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BDSM romance can come in different styles, from the light “bedroom kink” to an intense psychological journey through submission. Both are valid examples of the lifestyle and romance sub genre, they simply call for different emotional impacts. The book, Power Exchange, by A.J. Rose falls into the later category.
The title itself leads the reader to the heart of the novel: Power Exchange. The literal, the process found within BDSM when the sub gives their power over to the Dominant. The Dominant receives the “power” from the sub by gaining control. Of course, the sub still has a certain power by being able to stop everything by using a safeword. For more information you can go to this article. Power Exchange explorers this aspect of a D/s relationship, as well as dealing with a hot romance, and a murder “who done it”. But this book is so much more than face value; I found Power Exchange deeply moving and emotionally challenging.
Detective Gavin DeGrassi investigates a murder that points to the BDSM lifestyle. Under pressure to solve the case quickly and quietly he finds help in psychologist Ben Haverson. But what Gavin discovers along the way is his own hidden sexuality and submission.
Once again, we have a book set in first person, in this case, Gavin. He is someone who is hiding his homosexuality, and is indeed married. While discovering the murder of the BDSM case, he discovers his own submission through Ben. We can easily relate to Gavin. Where in our lives have we felt trapped and suffocated? He is stuck in the closet, married to a woman who is slowly emasculating him. He withdraws into the only passion he has left, his job and through this job he finds his liberation. We see his relationship with Ben here:
My chest flooded with warmth, at how this confident man– this person who had not once judged me for my inexperience or my uncertainty, had only held my hand and unhesitatingly walked with me through the scariest revelation of my life — had wormed his way behind my closet door and given me what I’d been afraid no one else could.
Acceptance. Before I’d even found the courage to admit I was in the closet.
There is much to say about Gavin’s emotional and character development, but I do not want to spoil the story. I felt such a kinship for Gavin, and the beginning of the book there were so many scenes with his partner, his family, and his wife in which he was overwhelmed. The author did such an excellent job of allowing us to feel his emotional claustrophobia.
Because we are not allowed Ben’s perspective, everything we know about Ben we see through Gavin’s eyes. It is through the suspense dialogue, play scenes, and romance that Ben’s character comes through. He is a leading Dom in the lifestyle, and a psychologist who helps those within the BDSM world. He comes into Gavin’s life understanding that he is in the closet and by being his friend helps him to step out of it. He also helps him to understand his submissive nature.
“Ah, the power exchange. A submissive’s greatest gift is giving someone else control. As I said last night to you and your partner, it takes more courage to kneel before another than to stand beside them. Subs are not weak. They simply choose to let someone else fulfill their desires, and trust that person to do so. They put their Dom’s wishes ahead of their own, and their payoff is a happy Dom, who also rewards them with praise and love and the safety net of guiding them around life’s obstacles.”
Ben is a man who we would all want to be friends with and he has a kind soul. He is the example that all Doms are not “Domly Doms” assholes.
A quote early on in the book discusses the theme:
Submissives enjoy making other people happy, and it doesn’t have to be only in the bedroom. It’s an exchange of power. Believe it or not, the subs have more power than you realize. They have the power to choose whether or not they give themselves to a Dom. Once the exchange is made, the Dom takes up that power to use as they see fit, but it’s a power they earn.”
As I hinted in the beginning of the post, on one level, this book is about a developing BDSM relationship. On another level, we see it as the awakening of one man from his submission of self his entire life and understanding to exchange the control of power from outside to within. This sentence is repeated throughout the book:
“They say it takes more courage to kneel before another than stand beside them.”
This is such a beautiful story about one man’s liberation.
The strong point of this book is the writing. A.J. Rose is an amazing writer, bringing a complex story to life in vivid descriptions. He balanced an intense crime story with a romantic love story in a BDSM setting. So often we find a BDSM story in a light fashion, it was refreshing to find something that delved into the psychology of a D/s relationship.
Another strong point is the murder mystery. I had figured it out before the end, but there was a great deal of suspense as we eliminated suspects and the body count increased. I spend a lot of time in reviews discussing the personal growth of a character or the relationship because that is what I find interesting. But this book is also a very good crime story and it is important to remember that.
What could be better?
I really have found nothing lacking about this novel. But I do want to warn folks who are new to reading BDSM, this might not be the best choice for your first try. The murders are graphic, the violence intense. While this does have a HEA, there are several aspects of play that is edge play and not just “entry level BDSM.”
When I find a book that I rate a five star, it has to have an emotional impact on me. This book had me laughing, smiling, and crying at various points of the story. I learned many new things about BDSM (especially edge play), that challenged my comfort zone. To me, then a good book challenges you to consider a situation from another perspective, often in the end you learn something new about yourself. For me, this book taught me that I am lucky to be in a relationship where I can be honest with my partner about my wants, hopes, and desires. That sometimes you confuse loyalty and duty as absolutes, that sometimes you have to think of your own self first. You can always change your path.
Read this book. It is well written and provides characters that are flawed and endearing, and if you are lucky, you will find something about yourself that you never knew.