Kaden Thorn is a submissive, but ever since an attack that put him in a wheelchair, he has been unable to find a Dom willing to play with him. And he definitely has had no luck finding a loving partner. When Kade’s best friend invites him to dinner, a set up turns out to lead to more than Kade ever hoped for.
Deacon James is a Dom looking for a partner, both as a sub and for a relationship. When he meets Kade, he is immediately attracted to him and interested in seeing if things can work between them. Kade is very wary however; since his attack, he hasn’t been able to get a Dom to even look at him. He can’t imagine what a guy like Deacon would want to be with someone like Kade. Kade knows he can’t do many of the things Doms expect, like kneel or get into standard presentation position. Kade is sure that it won’t take long for Deacon to decide Kade is more trouble than he is worth. But the strong attraction between them is enough to convince Kade to give things a try.
Deacon turns out to be a wonderful partner, researching ways to accommodate Kade’s limitations and finding alternatives that work for both men. Kade is finally getting all the things he has desperately wanted, all the things he has been missing since his attack. But Kade’s fears still won’t go away, no matter how well things are going with Deacon. He is sure Deacon will eventually tire of dealing with Kade’s needs. Now Deacon must convince Kade that he truly cares for him and wants him as part of his life.
I am a big fan of diversity in my romance, and I particularly enjoy reading stories that feature people with disabilities, as these are especially rare. And I have never seen a book that combined someone in a wheelchair who also was part of a BDSM lifestyle. So I was really excited to pick up Caged Sanctuary and eager to see how the story addressed this theme.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Right from the start we can feel for Kade who is just so emotionally fragile from his past experiences. After a gay bashing left him in a wheelchair, no one in the lifestyle wanted anything to do with him. Doms at his old club just passed him by and fellow subs ignored, or worse, ridiculed him. We can really feel how there is a piece of Kade missing, something he desperately needs and is sure he will never experience again. O’Riley does a nice job helping us feel not just Kade’s emotional pain in particular, but also how for someone who needs this kind of experience, going without can leave a piece of you just missing. Kade is a really sweet guy, so it is rewarding to see him enter this relationship with Deacon and suddenly realize that he can, in fact, be a sub again and serve a Dom the way he needs. Deacon, for his part, immediately jumps in to figuring out how to adapt their play to make it work for Kade. I found it really interesting to see how the men work around potential problems and find an arrangement that works well for both of them.
So I found this a really sweet story and I liked both men quite a lot. I did feel like there were some issues, however. First off, everyone is basically angel or devil, with no in between. Kade is sweet and kind and endearing. He is vulnerable, but also strong. Deacon is practically perfect in every way–gorgeous, wealthy, doting, patience of a saint, willing to do anything and everything for Kade. Kade’s best friend Katie, and their Dom/sub friends Sam and Jake are equally wonderful, all totally accepting, loving, and caring. Then everyone else is just pure evil. Every other Dom at the club ignored Kade and wouldn’t give him the time of day. The other subs are nasty and outright cruel to him. His ex-boyfriend is a total asshole. They all treat Kade with so much disdain it felt over the top. I mean, do people really tell someone in a wheelchair that he is not a real man because he can’t walk? I mean, sure, I guess there are horrible people out there who do. But for everyone Kade interacts with to be so horrific, so cruel and nasty, to call him names and deride him to his face just seemed totally unrealistic. I wished we had seen some more nuances here with these characters instead of this totally good or totally evil distinction for everyone we meet.
This is especially true when we see Deacon walk onto the scene and be perfect from minute one. The guys meet, decide to try it out between them, and basically become Dom/sub very quickly. Deacon manages to figure out exactly what Kade needs every step of the way, without ever needing to really consult Kade (and in ways Kade could never seem to imagine himself). Deacon manages it all perfectly, without a single stumble. I would have loved to see a time or two where these guys had to work to figure out how to adapt the scene to Kade’s needs. Or even a scene where things weren’t working perfectly. Instead, from the moment they meet, Deacon doesn’t make a single misstep and everything is as easy as can be. It seemed especially odd given that besides Deacon, no one else would even give Kade the time of day, yet it is super easy for Deacon right away.
My other big issue is that Kade’s insecurities just became overwhelming after a while. Now O’Riley does do a really good job of helping us see what Kade is going through, and I could really feel that sense of loss in him. Not about his inability to walk, as we see how strong and independent he is. But about his fears that he had lost the chance to be a sub for good. So I get that he would have trouble accepting Deacon right away (especially given that Deacon is perfect in every way). But basically the sole conflict in the book is Kade’s never ending certainty that he can never be the sub Deacon wants and that Deacon will ultimately tire of him, despite all evidence to the contrary. It goes on and on, even with Deacon’s constant reassurances about how happy he is in the relationship. Kade just became so emotionally needy that it was draining after a while. Maybe if there had been another conflict for these men to face, but this is the only issue the book addresses for the whole story, and after a while I got frustrated with Kade’s lack of confidence and insecurity.
Last thing I’ll mention are the typos. Usually I let these things go, but there were enough here that I started highlighting them, and that is always a bad sign. Mostly it was wrong word use that made it through spell check. For example, Deacon positions Kade “with this knees pulled up” or Jake tells Kade “there is something I’m supposed to help you with for before dinner.” Just frustrating in a professionally published book to see this inattention to detail.
All that said, I did really like this story. I enjoyed Kade and Deacon and found them sweet and endearing. I liked reading about Kade and his experiences and seeing him find a way to fill that hole inside of him. I particularly enjoyed seeing how the men adapted their play to work within Kade’s restrictions, and to see that thrill Kade got when he finally could be a sub again. The plot may have been a little simple, but I was definitely entertained and liked the story overall.
P.S. This isn’t really a criticism, but I did find myself a little bit confused about their friends Sam and Jake. They were presented in a way that made me think I was supposed to be familiar with the characters. Jake’s backstory involving an attack is mentioned twice, but there was no detail, as we if already knew what had happened to him. They were also an established couple, and each man was a good friend with Kade or Deacon. It just felt similar to a series where the MCs from one book appear then in another, but this story is not a series and I could not find any mention of the men when looking through the author’s other book blurbs. Maybe they were secondary characters in another series? Like I said, not a big deal but just confusing because I felt like I was missing something. Anyone know anything about these guys?
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.