Author: Stephen Hoppa
Cover Artist: unknown
Rating: 2.50 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 01/16/2016
Length: Novel (~ 50K-100K)
Genre: BDSM, Contemporary, Drama, Gay, Gay Fiction
Ethan is confused about more than just his sexuality the night he wanders into a white-trash bar after breaking up with his fiance. When he’s dragged outside the bar and beaten by leather-clad thugs, he’s rescued by the last man he needs in his life.
Raw, dominating, and dangerously unpredictable, this dark stranger won’t even tell Ethan his name. The enigma only draws Ethan in more as he finds himself unable to resist this man or the power he holds over him. Secrets are slowly uncovered. The bond between the two men deepens as scars of the past reveal themselves. But Ethan finds he’s learning more about himself than he ever imagined as a new word finds it’s way onto his lips: submission.
**This is a 65,000 word stand-alone novel which contains intensely intimate scenes between two men, and a happily ever after with no cliffhangers.**
Going from the blurb, this book should’ve been right up my alley. Flawed heroes, scars of the past, self-discovery, angst, secrets and mystery, and all that garnished with a touch of D/s? Count me in.
However, once I started reading, the “huh?” and “WTH?”- moments started to assault me, soon piling up to a steaming heap of bewilderment I had a hard time getting over. In fact, I’m still wondering how I ever made it through to the end.
This certainly wasn’t a nice and easy read, but it didn’t have a lot of depth either, not in the way it might’ve been intended to have, anyway. There was some blood and gore, probably supposed to lend the story grittiness, but those elements read like cheap grandstand play to me. And the characters? Ethan, who tells most of the story from his 1st person POV still remains rather flat, and Nate (whose name figures as one of those “slowly uncovered secrets” for about a quarter of the book) is plainly unappealing, his behavior bordering on sociopathic most of the time. In fact, both main characters are so dysfunctional they’d need quite a lot of loose screws tightened just to get from today to tomorrow without falling apart.
I guess that’s what their relationship is supposed to do, in a weird, toxic way–fixing them, sort of, healing the wounds of past self-denial, poor-rich-boy-syndrome, stranger-in-a-strange-world-pains, what have you. And I suppose the way this even sort of works might be rather appealing to other readers, even though I just couldn’t get behind the whole concept. I found the story in its entirety just so far-fetched it bordered on ridiculous, from premise to solution. Which, given all the curveballs the plot took me, felt all too conveniently wrapped up in a HEA that actually solved nothing–as if they’d simply swapped one kind of messed-up with a different, more socially acceptable kind.
To sum it up, I really didn’t like this book, but it evoked strong enough feelings in me to keep me soldiering on to the end. Hence the rating. It fell sort of halfway between morbidly fascinating and disgusting for me; I can’t in good conscience recommend it, but I can’t dismiss it out of hand either. I guess this is just the kind of book that tends to leave me thinking “What did I just read??” and mildly annoyed with devoting so much time to something so unsatisfactory.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
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