At age 16, Francisco “Cisco” Aguilar is driving by Wicked Grounds, a vampire BDSM club, when he locks eyes with a man to whom he feels instantly drawn. So much so that for the next five years, Cisco dedicates his life to preparing for when he can go to the man he has learned is Maximilian De Ferrari, a high ranking vampire leader. For his part, Max felt the same connection and has similarly been preparing for when Cisco will come to him and they can begin their life together.
When Cisco turns 21, he goes to the club seeking out Max. But some rogue vampires find him first, threatening Cisco’s safety and sending Max into a frenzy of protectiveness. In doing so, Max tipped his hand, making clear to his enemies how important Cisco is to him and putting Cisco in grave danger. Now rather than having time to ease Cisco into life as the mate and submissive of a vampire Dom, Max must push Cisco to adapt immediately in order to help keep him safe.
In addition to their connection as mates, Max also senses something he thought was only legend — the presence of Iunctio Cupola, a bond between mates that is strong enough to make Max’s heart beat again. It is quite rare and since no one knows much about it, Max has no idea how to really activate the bond and has to learn more to feel safe formally bonding Cisco to him. But in the meantime, trouble is still stirring in the vampire community and the vamps who wanted to harm Cisco, and through him Max, are still after him. Max is determined to protect Cisco at all costs, but even his power may not be enough to save his mate.
Possession to the Max is the first book in the new Iunctio Cupola series by SJD Peterson, and it has several elements that drew me in. Peterson writes great BDSM, so I was really intrigued about a story that incorporates that with a paranormal bent. And I think she has some nice elements here, creating an interesting and really different take on the vampire world. Things are violent, political, and the vampires are all pretty dominant guys, many of whom have human submissives. These guys are intense, Max in particular, and don’t retain a lot of the emotions from their humanity, making them powerful and possessive.
Peterson also has a nice take on the politics here, showing the two factions with their different takes on the vampire role in the human world. At times I found it to be a lot of characters to keep track of, but I think the set up is interesting here and there is lots of potential to explore in this world.
The part where I struggled here is in the relationship between the guys. This is a fated mates/instalove story on steroids. The guys literally do nothing but catch a glimpse of one another as Cisco drives by and that is enough to create a total obsession for both of them. Before they ever even talk to each other, each man prepares for what will ultimately be their life long partnership. Cisco learns all about vampires and BDSM. Max prepares an apartment in his compound for Cisco to live in. They have zero contact for five years, but each man is prepared to dedicate his life to the other.
So I am willing to give a lot of leeway to the whole fated mates idea when reading paranormals, but this is so extreme I found it challenging. I never felt like these guys had much in the way of real romantic or even friendship-like feelings toward one another. They are just supposed to be together and they are. Max is all ownership and possessiveness. Cisco belongs to Max and his job is to provide Max unconditional and complete servitude. I never really felt much in the way of love or affection, even as the book develops. It comes across much more as claiming and owning than true caring.
It is not much different on Cisco’s end. He essentially gives up his life to move in with Max and become his slave. He has no rights, no decision making. He is 100% 24/7 slave whose life will be absolute submission. He is told clearly there is no safe word, no contract, he is just expected to provide complete and unquestioning obedience no matter what. Yet I never get the sense Cisco has interest in being a sub or in BDSM, but more that he has prepared himself for this role because it is what is expected of him. It doesn’t seem like he loves Max, more that he feels this strong need to dedicate his life to Max. It just felt like they both guys just mutually accept that Cisco now belongs to Max and that is the extent of their relationship.
Also, while there is an ending to the main plot arc, things are left a bit open ended (presumably because this is a series). Even knowing that, I felt like the ending was super abrupt — one of those situations where you think you skipped a page on your kindle only to realize that the book really just ended. So I needed a little more here to round things out.
Overall though, Peterson’s great writing and the interesting set up were enough to make this a worthwhile read for me. I particularly liked Cisco’s best friend Benny (he had the most personality of anyone) and I hope the hints that there is more to come for him play out. So I had some mixed feelings, but overall enjoyable and I’m looking forward to more in the series.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.