With his childhood stage career over, it is time for Jade Swift to find another job. He takes a position as secretary to Marcus Wynterbourne out in the country. Jade is immediately drawn to Marcus, finding his dominant personality the stuff of fantasies. Jade has always dreamed about a man mastering and controlling him, and he falls hard for Marcus right away. All he wants is Marcus’ attention, but Marcus remains distant.
Meanwhile, Jade is having trouble with some of the servants in the house. Being young and beautiful and obviously gay, Jade is bullied by some of the footmen. When Marcus steps in to help him, Jade confesses how much he loves and adores him, and Marcus agrees to take Jade on as a slave on a trial basis.
Being with his new master is everything Jade could want. He adores Marcus and would do anything for him. But Jade is still vain and impatient and has a lot to learn about being a good slave. His master is clear that he demands loyalty and obedience, and when Jade fails, he is sent away.
Jade is crushed and heartbroken by losing his master, but he has no choice but to take a new job. When he hears the rumors circulating that other members of Parliament are trying to get Marcus to resign for being gay, Jade is determined to do something to help save Marcus’ career. Even if Marcus wants nothing more to do with him, Jade is determined to help the man he loves.
I decided to give Precious Jade a try because I was intrigued by the idea of a historical story with a master/slave component. Although I have read other historical BDSM, I haven’t seen anything where the characters are in a full on master/slave relationship and was interested to see how it would be handled in this time period. I enjoyed this aspect of the book and seeing how these men managed to make things work at a time when being gay alone was illegal, and then add to that their intense BDSM interests. Marcus actually has a BDSM club of sorts, made up of friends who come for periodic parties. I kind of wondered at the sheer number of like minded people in the rural area, especially at a time when these kinds of interests would have to be a closely held secret. But I thought it was an in interesting dynamic to see play out, especially as people from all levels of society came to play together.
I also found Jade a fairly entertaining character, and quite unique. Jade is 18, grew up in the theater, and is very beautiful. He is also vain, arrogant, and fairly spoiled by a mother who coddles him. I liked that Jade isn’t this perfect boy who falls right into submission, and that even at the end, he still isn’t perfect. He is spirited and determined and I found him fairly amusing for much of the story. The problem is the rest of the time he kind of drove me crazy. Because along with his more endearing qualities, Jade is also a total drama queen. He is either blissfully in love, proclaiming his adoration for Marcus right and left, or he is hysterically sobbing and desolate from the smallest slight. Seriously, this guy seems to be constantly crying, big sobbing episodes that leave him a sniffling mess. It is like he has two modes, on or off, and there is no in between. Jade also feels quite sorry for himself all the time, and isn’t particularly interested in hard work, complaining about having to do jobs that he sees as beneath him. Not to mention he is quite immature, making a series of bad decisions. It made it hard to really feel a strong connection with him.
For Marcus’ part, I didn’t find him likable at all unfortunately. As the story develops, we learn that he was betrayed(ish) in the past and he is not over it. So he is clear that he can never give his heart to Jade. But more than that, Marcus is just so cold and contained and there is nothing about him that made me see why he had earned Jade’s immediate love. Maybe we just don’t get to know him well enough. We see kindness on occasion, but nothing that made me feel like he is a man I’d even want to be friends with, let alone someone who would inspire the adoration Jade has almost immediately. I mean, Jade has little interaction with Marcus other than taking dictation for hours on end before he is madly in love with the man. I had a hard time really feeling any connection between them because Jade is so over the top in love right from the start as to be barely believable, and Marcus doesn’t seem all that likable. Even at the end, when they are supposed to be content and happy together, I didn’t really feel much connection.
My last issue is with regard to the BDSM elements, and specifically informed consent. Honestly, I felt the lines were quite blurry here. Jade definitely has some hero worship stuff going on here, and makes it clear he would do anything for Marcus. So when Marcus gives him a contract that requires absolute, unquestioning obedience for three months, Jade readily agrees. There is no discussion of Jade’s limits or safe wording. The men never have any kind of discussion of just what type of obedience is required, or what being a slave involves, and most of the time Jade flounders for lack of instruction. I just never really felt like Jade was making an informed decision, especially when combined with his young age, his naiveté, and his obsession with Marcus. I think part of it is just the power dynamic between them, even before they enter into the relationship. Marcus is wealthy and experienced and makes it clear it is all or nothing. Jade will give total, unquestioning submission or there is no relationship at all. Jade is poor, has no other job, thinks himself in love with Marcus, and although is experienced sexually, is totally inexperienced in BDSM. So the fact that he readily signs this contact is not that surprising. Then we get scenes like the first time Jade is whipped. It is clear he is terrified and he doesn’t want to do it. Marcus tells him he doesn’t have to, but that will basically end their master/slave relationship forever. There is no in between, so of course Jade goes along with it. It just bothered me to feel like Jade didn’t really understand what he was committing to and his choices were either go along or get thrown out.
So I am of mixed feelings on this one as I am sure you can tell. I enjoyed the BDSM master/slave dynamic in this historical setting and found it an interesting change in a genre that is mostly set in the contemporary world. I enjoyed Jade a lot of the time and found him a mostly entertaining character. But I also found him immature and overly dramatic much of the time, and never really felt a true connection between him and Marcus. So I would say give this a try if the premise intrigues you. I think if you see more between these guys than I did, or find Jade a little more endearing, than this one might work for you better than me.