Rating: 4.25 stars
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All Duncan wanted was to take Axel down the aisle with a clean conscience, to finally give his fiancé the last little bit of his rough past so they could start their future together without any shadows. Duncan visited his old stomping grounds: a garage in run-down Detroit. But before he could put all the ghosts to rest, Duncan was hunted down and abducted by a mysterious group calling itself the Colosseum group. Duncan knows they’ve got the wrong guy, but he also knows nothing he can say convince his captors to free him. Instead, he bides his time.
Luck may be on Duncan’s side, because the traffickers have kitted out the garage where he worked as a teenager into their nefarious dungeon. Then, he meets his sponsor and a man named Dr. Malcom. With money from the former, the latter turns Duncan into a literal living fucking machine. Even worse, the doctor can control Duncan’s libido so he performs just as lustily and violently as their paying customers demand. Being given another human to act out the worst of his impulses on is both a blessing and a curse. The man, Tim, helps Duncan survive the consuming need to fuck and Duncan’s violent acts satisfy an equally dark, equally artificial need in Tim. But the continued forced sex wears on Duncan. Worse, he starts to loose faith he can ever find his way back to being the mild, affectionate lover he was for Axel.
Axel knew Duncan had some unfinished business to take care of before their wedding. But when he travel-averse fiancé fails to check in, and worse, fails to be reachable by phone or email, Axel gets anxious. The police are of little help and Axel’s commitment to be strictly white-hat in his hacking services limits how far he can track his missing lover. The longer Duncan is gone, the greater Axel’s concern grows. Before long, Axel is pushing past his aversion to strangers to reach out to old hacking contacts and Duncan’s work associates to cobble together a search team. This team, however, is so much more than just a mishmash of loose connections. He gets Zero, an absolutely no-holds-barred hacker; Tiny, a former marine; and a private investigator. Together, they manage to scour the dark web and discover the Colosseum group. Armed with knowledge, tech, firepower, and sheer muscle, Axel mounts a rescue. Nothing can stop him from getting Duncan back. And no one can stop him from helping Duncan recover from the trauma.
Based on the blurb, I expected a lot of sex and a lot of attention to the dynamic between Duncan and Axel. Colosseum of Lust has the former in spades, but it is laced with so many conventionally taboo elements. First, to be clear, this is absolutely a story about a character who is forced to have a lot of sex against his will. Specifically, he is drugged with a special serum that turns him into a temporarily lust-driven caricature of a man who will stop at nothing to get the kind of sex he wants. Tim, the so-called fuck toy the traffickers fashion for Duncan, is equally prepped to be a slave to submissive desires for pain and humiliation. Next, fulfilling these needs goes far beyond vanilla sex. Violence aside, there is also a lot of on-page urine play, spanking with hands and other accoutrements, and fisting. That is to say, this is not a book for the squeamish. One thing I appreciated is how steadfast Duncan tries to hang onto his humanity, even as he is forced to want these extreme sexual fantasies fulfilled. He runs the gamut from dread at the knowledge a wave of chemically induced lust is coming, to shamelessly acting on that lust, to regret and anger at being so manipulated. Many of the Duncan/Tim scenes include bittersweet hurt/comfort elements—both men are resigned to their fates and try to help each other, even after they realize that dependency is part of the Colosseum group’s design (because of the pain taking away a trusted partner in this situation would invariably cause).
At the same time, Duncan and Tim are coping with this new reality, Duncan often thinks about what all this means for his relationship with Axel. The couple seems to have been very tame by comparison and, as someone who enjoys angst, I rather enjoyed watching Duncan contemplate what his surgical enhancements would mean for his physical relationship with Axel, to say nothing of what the aftermath of being conditioned by drugs to need to subjugate sexual partners and view them as nothing but literals “holes” (this language is thematic in the book when Duncan is under the influence of the serum).
I enjoyed the pacing of this book. There is an initial focus mainly on Duncan and his life being trafficked, but soon Axel’s thread picks up. About halfway through the story, it felt like a near-equal split between the two. One thing I liked about that is that there was only so much new horror to anticipate with Duncan. Yes, things escalated in Duncan’s thread, but I understood from the beginning that Duncan’s trip would be straight to the bottom of the pits of depravity. Less well known was how Axel would respond. At first, he’s clearly fired up to get Duncan back. When he learns that his fiancé was abducted by sex traffickers and especially when Axel and his team manage to hack into the pay per view system used by the Colosseum, when Axel has the option to actually see and hear exactly what Duncan is being forced to do…that scratched part of my itch to read about lovers facing extreme duress in their relationship.
As much as I enjoyed how these two dissimilar threads converged, I was a little disappointed in the ending. First, there is a scene where Duncan gets a certain kind of revenge and I am not sure how I feel about that. Second, the issue of what happens to Duncan after he goes off the serum and what he does with his enlarged penis felt under-addressed to me. Personally, the biggest disappointment in the ending was how little the Axel/Duncan get-back-together dynamic was covered. All signs indicated these two wanted to stay together. Duncan was constantly worrying about how his time in Colosseum would affect his relationship with Axel. Axel was determined to help his fiancé return to the happy balance they had in their romantic life. But the book literally ends shortly after Axel and friends free Duncan, so there was no exploring the post-trauma life for the couple. Though, per the author’s page, this may be addressed in a forthcoming sequel to the book…so there is hope?!