Series: Survivor Stories
Author: J.P. Barnaby
Genre: Erotic Romance / BDSM-KINK
Length: Novel (200 pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (September 27th, 2013)
Heat Level: Explicit
Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥4.5 Hearts
Blurb: From her perch on a shelf above my bed, the doll accuses me with lifeless eyes of failing Juliette in the most heinous way imaginable, forcing me to crave the bite of his whip and the steel in his voice to drown out the ache in my chest.
For his entire life, Benjamin Martin’s parents drilled into his head that he must watch out for his little sister, but one horrific night, he failed. Now, the bite of a whip, cuffs digging into his wrists, his arms and legs stretched beyond endurance, these things give him what he needs to forget his sister’s violent death, at least for a while.
When Ben’s latest Dom casts him aside like a broken toy, he manipulates his best friend, Jude Archer, into picking up the pieces. Jude has been in love with Ben for years, but his fantasies about his friend never included whipping him. He doesn’t understand why Ben needs BDSM and he worries about Ben’s addiction. Most of all, he fears losing his humanity because he’s already lost himself in Ben. When he’s forced to trade the marks upon his soul for the pain that ravages Ben, Jude learns the real definition of submission.
Review: So, I’m opening the pages of this book and start reading. I know it is BDSM themed and I expect it. The blurb indicates as much, as it also indicated that we would deal with characters that are “broken,” hence the Survivor Stories. But when I say I was surprised from this read not only is that a freaking huge understatement, but it doesn’t come nearly enough of what I felt while reading this book. I’m going to give it a shot though to pass my thoughts as eloquently as possible.
I’ll start with the kink factor here. I’ve read BDSM-y books, many of them. They are after all among my favorite genre. However, it is so rare to read a book that involves kink and that will utterly captivate you like this one did. You don’t need to have the same kinks these characters had in order to feel the sensuality, the intensity, the hotness of the scenes described here deeply in your core. You don’t even have to understand, or be in these characters shoes to feel their emotions slap in your face and enter your head and heart and soul. Even if you’re actually unnerved or repulsed by certain scenes, I truly believe that the way this book is written is totally approachable and appealing. For me it was pure magic reading this, it was as if I was suddenly taken from this realm and dropped right in the middle of Inferno, or the guys’ room. How deliciously perverted I felt. Every single molecule of my dark side woke up and took notice. The impact was so strong, I literally had to take the day off today and clear my head. I think I managed some.
But this is not a fun read. This is not the easily read book you read for escapism purpose only. As a matter of fact, this is quite thought-provoking as the characters both of them had some serious issues. Jude, Ben’s roommate and best friend and aspiring lover, has pretty much an obsession with Ben. That was the only way I saw it. He’s already deeply in love with him and has been for the better part of the three years they know each other and live together. It’s so painful reading about a character who constantly beats himself up, pinning after a guy who seems to have no interest in him, that at some point I seriously thought I was going to dislike Jude,. Perhaps I even did for a little while.
As for Ben, oh my God, what a character. Have ever met a person so heavily ridden by guilt they can’t see straight? It is so impossible, so frustrating dealing with such people, so when I saw that this was one of the strongest characteristic of Ben I had half a mind to abandon the book altogether (thankfully I didn’t, I’d be seriously regretting it). I came to a point where I felt so bad for Ben’s sake I couldn’t stand it. He feels guilty for his sister’s rape and death to the point of having PTSD symptoms. He feels guilty for leaving home after that, because he couldn’t bear looking at the shrine his parents put and the constant reminder. He feels guilty for not telling Jude about what bothers him. He feels guilty for being freaking born. No, it’s not extravagant at all. It’s what his parents done to him over the years. No, they are not monsters intentionally, but one particular scene with Ben and his father literally made think they were the very definition of cruelty, and you know what’s worse than cruelty? Cruelty from love… It was Hell. And yeah of course, I loved it. It felt so real it was as if I was living it myself.
Now, I went off a bit there. So imagine these two characters together. Ben is in this incredible place where he NEEDS to be hurt in order to forget about his heartache for a while. He found this in a D/s relationship. His Dom providing him with all the hurt he can take, and boy did he take a lot. But, it’s not only mental; he also gets off on it. He’s what we call a pain-slut. Start spanking, paddling, flogging and/or whipping him and he’s yours. Jude on the other hand screams VANILLA. As in kink=freak vanilla. As in spanking your lover equals abuse even when said partners erection goes above normal charters when he’s spanked and said partner is practically begging you to do that to him. So imagine, this book spends the better half of it with Jude pinning ridiculously for Ben, and most of the other half with him wanting to do anything not to lose Ben, even if the things Ben wants to be done to him are making Jude cringe and loath himself. It was ANGST reading this pair’s… oh dear. They aren’t even together for most part of the book, so I don’t know if relationship is the proper word here. The odd thing is that whenever they get intimate and emotional with each other, it rocks. It rocks so much you forget to breathe. Such a weird pair, so erotic and sensual, and so awkward too. I was not sure I was going to like them, but by the end of the story, I adored them. They were simply fabulous.
As for the plot in its entirety, I think it was simply brilliant. I had this weird reaction when at the beginning Ben and Kage (his Dom) went to Inferno, I relaxed (God knows why) and for a moment there I thought how nice a feeling to read about Ben know. I thought Ben was on his path to healing for some stupid reason. I just believed in Ben and Kage so much I was still trying to see how Jude would fit in there. So when the plot took this massive turn (that’s when the weird reaction came) I felt so cold, I think I was frozen in the same paragraph over and over for a good five minutes. And down the road things changed again… and then just as I’d be comfortable with a setting they would change again. But not in ludicrous way, that was its brilliance, the plot doesn’t keep you reeling, it simply has you on your toes, it demands your attention without making you lose focus or concentration with unworthy details or incredible events.
So before I end this I have one more thing to add. Dear Author, I did not appreciate the attempt you made there at the end to try to make us feel sorry for Kage. I certainly did not fall in that trap. I’m perfectly happy despising him and basking with the revenge.
So these were my thoughts. I could not have written more about this book without actually giving away spoilers. As it is, I sincerely hope I gave an idea of what to expect, and how marvelous a read this really is. I do believe this is a must read even if you’re not attracted to the genre. As for you kinksters out there, enjoy! J