strong desires are achingly familiar. The BDSM activities are, in some ways, addictive. Flying through subspace produced through physical pain and giving power to a Dominant is indescribable. Ms Barnaby's description through Ben's point of view barely scratches the surface. What I liked about Ben's journey is that Ms Barnaby shows how Ben makes mistakes and wants to change for the better. Rather than lecturing the reader, we watch Ben mature and arrive to some harsh realizations.
The training of a Dominant from pure vanilla is interesting. Jude's struggles between what he feels is right and what his lover wants is accurate and insightful. Ms Barnaby does an excellent job of showing how Jude did have some inclination which allows for a possible adventure into the kinky lifestyle. What I really appreciated is how Jude never becomes a replacement for Kage. Jude turns into a Dominant in his own right and in a way he is comfortable with. This is the most important key to this story. Jude and Ben's relationship is unique and different from Kage and Ben's relationship. There is no good or bad. I appreciate this fine distinction.
Finally, I will gush over the fire flogging. I am a huge fan of fireplay. I've experienced it many times and each time I love it more. I have my own fireplay set. I do not have any reservations like Ben. One could theorize it's because I've never been burned. That would be false. To be fair, I've never had more than a first degree burn. One of my fondest wishes is to be fire flogged. Not just with one flogger, but with two in a Florentine flogging. Reading about the fire flogging in this book only increases my desire to experience it.
This m/m romance is highly recommended to those who want an inside look to how a D/s relationship starts.