Haven belongs to a sort of sacred sect of chaste monks who have a reputation for mediating disputes all over the galaxy. At Haven’s side is Wren, a former sex slave he rescued many years ago and who became his apprentice. Both have deep feelings for one another, but for several reasons are forbidden from acting on them.
When a political mission brings them in the middle of warring factions in long-lasting conflict, Haven is sent in as a mediator. Upon arriving, he learns all so-called masters on the warship must have a pleasure slave at their side. Wren offers eagerly to take on the task. No longer is the problem simple politics or power relations, but exploring physical pain and pleasure to the extreme—all the while trying to prevent war and not to reveal their emotions and act on their love.
This book is definitely intense. This is hardcore BDSM, with voyeurism, public exhibitions, and forced seduction, that takes pain and pleasure beyond the confines of typical romances. The final scene on the warship alone may make the hardiest reader cringe with the violence and suffering, abuse and torture.
But… that is not all this story is about. It is not about chastity or breaking vows or submission. At its heart, this is about love. Not the sex side of love. But sacrificing love, selfless love, something pure and intangible beyond bodies coming together, skin touching skin, heated breaths and quickened heartbeats. Haven’s chastity is met with one temptation after another by Wren who loves his master so much that it consumes him.
The plot isn’t complicated. There’s some political scheming behind the throne, but it’s not motivated by power as much as lust mixed with power. Wren is so pure and untouched that soon everyone is after him. Haven must decide which is more important: his mission or his secret beloved.
The narrative puts Haven constantly in a position where he must make that decision, over and over. The plot twists all follow this pattern. The culture on the warship requires that Haven demonstrates publicly and often his mastery over Wren, his pleasure slave. This goal is achieved through a series of escalating BDSM practices, culminating in a scene that either tears your heart out or makes you want to vomit. With me, it was a bit of both.
This isn’t for the faint of heart, especially because Wren is a victim of sex crimes, an abused boy. That knowledge of his past made me seriously doubt the ethics of Haven continuing the charade. He may be described as an excellent negotiator, but if he cared even an inch of Wren’s safety and well-being, he wouldn’t have taken Wren on this assignment, but refused altogether. It was a reprehensible decision, and knowing that made this almost a DNF for me. But I braved on. Haven’s denials of surrendering to his love of Wren began to grate me at some point, as they sounded like excuses for the sake of excuses, just to make the book longer and more tense. His hot-and-cold act wore my patience pretty thin pretty fast. Wren’s character, on the other hand, reads almost unrealistic, an angelic form so high and mighty in his purity that he never complains or wavers, only accepts what he is given in the name of love. His adoration of Haven made little sense to me when Haven knows Wren’s background of sexual abuse and violence. And Haven still allows Wren to tag along to a dangerous mission where Wren’s body is used, time and again. Haven may call it acting, but it didn’t read as something done just for show. IMHO, Haven doesn’t do his job as a mentor and protector for Wren in any sense of the word.
I found the ending falling extremely flat to the point of boring and anticlimactic. Sure, I wasn’t expecting fireworks, but… something important was amiss for me. The moment should have been a pinnacle of Haven and Wren’s love for one another, the crest of the tidal wave from which there was no going back. Instead, the scene was filled with imagery of sacrifices and enduring anguish. And all I could think of was… Is this it? To me, the ending was a huge let-down and a disappointment. This is subjective though, so you may feel completely differently. And I have to say this story will undoubtedly stay with me for quite a while.
I encourage you to try this out for yourself. As is, I can recommend this to those who like their BDSM pretty hardcore, and by that I’m referring to pain play and violence. Recommending this to other readers? Not so much.