Rating: 4.25 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
At the age of ten, Ryan was sexually abused by his Uncle Damien. The violent abuse lasted for three years. When Ryan was thirteen, Damien told him he was starting to look too much like a man and discarded him. When Ryan was sixteen, his plan was to kill Damien. Before Ryan could carry out his plan, his mother, who had no idea what had happened to Ryan, enlisted him in the Army.
Seventeen years later, Ryan has risen quickly through the ranks to Sergeant Major. On the outside, he looks like a man that has it all, a man who is in control. But, when he comes home and his uniform comes off, he has no balance, no control. He is lost, broken, and he does not wish his life on anyone.
When Ryan’s closest friend and Hollywood actor, Mason Carter, comes to visit, Ryan struggles to get his attraction to Mason under control. He keeps telling himself, “I’m not gay.” At a party, Mason introduces Ryan to Stella, and Ryan struggles to understand his intense attraction to both of them. Ryan learns that Stella is Mason’s Master. Ryan has no knowledge of this lifestyle and is at once intrigued, aroused, and confused.
What does it take for a broken boy, a broken man, to finally find freedom?
A good place to start would be the Prologue, as it sets the tone for the book. The first act of abuse is depicted there and it is graphic and disturbingly told thorough Ryan’s ten-year-old eyes. This book will not be for everyone due to the content of sexual abuse. We see thoughts and flashbacks of additional abuse during the rest of the book and it is made extremely clear exactly what happened to Ryan (a fact that the book makes clear in its warning of distressing content).
The book then shifts to a grown up, angry, broken Ryan. He is divorced, has a ten-year-old daughter, and is slowly losing the will to live. He has never told anyone what happened to him. His career is the only place he has balance and order. When Ryan’s childhood friend, Mason, comes to visit, he fights his attraction to the man. Mason is the only man Ryan has ever been attracted to, but due to the abuse, Ryan is disgusted with himself for being attracted to a man.
When Mason introduces Ryan to Stella, Ryan is completely confused by their relationship and with good reason. The nature of Mason and Stella’s D/s relationship is not initially spelled out for Ryan and he has no knowledge of what could possibly be going on. In short time, Stella agrees to take on Ryan as a sub as well, and Ryan very quickly goes along with it. There is intense sexual tension and attraction between the three of them. There is something about Stella, and well, something about Mason, that Ryan cannot resist and we get to see all of that play out in Stella’s dungeon.
Within the confines of the storyline, as difficult as it is, it is well done. The story is primarily told from Ryan’s perspective, with one chapter being devoted to Stella’s POV. It is truly heartbreaking to see his struggle as his emotions are somewhat still childlike. The plot of the story is not complicated, but Ryan’s emotional journey most certainly is. Ryan finds a small ray of light that he can reach out for, Stella takes over, and through submission and giving up control, Ryan attempts to gain some control back in his life. The scenes of D/s play are not hardcore, although there is complete submission and bondage, and we get to see different sides to Stella, as she is strong and takes control, but is also tender and loving. As Stella cares for Ryan, they both come to terms that their D/s relationship is just, “More.”
I did have a few struggles along the way. The first is minor, but stuck at me just enough to call attention to. Ryan is in the U.S. Army and is American. Yet, some of the terms he uses are clearly not American. When he describes finding out about his former wife being pregnant, he says they “fell pregnant,” and he also uses the term “rubbish.” It was just enough for me to stop reading at one point to back track to see if I had missed something as to the location of the story. In the Acknowledgements at the end of the book, the author thanks a team for helping her with American terms, but a few were missed. Secondly, the story starts out with the attraction between Ryan and Mason. It then shifts to more of a Ryan and Stella storyline. The feelings between Ryan and Mason are so intense and they are only allowed to fully act upon them with Stella’s approval. There are then no further scenes of the two of them alone and I was missing out on some intimate moments or conversation with them. We see Mason’s life being completely controlled by Stella, yet Mason is on location for long periods of time shooting movies, and there is no explanation as to what happens to their relationship while he is away. There were also a few character inconsistencies. Mason, People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, wears a baseball cap and hides behind a menu so the restaurant server does not recognize him. Yet, he has no problem stripping down at a club with his Master. All of this put together left enough of a gap in the story for me.
One last thing, there is an explosive confrontation–that’s all I will say. From that confrontation, the nature of Ryan and Stella’s relationship is put on display in front of Ryan’s mother. We see Ryan tell Stella that he addressed his mother’s concerns about their relationship, but nothing, not one word is mentioned about the violent abuse that Ryan’s mother is now fully aware of. This omission has not settled with me.
If I were to further analyze the book, I could point out that perhaps Ryan was in need of further help other than a Domme. But, this is fiction and not a case study, and of course there is clearly more than one way to heal.
I will stress again that if you have issues with sexual abuse and specifically child sexual abuse, this will not be the book for you. This book deals with intense subject matter in a compelling and dramatic fashion. For some it will be shocking. If taken for the story that it is and what it is telling, it is an emotional journey that will stay with you for some time.
Note: The author has informed us that Amazon has indicated this title will be pulled from publication there. At the time of this review, it was still available but may be gone at any point. If we get additional buy information, the post will be updated.