Detective Gavin DeGrassi has been called to a murder scene unlike any he has seen before. The victim, George Kaiser, is a Dom, and suddenly DeGrassi is introduced to a world he didn’t know existed before now. In order to solve this case, Gavin is going to have to learn about the intricacies of BDSM, including why his victim was found, raped and bound, on a cross suspended from the ceiling and is covered in slashes, whip marks, and other unidentified markings. This is all new to Gavin. He’s a closeted man, stuck in a loveless marriage, whose nights generally are taken up with the only thing he truly cares about — his job.
As they begin the investigation, Detective DeGrassi is introduced to Ben Haverson, who is a psychologist and Dom himself. His knowledge of the BDSM world will prove invaluable to the detective, if Gavin can keep his mind on the case and not on the overwhelming attraction he feels the instant he meets Ben. The further they get into the investigation, the more Gavin feels a pull to the world of BDSM. As the killings continue and the weeks go by without much progress, Gavin goes through a huge personal transformation. He is blind sided by issues at home, which opens up the opportunity to connect with Ben on a deeper level. But regardless of what is going on in Gavin’s personal life, the case is the most important thing to him, and catching the killer has become his number one priority.
It only takes one look at the cover of Power Exchange to know that you’re not going to be reading your run-of-the-mill romance novel. This book is about the world of BDSM, but I’ll tell you why you shouldn’t let this scare you off. For some of us, myself included, BDSM has always been an intriguing subject. I see those ropes on the cover and I’m instantly hooked. For others, it could be a little bit scary, maybe even a little too kinky. One of the best things about A.J. Rose’s writing is that it is basically BDSM for Dummies. This is not to say that it’s simplistic or dumbed down, just that’s it’s clear and informative and not in the least bit overwhelming. Rose has done his research, which we as readers benefit from.
Before I make this sound too clinical, let me also stress that the emotional dynamics of BDSM are in play here as well, and this is what gives the book it’s heart. While the descriptions of the crime scenes are gruesome and disturbing, showing exactly how the tools of BDSM could be used for maximum harm, it gives equal time to the blossoming relationship between Gavin and Ben and how they negotiate their roles within the world to build a strong and loving bond. While often in books with a BDSM theme, the Dominant is seen as strict and unyielding, Rose shows that compassion and trust are invaluable parts to a healthy Dom/Sub relationship. And while there’s a lot of lovey-dovey stuff going on, rest assured that the BDSM play is hot and the sex even hotter.
Rose’s writing is perfectly polished. There are some books that have a rhythm that never falters and this was one of them. I could see this being made into a movie screenplay without having to change a word of dialogue. So it was all the more disappointing when, in the last quarter of the book, my love for this story took a bit of a dive. Discussing the major problem would be too much of a spoiler, so let me only say that Gavin’s behavior during the last part of the book seemed so out of character, so contrary to the dedication and sharpness that he’d shown up until that point, it left me feeling let down in the end. I was not able to reconcile the astute detective with the unaware fool that seemed to emerge in the final moments of conflict.
Don’t let my opinion of the ending deter you from reading this book. A.J. Rose is an extremely talented author whose writing seems effortless. Power Exchange manages to be not only accessible, but dark and complex and deliciously frightening as well. I highly recommend it and will be putting A.J. Rose on the top of my auto-buy list.