Hiding From Two takes place moments after the conclusion of Cherished by Two and is the third book in Morticia Knight’s Soul Match series. The Nall, ruler of the alien Alasharian who have conquered Earth, destroying our cities and seemingly intent upon wiping out humanity — those they do not take as pleasure slaves — has grown more despotic and unpredictable. He is no longer the controlled, authoritative figure he once was. Now there is something dark behind his eyes and a darkness in his soul that leads to public displays of rape, torture, and execution for any human that displeases him. Even his bondmate, Lasar’s sister, has begun to question him, though carefully and never to his face. To displease her Ahna (the dominant member of an Alasharian pair bond) would most likely mean her death.
Chris, who has been chosen by the Sha Sha Ar as human seer and soul healer, has learned the truth behind the Nall’s behavior. He has been corrupted by the Void, a poisonous entity that would like to see both humanity and the Alasharian removed from existence. With the support of his two Ahna — Lasar and Nary, a bonded pair with whom Chris has mated and fallen in love — he will have to find the answer to the all important question: What can they do to stop the Nall? What can they do to save all life on Earth?
While Chris struggles with his newfound power, Morgan (Chris’ younger cousin) cannot help but worry about his own future. Lasar has promised that the alien Morgan is to be given to as a sex slave is a kind man who will not hurt him, but that’s hardly comforting for Morgan who has seen his family killed and countless people murdered, and who has been enslaved and scared out of his wits. It’s even more confusing because Morgan felt safe for a brief moment in the arms of the Nall’s advisor, Hallosh, when the man rescued him from the rubble after the bomb attack. How is it, then, then when he meets Rama, he feels something almost similar?
Morgan has heaped nothing but scorn on his cousin for the easy way he succumbed to his role as a sex slave for two alien masters, for the way he’s given in and let them do … things to him. Unlike Chris, Morgan has never done more than one furtive kiss with another young man, and the idea of his first time being with a giant alien who owns him fills him with terror and, strangely, excitement. It’s all too much for the young man. Even for Chris, the strain is becoming too much. The fate of two races rests squarely on his shoulders and Chris isn’t certain he’s strong enough.
The Alasharian culture is one of absolute dominance and submission. A soul matched pair is always a dominant — the Ahna — in charge of his Nasha, to the point that a Nasha cannot disobey his or her master at all. It’s not just a sexual relationship, it applies to all aspects of their lives, including how they are able or allowed to deal with other people out in public. The first two books in the series focused on Chris and his growing intimacy and romance with Nary and Lashar (Lashar was Nary’s dom, but Chris is submissive to both men, which puts a new strain on the alien pair’s established relationship.) In this third book, we see Morgan, Rama, and Hallosh, none of whom had ever been in a permanent romantic relationship before — or any relationship at all, for poor Morgan — coming to terms with being a trio.
Neither Rama nor Hallosh are submissive by nature. Both are older men, well-used to taking charge in their own past encounters, neither of whom have felt a soul bond and — for Rama, at least — haven’t really looked for one at this stage in their lives. Hallosh is an advisor to the Nall and has only recently become aware of the depredations and pure vileness of his Nall’s new behaviors and has reached out to Lasar for help and guidance. Rama, on the other hand, is a warrior and has helped personally slaughter thousands, destroy cities, and capture humans for sex slaves. The realization that what he’s doing is wrong, that the Nall has misled them about the sentiency and intelligence of the humans, makes him sick. By taking Morgan and protecting him, Rama is hoping he can, if only slightly, make up for a small portion of the evil he has had a hand in.
Morgan goes from terrified, to shy, to sex kitten over the course of the book, not due to his nature or his personality, but owing to the magical soul bond between he and Rama. Just before he and his owner are about to consummate their shared desire for one another, they each begin to feel nauseous which is, to them, a sign that they are missing something… someone. When Morgan suggests they try bringing in Hallosh, with whom he also felt a magical connection, Rama is at first jealous and then intrigued. Upon meeting each other, it’s clear neither alien is a submissive, which is — absolutely unheard of for their entire culture, if not race — but that’s quickly swept aside by the mating lust. It’s not that I wanted Morgan to be frigid or afraid, but I do wish there had been a few steps between “the giant alien scares me” to “I want to climb him like a tree.”
My biggest complaint with this book is a scene between Chris, Nary, and Lasar. Chris is worked up, frightened, and angry and Lasar decides Chris needs a balancing scene, ie – sex. Chris says no. He’s not in the mood. He’s angry, he’s upset, and he’s trying to work through what’s just happened — seeing people raped and killed, having the building he was in bombed, coming to the realization that he has magic, that evil exists and he’s been chosen to fight it — but Lasar doesn’t care. Chris is manhandled, stripped, and bound against his will until he’s worn out from trying to escape and hoarse from screaming and yelling. Chris’ submissive nature has him eventually given in, but it’s a worrying scene in that Chris’ firm, emphatic no and obvious lack of interest was ignored in favor of what Lasar and Nary wanted. This isn’t a true loving relationship, even with the magic sugar coating; it’s a master/slave relationship born of conquest, not consent.
In this book, as in all the others, the magic of soul bonding is used to overcome the realization that Chris, Morgan, and countless other humans are nothing but sex slaves. Even if their master or masters love them, they are still slaves and incapable of giving any consent. It’s especially alarming as this scene is written from Lasar’s point of view and he is an alien who has been raised to know that he will always be the dominant in a relationship. There is no question for him about his right to do this to Chris or Nary. He has the right, and it’s because he’s a good guy that he tries to give his mates pleasure with their pain, rather than just pain. That’s not to say I doubt that Lasar is meant to come off quite so much like a rapist, and — from what we know of Chris’ wants and desires from previous books — I doubt Chris minded the treatment, but the scene might have been more effective and less worrying if it had been written from Chris’ point of view.
Considering that Morgan is witness to this — Chris being slung over Lasar’s shoulders and carried, kicking and screaming into the sex room, where he can still hear him screaming and crying out — is it any wonder he was scared of what might happen between he and his own master? Fortunately for Chris, his Ahnas are both more captivated by his fragility and disinclined to bring out the toys at the moment. But Rama has plans to teach Morgan about pain, because it pleases Rama to give pain and pleasure. Again, it’s a bit disturbing, but magically, Rama knows the idea pleases Morgan.
What I most enjoyed was the growing awareness of the aliens that humans are more than just violent non-sapiens that can only be controlled through constant sex. Instead, they’re seeing that humans are actual people and that the attack on their planet was a moral wrong. Members of the Nall’s council and his generals are trying to save the rogue humans as yet uncaptured and are trying to figure out how to replace him, if they cannot guide him back to sanity. Lasar has to deal with the strain of this delicate balance between seeming to kill humans while trying to save them; Hallosh, as an advisor, must keep the Nall deceived and calm; and it’s wearing on everyone’s nerves. There is more plot in this book than the previous two, but I enjoyed the politics and subterfuge, as well as the idea that humans and Alasharians might be more related than they seemed, at first. Not only are they physically similar — Alasharians are taller, have darker skin and a few other small differences — but they are able to bond across these alien lines.
I enjoyed this story and I am very much looking forward to the next two books, particularly with the developing plot and the careful way Knight balances out her trios. After all, the triangle is the most stable shape, and with Chris’ growing magic and even Morgan’s growing empathy, whose to say what’s likely to happen next? However, one thing to keep in mind is the master/slave and dominant/submissive themes in this book. Personal thoughts aside, the author makes it very clear that neither Chris nor Morgan are forced against their will — the soul bond would not allow it — and neither of them feel afraid of or angry towards their mates. However, as the books grow more complex in their story the relationships also grow more graphic and more challenging in their issues, so if these are problems for you, or simply not your cup of tea, you might want to look elsewhere. But it’s a good story with good writing, and I am looking forward to the next installment.