Buy Link: Collared
Author: Kari Gregg
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Connor Witt is an anomaly in a changing world after damages to the food supply alter people’s body chemistry and affect their behavior and instincts. In a world suddenly filled with aggressive dominants, Connor is among the one in a thousand who have changed to instead become a submissive. This puts him at great risk to those who seek to claim him or take advantage of his inability to fight back or protect himself from abuse. As a result of these risks, the world has adopted a sort of BDSM model for relating to anomalies, creating dominant and submissive relationships between them and an owner or master.
Connor’s boss David Martin sees that Connor needs protection, especially after Connor is cornered by security consultant Emmett Drake who wants Connor for himself. David “claims” Connor by collaring him, thus giving Connor the protection he needs to feel safe, as well as to provide a clear sign to others that he is under David’s protection. For Connor and other anomalies who are quickly losing their rights in this new dominant society, being owned by someone is the only way to stay physically safe. It also helps Connor feel emotionally safe, as his body and mind are craving submission and protection.
Although David is his owner, David sees himself as straight and not interested in a sexual relationship with Connor. In fact, he has a girlfriend Hannah who terrifies Connor with her rigid beliefs on how an anomaly should behave. David is looking for a master for Connor who will help care for him in ways that he can’t. When Hannah convinces David to send Connor away to the apartment next door for the night, Emmett finally has his chance with Connor. He has been attracted to Connor all along (and Connor to him), but David’s ownership and Connor’s need for emotional security have prevented him from acting. But now that Connor is alone, he and Emmett are able to act on their needs and desires. Yet things are not over with David either, and the men must work out their relationship and how all of them can have what they want and need.
This was a really interesting story and I was fascinated by the world Gregg creates. The changes in the food supply have completely altered personalities and everyone is struggling to come to terms with the new reality. Some of the dominants, like Connor’s old boyfriend, have become aggressive and hard, seeking only to hurt the weak. Others like David and Emmett act on more protective instincts, while still having a dominant need to control and care for someone more submissive. Meanwhile, the government struggles to figure out what to do with these anomalies and reacts by basically stripping them of all rights, making them essentially property to their owners and taking away their individual liberties.
I also enjoyed the differences between Emmett and David and their relationship with Connor. David wants to protect Connor and own him as a way to be sure he is not hurt or taken advantage of by someone else. At least in the beginning, he is not interested in a sexual relationship with Connor and he is looking for someone else to be a part of their relationship to provide the other things that Connor needs. He is caring, but doesn’t always realize what Connor needs and at one crucial point unintentionally hurts him by pushing him aside for his girlfriend. Yet is it clear he cares deeply for Connor’s well being and makes a concerted effort to look out for him and protect him (and as the book continues, develops other feeling for him as well). Emmett, on the other hand, has always felt drawn to Connor sexually. He provides for Connor’s physical needs, as well as being a more experienced dom and better able to help Connor work through some of his submission. Together, they both end up being exactly what Connor needs, even though neither can fully care for him on their own. (BTW, this is not a menage book. Each man has an individual relationship with Connor at the same time.)
As much as I enjoyed the nuances of these two men, I felt that I had a bit of a harder time relating to Connor himself. He is so terrified so much of the time and we are given an insider sense to all his feelings. It totally makes sense that he is this batch of nerves as his rights are stripped, his submissive tendencies take over, and he recovers mentally from his ex-boyfriend’s abuse. But it made it hard for me to really see him past all the terror. It is interesting because the book makes an effort to show how important it is for Emmett and David to see Connor as more than a possession or a sex object. And it is clear that they do really see the person inside, especially by the end of the story. So I am not sure why I had such a hard time relating to him beyond his fear, but for whatever reason this was missing for me a bit.
My other small quibble is that I wished there was a bit more to the ending. There is a clear resolution to the story and even an HEA implied, but I would have loved to see it in action a bit. The story has a lot of focus on how the men will sort out the issues between the three of them and I would have enjoyed spending some more time with them once that happened. But as I said, there is a clear resolution so it is not like we are left hanging or with things open ended.
Overall I enjoyed this story and thought it was a really interesting premise. I liked the way the men formed a three way relationship even without a sexual dynamic between David and Emmett. I also thought Gregg did a great job showing the variety of different ways the food crisis affected different people and how that impacted so much of society. And I really liked the dynamic between Connor and each of his owners/masters. It was an intense story but one I enjoyed.
P.S. If you haven’t stopped by yet, check out my interview with Kari that ran yesterday and leave a comment on that post for a chance to win one of her backlist books!