Rating: 4.25 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Fettered is not your average BDSM novel. It’s a reminder that the world has shifted, that those who participate in the lifestyle today most often make a choice and follow a set of strict rules and regulations. But for some people, it’s an innate need. For these people, their lives will not be complete without feeding the Dominant or submissive side. This part of them is just as important and unchangeable as their eye color or color of their skin.
It is within this world that Fettered takes place. Miss Dolphinia is an aging queen who owns a BDSM bar called Stonewall. This is the bar Dylan Carter enters one day in order to forget his troubled home life and explore his submissive tendencies. Dylan’s older brother has been implicated in a trial involving the bondage and violent rape of several women. His family life has been turned upside down, and he’s looking for something and someone that can help keep him together.
He enters the bar as an innocent, with no experience and a face that attracts everyone who sees him. Miss Dolphinia takes him under her wing and introduces him to Vin, a Dominant who can show him a strong hand for a night, but no longer. Dylan’s session with Vin is intense and life-changing, but the man has no intentions of doing a repeat performance.
Since Vin is not an option and Dylan can’t keep from craving the submission, Miss Dolphinia sets him up with Guard, a man who is kind and attentive and obsessively concerned with discussing and setting boundaries, following strict rules and regulations, and talking everything through. One of the most interesting things about Fettered is this exploration of the contrast between the world of safe, sane and consensual and the more old school line of thinking, which is more concerned with reading your partner and figuring out limits as you go.
Miss Dolphinia and Vin represent this world that is being replaced by contracts and hard limits — a world where the need is so strong within a person, it shouldn’t be ignored or reigned it. Vin was a protege of Miss Dolphinia and her lover, and was therefore trained in a way that is seen as unsafe and irresponsible in the lifestyle today. Says Miss Dolphinia to Dylan about Vin:
“Some days I think the whole culture is dying, and here we brought a nestling into the nest and taught him to want all the things that society tells us we shouldn’t want. The world belongs to Guard and his world of safe limits and play and parades. But for us, it’s not really play, is it?”
I had to set aside my qualms about irresponsible behavior within the BDSM lifestyle in order to give this book a fair chance, and I think the result is that my eyes were opened to a different way of living it. This is not to support the idea of non-consensual or dangerous behavior. When Dylan becomes a part of Vin’s world, for instance, he’s thrown into the deep end. Vin does things because he wants to do it. Dylan can stop it, but he doesn’t have any say in how things go down, and because Dylan has such a craving to relinquish every bit of his control, this type of dominance is exactly what he needs.
Vin is controlling and possessive and, he admits himself, obsessive. From the start, Dylan becomes his life. When the situation with Dylan’s brother escalates, Vin’s the one who deals with it. He handles Dylan’s family life, where he lives, how he gets to work, and completely controls his body. This could be seen as extreme. In a relationship outside of the lifestyle, it borders on abusive. But it works between these two, and I found this aspect of the novel to be both unexpected and fascinating.
Both Dylan and Vin are complex characters. Dylan is submissive to the core, yet retains a sense of humor and magnetism that makes him so likable. Vin is obsessively controlling, but has a computer-nerd charm and a sweetness that makes him irresistible. Together, they’re a couple who complement each other so well.
This is the reason that I had a difficult time with their relationship in this book. There was so much potential for a powerfully intimate connection, yet I didn’t feel this from the two of them. There was infatuation, attraction, even adoration, but love? Love seemed to be missing from the equation, which made the relationship seem a little bit off-balanced, more of a convenience of two matching kinks rather than a power they couldn’t control. There was too much control, perhaps. The sex is hot, but followed Vin’s meticulously devised plans. I would’ve enjoyed a little spontaneity, an overwhelming rush of love that throws things off kilter and gives it that spark.
I liked this book. I thought it gave interesting insight into the lifestyle, which is difficult in a genre that is saturated by many books of its kind. I enjoyed the characters and the story, which is horrifying and surprising, maddening and touching. I only wish we could’ve been treated to an emotional intensity equal to the rest of the book.