We want to welcome another guest reviewer to the blog, Shannon.
Determined to find the human traffickers preying on Shadowlands’ submissives, Master Raoul gets himself invited to a small slave auction. Once informed, the FBI orders him to reject the limited choices so the slavers will invite him to the big auction. To Raoul’s shock, one of the slaves is the kidnapped friend of a Shadowlands sub. She has a scarred body…and an unbroken spirit. He can’t leave her behind. Ruining the FBI’s carefully laid plans, he buys her. Kimberly’s freedom has come at a devastating price: the other women are still slaves. An FBI raid is their only hope for rescue. Desperate to help the Feds locate the big auction, she agrees to pose as Master Raoul’s slave. Wearing a collar again is terrifying, but under the powerful dominant’s care, Kim starts to heal and then to blossom. This is what she’s been drawn to—and fled from—her entire life. She escaped the slavers who captured her body—can she escape the master who’s captured her heart?
Blurb from goodreads.
I can’t remember which of the awesome bookish people I follow on Twitter started a discussion of Cherise Sinclair’s books. I know I giggled helplessly at the fact that she has a book called My Liege of Dark Haven, because the idea of calling someone “My liege” just wasn’t one I could take seriously. On a whim, I bought the aforementioned book, as well as the first of the Masters of the Shadowlands books.
I had a real problem with that first book… It bothered me that the heroine doesn’t learn the hero’s actual name until the last paragraph, but I fell for the sequel-baiting, hook, line and sinker, and then the rest of the books wound up in my shopping cart and I glommed them with hardly a break in between.
The early books were fairly formulaic, but around the third, a suspense subplot began to figure prominently, and the fourth had a tough but vulnerable heroine, which, along with a beta hero, is a plot hook I can never resist. Then there was book 5, which I loved but also broke me because the heroine endured a lot of really rough play, including a scene I thought I’d only ever read about during some scary forays into Urbandictionary.com.
In that book, Ms. Sinclair introduces a subplot involving a human trafficking ring, which kidnapped rebellious submissives from local BDSM clubs. One of the people kidnapped was Kimberly Moore, the heroine of To Command and Collar. We first meet her when she’s brought in to be shown off for prospective masters. Right now she’s busy trying to endure, because she sees no way out of the slavery her life has become.
Raoul Sandoval, one of the titular masters of the Shadowlands BDSM club, was approached by the overseer of the human trafficking organization. He’s supposed to leave the merchandize alone so he can get invited to the larger auction that is planned, but he’s drawn to Kim, and he just can’t leave her, so he buys her. Unfortunately for Kim, she can’t simply go back to her former life, because otherwise the overseer would get suspicious, and she’d probably end up dead. So she has to live as Raoul’s 24/7 submissive. She’s doing it to help the FBI, but of course she and Raoul don’t spend their time knitting socks and soon the question becomes: Can she give him up once this business with the FBI is over?
One of the things to bear in mind when reviewing erotic romances is that I can accept any character’s kinks. They don’t have to be my kinks, but they do have to work in the context of the story. I wasn’t sure I would be capable of buying a heroine going from kidnapped and unwilling slave who was brutalized, raped, and locked in cages to willing and obedient submissive who got off on a bit of pain. I was terrified there would be lots of dubious consent, or at the very least humiliation, and I was not on board that train. Worse, I thought the author might overuse the “Let me heal you with the magic of my penis” trope, which is something I don’t enjoy.
I am happy to report that I bought the romance, and while there was, indeed, a fair bit of “Let me heal you through domination and submission” going on, I thought the author took great pains to make it make sense. I never felt that Kim was coerced or manipulated into doing anything she didn’t want to do. I also thought Sinclair’s explanation of why anyone would want to enter into a 24/7 D/S relationship made a lot of sense. She basically says it comes down to feeling secure in the knowledge that the submissive doesn’t have to worry about making the wrong decisions, and provides some much-needed structure. It’s not personally my bag, but I could see why it was comforting for Kim, and why she struggled with it, because I certainly would have similar struggles if I were her.
It also helps that Raoul is the perfect dom. in fact, if I have any gripes with these books, it’s that I don’t think the heroes are fleshed out beyond their awesomeness. The author tries to introduce a bit of angst with regard to Raoul’s family, but even then, the angst has nothing to do with anything he did. Raoul can’t read minds like Master Z of the first book, but he always knows what Kim needs, and always does the exact right thing. When he does question himself, it feels a little jarring and almost out of character. I think I would have liked to see him occasionally need to decompress with his fellow doms and maybe get a little reassurance, because dealing with someone as messed up as Kim wouldn’t be easy on anybody.
As with the rest of the books in this series, there is blatant sequel-baiting. This time we get Master Sam, a sadist and an older hero, who has a steamy encounter with another rescued slave. I’m pretty sure I’m too young for that book, since hardcore pain play doesn’t sound like fun, but I know I’ll read it anyway. We also get visits from previous couples, and some requisite public scenes at Club Shadowlands. This book, though, felt much more fleshed out than some of the previous books. I can tell a definite improvement in Ms. Sinclair’s writing, and I absolutely think she’s going to blow me away with something brilliant soon.
This probably isn’t the place to start in the series. I’d recommend reading the prequel, Make Me, Sir, before diving into this one, but be aware that these people aren’t playing around with their BDSM and if you’re not comfortable with some of the things that entails, this probably won’t change your mind. But I loved the characters, particularly raw, vulnerable Kim who broke my heart.