Choices is the start of Season Two: Fragmentation in the Flesh Cartel serial. In the previous two books, Mat and Dougie Carmichael were abducted from their home, tortured and raped repeatedly, and sold to the highest bidder as part of the human trafficking trade. At the end of Book Two, I was left wondering how much more the human mind and body could endure. What other possible tortures were in store for these brothers?
Book Three in this incredibly well written, dark erotica series picks up when brothers Mat and Dougie are leaving the sadistic Madame, where they were broken down, abused and “prepared,” after being purchased by the very mysterious Nikolai Petrovic. Dougie insisted that they be purchased together, but that came with a heavy price, and Mat’s the one who has to pay it.
As they are transported to the home of their new owner, Mat suffers enough torture to kill a lesser man. Thus far, the mental and physical torture received at the hands of their captors has been relentless and brutally sick. In this episode, there is no reprieve.
Nikolai Petrovic is a mastermind of slave training. He’s hired to prepare these slaves for their very particular, highly disturbed owners. Whilst the beatings and rapes appear to have ceased for now, we see that their future days at this training facility, under the “care” of Nikolai means something very different for each of the brothers. He has purchased Mat for an owner who desires a fighter, so Nikolai’s strategy is to keep him constantly on the edge of his breaking point. He has a different training method for Dougie, who is Mat’s opposite in many ways. It’s hard to say who suffers the worst from the torture — Mat, who experiences the worst possible pain and physical degradation, or Dougie, who is being psychologically manipulated at every turn until he questions every thought he has. Regardless, these types of manipulation at the hands of their Master will ensure that they are molded into the perfect slaves.
One of the best things about this episode is Petrovich. His introduction to the serial is a intriguing addition. He is morally ambiguous and seemingly heartless, but still has the power to elicit empathy from the reader. I found myself even liking this horrible, sadistic machine of a man. When I finished this episode, again without having been provided any sense of relief, I found myself eagerly anticipating the next installment, in large part due to my fascination with Petrovich and his relationship with the brothers.
As with the previous two episodes, my biggest criticism with this third installment is that it is almost impossible to endure. It is an endless loop of one cruel atrocity after another and, while I understand the intention of the author is not to coddle the reader or paint a rosy picture of human trafficking, it takes a very strong stomach to get through it, and one is left with little to no hope that there is any salvation for the brothers in the future. Reading the descriptions of the upcoming episodes, it would seem this path of despair continues on, and I really feel that even a glimpse of optimism would make the whole thing so much easier to accept.
This series of books is not for everyone. In fact, I can say with certainty that it is for the very few. However, it takes a skilled writer (or, in this case, two writers) to elicit such a strong reaction from a reader, and these two do it masterfully. Their talent is not in question. The only question is, can you handle it? I say yes. There is no doubt that I will be following Dougie, Mat and Nikolai through many more extremely difficult times to the end, whatever they may be.