Other Reviewers: Goodreads
This week’s reading is a second time read for me and the book came out on March 22nd. There is a lot of meaning behind the characters’ actions and depth in the pain; it took me a couple of readings to get this post right. This is the second book by A.B. Gayle that I have read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I have a passion in reading books with BDSM and characters in pain, either physical or psychological. In both subjects, there are some stories that gloss over the past or glorify the sex and kink with over the top and unrealistic acts. But A.B. Gayle seemed to to just draw the story gracefully and naturally.
As an added bonus, I want to say that the cover was brilliant and perfectly represented the story and characters.
Steven comes back home to Australia after fleeing from a previous boyfriend and the BDSM lifestyle. Now that he is home, he tests the waters by returning to places from his past. But he meets a Dom, Don whose charm Steven finds tempting. Can he let the past go enough to find love and acceptance for his future?
The story is told in Steven’s perspective, so it is important that we believe his voice. How he describes people, the past, and places is the only thing we get. Luckily we also get his sense of humor, which at times had me laughing while I cried. There was other moments when I cried because of Steven: his pain is heart wrenching. There is a lot going on with Steve’s past, but to fully discuss it would spoil a great deal of the storyline. But a peek at Steve’s perspective:
As soon as Don mentioned selling the house, I was in two minds whether to tell him about what lay behind that door. In the end I decided not to. Some things are better left hidden.
This is the metaphor for this entire book: some things are better left hidden. Or are they?
Don is hard to talk about because we only see this book from Steve’s perspective. But what we see in Don is a strong Dom who knows his stuff about BDSM. At the same time, even Don can doubt himself. We find him to be a caring man who only wants the best for his friends, his slaves, and lovers. Gayle did an excellent job of making him seem realistic as a Dom, but not making him sounds like an asshole. So often we see Doms as some sort of “domly dom” who only yells and acts mean. But we get to see Don’s vulnerability when he discusses his past slave. It was beautiful when we see him talk to Steve about him:
This must be Master D. A walking, talking cliché if there ever was one. He looked like he’d stepped off a Tom of Finland calendar: droopy moustache, leather jacket emphasizing his broad shoulders, with more soft leather stretched tight across his hips. Every muscle was on display–plus the fact he dressed left. My gaze tracked lower. I was right-you could see your reflection in his boots.
What I enjoyed about this description is that Gayle gives us a first look that he is stereotypical, but we see he is so much more.
I think that this book is about accepting yourself. We see in Steve someone who has repressed his desires for kink because of his past relationship. He has listened to everyone else: therapists, his family, and his former Master and ignores what is in his heart. Don tells Steve:
“I like you the way you are. Raw. Natural. Perfect.”
“Remember, being kinky is not a sin. Forget what your therapist said. Unless they’ve had firsthand experience, they don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. Don’t ever be ashamed of what we do.”
Never being ashamed of who you are. Strong words.
A powerful point of this book was the description of the BDSM activities. While the Master/slave relationship is not exactly displayed directly in this book, the roles, kink, psychological factors, and sensuality of it is. We see how it can be good, but we also see how it can go horribly wrong. What I liked about this story is that the author did not gloss over the dangers of the lifestyle. She took what was a realistic worse-case scenario with Steve’s past boyfriend and made the reader feel Steve’s pain. But she also gave us how it could be done correctly as well, so that the reader is not left thinking that BDSM lifestylers are all just wackos and abusers. It is a difficult thing, to vilify a character without vilifying the scene, but I felt Gayle did it brilliantly.
I also loved the humor of the writing. As Don always said of Steve, he uses his “shiny armor”, which is his humor and flippy lip. His scenes with Gabriel were hilarious and I loved how his “Stevie Tricks” character is so effusive.
What could be better?
When I give a book a five-star rating, I find it difficult to find something wrong with it. And this book is no different for me. If I had anything to want, it would be have heard Don’s voice. But after wanting that, I realized that it would have hurt the tension and the pacing of the story.
I have a feeling that this is a book I will read numerous times. Remember when we read paperbacks (hahahah) and the spine became broken and lined? The book would automatically open to your favorite parts. That’s what this book has quickly become to me. I can just smile and think about the scene in the kitchen, in the garage, or in the meditation room.
This is her best writing. I look forward to reading more of this series and from A.B. Gayle.