my skin begs you please coverRating: 4.25 stars
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Length: Novel


Mitchell “Minty” Arnold has showcased the bright, sparkly side of himself for years, through his personality and his dress. He has a horrible, abusive past that continues to haunt him, but up until now, Minty has been able to mostly focus on college and his friends and the good things in his life. But ever since learning he is HIV+, Minty has not been able to keep his demons at bay. He is terrified of dying, he feels powerless and angry, and so he has been seeking ways to cope. Unfortunately, that has led him down a self-destructive path of an abusive sexual relationship that is so violent, it is threatening his life.

Luke Montgomery was a professional Dom until receiving his own HIV+ diagnosis. Since then, not only has his illness affected the safety of him and his partners, it has been hard to get into the headspace he needs to be a Dom. However, when a mutual friend asks him to consider Minty as a sub, Luke agrees to try to help the clearly very troubled young man. Luke hopes that a more structured Dom/sub dynamic might help Minty channel his desire for intense pain and abuse in a safe way.

Minty’s masochistic needs are a perfect match for Luke’s sadistic side, but it is clear that Minty is dealing with some serious issues, and Luke can’t help but worry he may not be able to help him. Minty always seems one breath from bolting and returning to his abusive sexual partner. However, slowly the men begin to connect and Luke starts to learn how he can give Minty what he needs. For his part, Minty begins to believe that he is worthy of more than just being hurt and abused. The men even start to form a romantic partnership that grows along with their Dom/sub dynamic. But Minty’s emotional scars run very deep and breaking away from his self-destructive tendencies is difficult, even with his love for Luke. Now that the men have fallen for one another, Minty must find a way to believe he is worthy of the love Luke has to offer.

Ok, before I go into the rest of the review, there is lots of information and warnings for you all. First off, this story is set in the same universe as Leta Blake’s fabulous ’90s Coming of Age series. We meet Minty there as the best friend to one of the MCs, Daniel. You absolutely don’t need to have read that series to enjoy this book (though it is excellent and highly recommended). Peter and Daniel appear here briefly, as do some other side characters from the main series, but this one is actually less connected than I had anticipated (and I’ll admit to wanting a little more time with Peter and Daniel here), so feel comfortable jumping in here if you want. Second, this book has a LOT of potential triggers and definite content warnings. It is very dark and intense and angsty. We know from the main series that Minty has been a victim of incestuous rape. He is also regularly having sex with a fellow student who physically beats him to the point of injury (though he is monogamous once he starts seeing Luke). Luke and Minty have a hard core, intense Dom/sub dynamic, which features extreme impact play, humiliation kink, and watersports, among other things. So I definitely encourage you to read the content warnings that you can find on Blake’s website.

So, if you are still with me, I will say that this one very intense and often difficult to read, but very rewarding. I found Minty such an interesting side character in the ’90s Coming of Age series and I was heartbroken upon learning he was HIV+. To be clear, this story takes place in the early 90s at a time when a positive diagnosis was akin to a death sentence. Both Luke and Minty have every reason to assume they will die within years, if not months. The specter of dying is something that deeply impacts both of them, but for Minty in particular, the fear leads him down a dangerous and self destructive path. Minty’s need for some sort of control has him turning to a violent situation that gives him a sense of strength, despite the abuse. (Rest assured, there is a long-term, happy ending for both men.)

Luke gets involved when one of their mutual friends asks him to help Minty channel some of that need for pain and abuse into a safer format. Again, they have a very intense Dom/sub relationship and some extreme kink. There is a fine line that the men walk here, as Minty needs an outlet that is safer than letting himself get beat up, and Luke wants to give that to him. And Luke is a sadist and does enjoy dispensing pain. But sometimes what Minty wants is more extreme than Luke can give and Minty is ready to bolt and give up for much of the story. So I liked that we see Luke struggle here too. He isn’t the all knowing Dom who can perfectly navigate these challenges. At times, Luke is unsure if he can give Minty what he needs and if he can really help him. Or even if he can emotionally handle the intensity of what Minty is going through. We know from the main series that Minty was raped by his father and that has left deep and intense emotional scars. Not just from the rape itself, as horrific as it was. But Minty’s defense mechanism had him acting in ways that gave him the power he needed to survive, but now make him hate himself. So as I said, this one is dark and intense and Minty is going through a lot here as he finds his way out the other side.

If you can hang in there though, this one is so rewarding. Minty finds a path to happiness, not just in his relationship with Luke, but in gaining his own sense of self worth back. The men find a long, loving relationship that far exceeds what either man dared to dream for themselves. I love that Blake includes a “Post Script” versus a traditional epilogue and the style feels akin to watching a movie and then getting “what happened next” notes at the end. We learn about key milestones in their lives and it is just such a lovely way to see all the happiness these men get after such a difficult start. It is really beautifully done and a great way to end the story.

Overall, I found this one to be a rough read at times, but very worth it. Please be sure to check out the content warnings, as this story isn’t going to be for everyone (particularly if you have triggers surrounding abuse or incest). But for those who give it a shot, this one is a rewarding story and a great way to tie up Minty’s journey.

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