One of the greatest pleasures I experience when reviewing books is being introduced to authors I haven’t read before and falling in love with their work. I had heard of JP Barnaby, seen her books listed on various sites, and even chatted with her online. However, until I picked up her Survivor series, I hadn’t read her. She is now one of my all-time favorites, as is her beautifully rendered BDSM novel, Painting Fire on the Air.
Author: JP Barnaby
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
From the Publisher:
A Survivor Story
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.
Ben is in pain. It is constant, debilitating, and cruel. The guilt he feels over his sister’s death is unbearable, and he submits to physical pain to cope with the brutality of an emotional agony he cannot escape. When his current Dom decides to terminate their relationship, Ben is set adrift without an anchor. His best friend and roommate, Jude, has loved him from afar but cannot fathom why Ben needs to be beaten in order to cope with his inner turmoil. In an attempt to meet each other’s needs, they begin a relationship that tests their wills – and their feelings for each other.
Before I begin to talk about Painting Fire on the Air, I must give a strong recommendation that potential readers start with the first book of the Survivor series, Aaron. Though Painting Fire is truly a standalone book, the reader gets a more complete picture of why Ben’s pain is so acute through the vivid, heart-rending descriptions of his sister and her death in Aaron’s story. I felt more strongly connected to Ben after having met Juliette in Aaron, which in itself is a book not be missed.
There is so much I wish to say about this beautiful story and how it affected me. I rarely write reviews on the fly, usually taking notes while I read and preparing ahead for setting down carefully chosen words with which to discuss and recommend books to readers. I believe I need to be more candid in this case, however, and I hope it presents clearly and effectively just how Painting Fire on the Air made me feel.
Very few authors take such a resounding punch at the empathy buttons as JP Barnaby. Her characters’ pain is a tangible, living entity that resides in the reader’s chest and doesn’t let go. I reacted to Ben and Jude on a visceral level, experiencing their wounds in a way that at times left me breathless. Ben’s desperation to escape his demons is palpable and frightening in its intensity, and Jude’s feelings of futility and worthlessness in his efforts to help Ben broke my heart. Yet, as bonds are forged and sacrifices are made, so too does the healing begin. JP Barnaby paints a vivid portrait of despair and agony, and then touches the canvas with tender, loving strokes of hope, gently pulling her characters – and the reader – up from the depths and back into the light.
I was captivated by the strong BDSM elements, which were intense and compelling. Though not an easy device to accept in many BDSM stories, Ben’s use of pain and submission as therapy works beautifully in this case. Jude’s aversion to the act of dominating Ben and inflicting the pain he craves is an authentic and appropriate response for anyone new and unaccustomed to the lifestyle. I loved the contrast between the two characters’ perceptions of BDSM and was happy to see the realistic, rational way it was portrayed in this story. The scene with Gio, the trainer, was a particular favorite of mine. His no-nonsense, calm demeanor was extremely appealing, and I very much enjoyed his approach to BDSM roles and his manner of communicating with the characters. Kudos!
This is simply one of the best stories I have read in a very long time. JP Barnaby brings to her pages a sheer, raw emotion that cuts to the core, and then soothes the reader with a balm of hope through the unwavering devotion shared between these two characters. Painting Fire on the Air is a story of emotional and physical pain, of anguish and longing, and of unswerving love and acceptance. I cannot recommend it highly enough and look forward to relishing more of JP Barnaby’s work.
This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer independent of any review copies offered.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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