It has been about three months since Henry purchased Martin, his companion slave. After a rocky start where Henry did everything to deny his attraction to Martin, the two have settled into a relationship that thrills both of them. Of course, they must be very careful to hide the fact that their sexual activities go far beyond Henry meeting his own physical needs, which is both permissible and expected, to one that is loving and mutually satisfying for both men, which is most clearly not. Not to mention that Henry and Martin have a closeness and real affection for one another, again something that is completely unacceptable for a master and his slave.
Henry really only wants to be with Martin, to belong to Martin just as Martin belongs to him. He certainly has no interest in swapping Martin with other slaves like the rest of the boys in his class do, let alone in dating girls. Henry finds himself making excuses to avoid outings with his friends as they seek out women. And he makes it very clear he doesn’t share Martin under any circumstances. But refusing to go along with the other boys definitely makes Henry stand out, and he is often left out of parties and other events. Yet despite this, Henry can not even conceive of wanting anyone other than Martin. However, avoiding the pressure of his friends, as well as standing up for himself even if it means being left out, becomes increasingly difficult for Henry. Not to mention hiding the fact that he very well may be falling in love.
A Proper Lover continues the story of Martin and Henry, who I totally fell in love with during the first book in the Ganymede series, A Most Personal Property. It picks up right at the end of the first book and continues following along with the young men as they head into the holiday season. I really am crazy about this world Glass has created here. I love the mix of alternate world where slavery is legal, combined with the real historical elements of New York at the turn of the 20th century. We see Henry and Martin at a vaudeville show, the penny arcade, riding horses in Central Park, and lots of other activities that really give a nice feel for the time period. I love the way the slavery elements are incorporated here, woven in with the story in a way that makes it all feel so real. Glass has such an interesting take on the master/slave trope and I continue to find it really fascinating.
I also continue to love Martin and Henry. They are so sweet and earnest and clearly so adoring of one another. I love that Henry is opening his eyes to the rest of the world, after being complacent for so long. Owning Martin and caring what happens to him has made Henry much more aware of the world around him and much more concerned about other people. He is still on the lazy end and doesn’t try so hard, and doesn’t really care that he is not super smart or motivated. For some reason I find that kind of charming. He knows Martin is better than him in pretty much every way, and rather than resenting Martin, he cherishes him for it. And Martin is of course so sweet and kind and loving. Perhaps a bit unrealistically perfect, but as we see him through Henry’s adoring eyes, that kind of makes sense. I am really enjoying them together and seeing their relationship progress.
I will say my only real stumbling block here is that this book is very long (I’d guess close to 400 pages) and I just don’t think enough happens to carry such a long story. There is no real conflict here to give it much of a story arc. Yes, there are small issues, such as the fact that Henry is left out of parties because he doesn’t swap, or the reappearance of his beloved uncle. But these aren’t really substantial conflicts, more things that happen over the course of the book. As a result, we get lots and lots of scenes that are very similar and don’t seem to offer anything new. We get many, many recounts of daily life: the boys wake, Martin dresses Henry, they go to school, they race home to have sex, Henry dozes naked in bed while Martin eats, then Henry eats, then family hour, then more sex. I can’t help but feeling we could take 10 nearly identical days and distill them into one or two that really capture the essence of their lives without so much repetition. We really get their daily life in such a granular level and it just was way too much for me over so many pages. I honestly think this story could be cut in half and still have the same impact and cover the same issues. Especially because we are only covering about two months time here. I would love to move forward a bit to see these guys in college, or as Henry begins to set up his own household. I am curious to see where Glass takes the next two books, as my understanding is that they will continue to follow just this first year together.
As I said, I do find this world just fascinating and in many ways I liked the level of detail, but I do think the book needs a lot of tightening. However, I continue to really love this series and I think Glass has given us something so creative. I love Henry and Martin and adore them together. I am looking forward to seeing what else is in store for these guys.
A Master’s Fidelity is a free story that connects with events from A Proper Lover. Like the series prequel, A Superior Slave, this story gives us Martin’s POV instead of Henry’s and serves to further illuminate parts of the main story, with particular emphasis on Martin’s experiences.
The story focuses on the lead up to a swap party, something Henry has avoided in the past as he is unwilling to share Martin. In this case, Martin isn’t clear if Henry is unaware of the nature of the party, or if he has changed his mind about swapping. At first Martin is ok with the idea, as he is used to casual sex and a variety of partners from his days at Ganymede and will do anything to please Henry. But when he realizes that any swapping will likely include Henry as well, Martin surprises himself with his possessiveness. He knows he doesn’t want anyone else anywhere near Henry, but he also knows he has no choice in the matter.
This story is a great opportunity to get inside Martin’s head as we have not has his POV since before Henry took him home. So we get to see his feelings for Henry and their relationship, as well as about other aspects of slave life. We also get a peek inside the world of the slaves, hearing their gossip (which masters are good in bed) and getting their views on the swap parties. I think it is particularly interesting that the slaves are pretty comfortable with the parties. While for me it seems like basically the masters are pimping their boys out, the slaves enjoy sex with other experienced slaves and getting to have real physical contact rather than just “servicing” their masters. So this story really nicely showcases the other side of events of the main story and I think enhances it quite a lot.
This story is best read after A Proper Lover because it does give away some elements of that main book. It is a substantial free story and one you won’t want to miss if you are following along with the main series. I found it really entertaining and a great glimpse into Martin’s mind and the slave world.