Tears of Surrender

Earlier this week, I wrote a blog post about Sophie Kisker’s Midrosian Chronicles. Well, today her latest book came out, Tears of Surrender. It’s the final book of this series and it’s the most intense book of the series, IMO. The story winds through both Memories and Longings and gives us some peeks into those stories. Then it nicely winds up the whole story of the women of Midros.

When I say intense, I mean it. There was a point in time when I had to walk away from the book for a couple of hours to process how I felt about it and deal with my feelings. There have been very few books that I’ve had to do that with. To me, that is a great thing and means that the book is pretty awesome. I still have Parin and Mercer living in my head a couple of days after I read it, which is also a pretty awesome thing if you ask me. And so, on to the review.

Tears is the story of Parin Denos. It opens up 3 years prior to Memories. Parin was raised on Prima, with her parents, who died when she was 7. She vaguely remembers her mother telling her to never go to Midros. When she’s adult, her company is contacted by the Midrosian government to see if a product they sell would work for them. On Midros, when women come onto the planet, they have to wear a temporary collar and their DNA is routinely run through databases.

Parin’s company declines the offer to sell their product to the Midrosian government. In walks government officials from the slavery board. They tell Parin that she is a runaway slave. To her knowledge, she has never been on Midros before. However, it comes out that her parents were Midrosian, with her father owning her mother, before they escaped when Parin was two. With the Midrosian law, as held up by the galaxy wide authorities, once a Midrosian slave, always a Midrosian slave. Women who escape, and their female children who escape with them, are still slaves. Thus, Parin is an escaped slave.

The authorities drag Parin away to get her ready for her auction. She’s locked in a cell, has to endure a humiliating and punishing exam by a doctor to assess her health and her sexual capabilities, and is bathed, where she’s taught another brutal lesson by guards. Then she’s chained up and gagged so that the men who will be at the auction can inspect her, along with all the other slaves for sale.

The man who buys her, Edar Pennis, is a horrible, brutal, sadistic man, and on a planet of men who are sadistic, that is saying something. He swears to break her, but he really has no idea of what he’s doing. He has her shoved into a cage, covered up and transported. When they get to his house, he has his guards dump her out onto the driveway, and attaches a collar to her which will put poison in her system whenever it’s triggered. And being the terrible man he is, I bet you can figure out what happens with that.

Edar does lots of horrible things to her, including locking her in a hole in the dark. The final straw for Parin is that he takes her out to the garden, has her put in a hole where she has to stand on a small block which isn’t anchored on anything, and then puts two boards around her neck, so that only her head is above ground, and leaves her there. If she falls, then she hangs by her neck. Which she consciously decides to do, Edar has driven her to suicide.

In walks Mercer. And from here, there are going to be spoilers and commentary. I loved this book, I identified so much with Parin and I felt her distress and stress so much. I know I say this for a lot of books, but I really recommend this. I can’t tell you how much I recommend this. I want to give this like 11/10 stars. It is just that amazing.

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OK, a note before we get into the spoilers. In Midros, there is no legal way to rape a woman. If she is your slave, she can’t tell you no. She’s property, and property can’t say no, I mean, it’s not like a chair can tell you no that it doesn’t want you to sit on it. It’s the chair’s job to have someone sit on it. If someone else has sex with your slave without your permission, it’s theft of services, not rape. A woman who grew up on Midros would understand this concept, since it was what she grew up with and had been trained to expect and to do. Parin, however, doesn’t have that same understanding. She grew up as a free woman, with the expectation of bodily autonomy. She is upset that she’s going to be raped but Edar explains to her that no, it’s not rape, it can’t be rape. I think that’s one of the things that is the hardest for Parin to get used to in her slavery. And Edar, well, he’s an asshole, and he doesn’t do anything to make it easier on her.

Mercer Pennis is Edar’s son. He wants to be a lawyer, his father wants him to take over the mining business. There is a younger son, Jacen, but he makes his father look tame. At one point, he has his slave Dara’s vagina and vulva sewed almost all the way shut, because he prefers anal sex and wants her to be an anal only slave. However, because he’s messy, he still manages to get her pregnant, with a girl. He was going to sell her off, but Parin convinces Mercer to get her instead. Dara eventually runs away, and ends up in the same escaped slave enclave as Enna from Longings, and is able to be with her daughter, off planet.

Mercer starts out as a prat and I really don’t like him all of the time. He sees Parin as 3 holes and 2 tits to be used when he wants. Now, I have to give him some leeway, since he’s never dealt with a free woman before, but I think he doesn’t always take that into consideration with Parin. Yeah, he’s trying to teach her how to be a slave and how to survive the world she’s living in, but, still.

However, as they are together, he does start to change and realizes he loves Parin and she is more than a collection of body parts. He even lets her help him out at his business, since he has problems with math and Parin is an accountant. Without her help, he wouldn’t have been able to clean up his business as well.

To me, one of the more horrific scenes with Mercer is the scene where he decides to breed her. The way that it is done is that they go to a clinic, Mercer provides sperm and a doctor harvests an egg from Parin. Then the doctor fertilizes the egg, makes sure it’s a boy, and implants the embryo into Parin. The doctor jams a needle into Parin’s abdomen and ovary to harvest an egg without any kind of numbing or pain medication. Parin screams because it’s painful. The doctor says that they don’t waste pain meds on slaves. Parin was already not wanting to bring a child into this world, but Mercer wanted one and told her that she would accept it. That whole section just really got to me, and I had to take a little break there for a few minutes.

Anyway, Edar does try to take Parin away from Mercer, after already signing a contract with him, and lies to her and tells her that he left it in the contract that he could reclaim her at any point. We also find out that Edar used to own her mother, and that’s what he bought Parin.

We also find out the true reason why Midros started taking other women and that the galaxy wide authorities not only knew about it, but they also helped out. The paeloate mining caused infertility problems for native-born Midrosians. So, a woman who wasn’t born on Midros was much more likely to have a child. When Parin and Mercer get this information out to the galaxy, the authorities come and take over Midros and set all the women free, unless they choose to stay as slaves.

Parin makes that choice and stays with Mercer. They have a history of edging and orgasm denial. It’s how he helps her in her submission. When he lets her have an orgasm, it’s amazing because she has to wait and wait and wait for it. When Parin tells Mercer that she wants to stay his slave, she asks to never have an orgasm again, since it helps her stay focused on him and his needs, and that his pleasure his all that’s necessary. However, he says that if he denies her permanently, he doesn’t get to listen to her beg and see her disappointment when he says no. However, he tells her that he will make her edge a certain amount of times, and then he will let her come, and keep her coming until she can’t come anymore. Then he will put her back in her cage until she has him back as her focus.

I mention this particularly for a reason. That’s because Sophie made a change right before she submitted it for publishing. I’m in her ARC group and she asked for feedback on the original ending as opposed to this new part. I fully, truly, deeply support and love this. It’s devious and evil and I think it really suits the relationship well. And the cage has a special meaning for Parin and Mercer. It’s her safe place when she needs a break, and a place he can send her when he’s unhappy with her.

Anyway, I love these characters and this world so much. Parin and Mercer won’t leave my head at all, which is a sign of a good book. I will have this series, and especially this book on reread, frequently, I think. In places, it will probably be a one-handed reread.

This book is intense, but the payoff at the end, not just for Parin and Mercer, but for the entire series and all the women of Midros, is worth all the intensity. Do read this.

I received an ARC in exchange for my honest and voluntary review, so that’s what you got.

Sophie Kisker and the World of Midros

If you look at most of the authors I’ve written about, you will see that I stalk follow them on FB, Twitter, Amazon, Bookbub, their blogs, and just about everywhere else I can. Sophie Kisker is no different. She is a dark romance writer, whose books generally have BDSM and at least some power exchange. I’ve currently read everything that she’s written, and am eagerly waiting for her newest book, which comes out very soon.  Since the new book is part of the Midrosian Chronicles, I thought this would be a good time to talk about the series, which currently consists of Memories of Surrender and Longings of SurrenderBook three, Tears of Surrender, comes out the 12th of this month.

Some background on the series. Midros is a planet that is rolling in the dough. Before a special mineral was found on their planet, interstellar shipping and travel was incredibly expensive. In order to make it through the atmosphere on re-entry, the outer hulls of the ships had to be very strong. Strong generally means heavy. A heavy hull makes it hard to take off and leave the atmosphere. Anything that lightens up that weight becomes immediately precious and in high demand. If it is only on one planet, well, that planet can pretty much do anything it wants to do. That’s the case when it comes to Midros and paeolate.

In the case of Midros, that means keeping half of its population as slaves. Women were literally nothing but property. Girls are ripped away from their mothers’ arms when they turn 5 and are educated at a special “girls’ school” until they turn 18. Their education is severely limited. Females aren’t allowed to learn how to read the language that is currently used by men, Br’ini.

When the girl turns 18, she is sold to her new master. She could end up working as some kind of service person, like an assistant at a store. Or, more likely, she’ll end up in someone’s household as their sex slave. Many men have a first slave, who might otherwise be called a wife, she’s the mother of their child/ren. As part of each slave’s duties, she will have to spend one week per year (roughly) as a service companion slave, available to rent. Most women don’t look forward to these weeks, because generally, bad things happen to them during this week.

So, with some basic background, I know, you’re thinking this was basic?, it’s on to the books.

Note, while you could read these books as a stand-alone book, if you really wanted to, they do build on each other, and you will bet a much better experience if you read them in order. I’m going to give a brief overview of each book up here, and then after the break, I’m going to go more in depth. There will, inevitably, be spoilers, but I’ll make sure that no one goes past where they are willing to go.

Memories of Surrender

So, in Memories, we meet James, Lydia, and Raym. Raym is Midrosian, the head of a pharma company, and a friend to James. James is a scientist, on Midros to help figure out why Oblivita, a medicine that is used to obliterate bad memories, doesn’t work on people unless they are on Midros. Lydia, is a slave. She has taught herself to read the illegal language. I mean, it’s so illegal for her to even know how to read this language, she can be (and is) punished for simply holding a book written in it. In fact, that’s where we open up.

Lydia is just going about her house, doing her duties, which includes cleaning where there are books. She grabs one about ocean creatures, and gets caught by her master looking at it. He told her that he was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, but she was still going to have to submit her name to Punishment Day, where she is whipped with a whip that leaves marks that look like burn marks.

James and Raym are talking about their research while Punishment Day is going on. James is a Dom, and is turned on by the idea of having a woman collared and punished, but the whole non-consent part bothers him.

A matter of days after her punishment, it’s time of Lydia’s service companion week. She’s dreading it, because with the marks of her severe punishment, there are going to people who want to rent her because of the marks. And in fact, when James come in, under Raym’s urging, there is a man who is bound and determined to really hurt her. Then James decides to rent her.

So, here he is with his lovely rental slave, and he doesn’t know what to with her. Well, I mean he knows what to do, I mean, he’s a boy, she’s a girl, he’s a Dom, she’s a sub, but this isn’t a situation that he ever would have thought to have found himself in. So, he takes her to the Archives and works on his research. Along the way, James, with Lydia’s help, finds out a huge secret which could blow Midros apart.

Longings of a Slave

This story is about Enna, a run away slave, and her search for her daughter, Miria, and the man who helps her, Matias Acoff. (Who happens to be Lydia’s brother, see why I strongly recommend you read them in order?)

Enna’s master, who never really liked her all that much, and only won her in a card game, has had Miria taken away from her mother before she even turned 5. He knew it would be hard when she turned five, so thus, the sneak attack. Enna did everything she could to fight, and eventually tricks the other slave, and she runs.

After some time, Matias is out with his group, doing what they came to Midros to do. Enna is the only slave he hasn’t been able to find as of yet. But, it’s time for him to take a week’s break.

While he is out morning, he sees a woman come to the back of a medical clinic to speak to another slave. When the woman leaves, and the slave’s master comes, she gets dragged away by the authorities. Matias comes back when the slave told the woman to come back, and saves Enna from being taken by those same authorities.

She eventually gets away from him, but that’s OK, he put a tracker in her shoe, and he follows her to where a bunch of escaped slaves were hiding, which works out just about as well as you might think it would.

Matias is attracted to Enna, and wants to help her, and her fellow run away slaves. He figures out a way to get Miria back. However, nothing ever goes smoothly, and so of course, things happen. Some very not good things.

The Midrosian Chronicles is a good series to read. Sophie writes some really strong female characters, which I really like. A lot of people think that submissive=weak, but it doesn’t, and it shows. Her women go on a journey to figure out who they are in regards to themselves and to what they want. Yes, I recommend them.

Spoilers go on from here, so you have been warned.

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So, back to Memories.

James finds out that Lydia can read, which is good, because he needs the help translating, and Raym isn’t always available to help. While they are in the archives, Lydia goes exploring and finds a women’s libary. It’s full of books that are written by women and have been hidden. One book she finds is a diary that talks about the eroding rights that women on Midros are dealing with. Another entry talks about where are all the women are coming from. Which is a darn good question. A lot of masters and slaves decide to not have girls because, well, you can guess why. But, there are always more than enough girls to go around, so they have to come from somewhere.

Meanwhile, Lydia and James are falling in love.  Except, Lydia’s master comes to take her back early. She’s due to be punished. He has her re-imprinted. It’s supposed to turn her mind to him so that she can again be happy in his service and can think of no one else. It didn’t work as well as it could’ve, and she ends up imprinted on James.

Through more research, they find out where all the extra girls are coming from. Midrosian squads go to war-torn planets and still little girls, use the medicine on them, and then trains them to be slaves. Turns out that Lydia was one of those girls.

That leads into Longings. That’s why Matias was on Midros. He and his military are testing all the women on Midros. If they aren’t from Midros originally, then they can go back to their planet of origin. If they are Midrosian, they have to stay where they are, and still be slaves. Although, Matias does manage to bend that law every now and again.

When he is at the slave camp with Enna, he talks to her about letting the women know about this, because none of them know. She points out a very valid arguement, IMO. Even if a woman is from another planet, if her daughter was born on Midros, then she’s Midrosian and has to stay there, same with sons, of course, but what woman is going to want to leave her young daughter to a fate she knows only too well? So Enna smashes the scanner.

Matias, wanting to make sure that the enclave is as safe as possible, talks to James and Lydia, and their friend Raym, and gets all kinds of help for the escaped slaves so that they can hide safely. What he doesn’t know, is that there is someone working against him, one of his own men. Enna’s sadistic and evil master has a big bounty out on her, and the guy decides to cash in on it and hand over Enna.

There is a truly horrifying scene of punishment for Enna and some of the other women. Castration with a rusty spoon is too good for her master, as well as some of the others. I’m pretty sure that I could come up with something very, very evil for them, but Sophie beat me to it.

Anyway, do read these books. Make sure to check out the new one, Tears of Surrender, on the 12th. Trust me, you’ll be glad. Also, check out other books by Sophie Kisker. There aren’t a whole lot, yet, but they are all worth reading. So far, she hasn’t written a book I don’t like. One of Sophie’s other books, Fear and Desire, is on my Top 10 darkest most fucked up book list. I came up with a new term when talking to Sophie about that, informed non-consent, which fits that really well. Her heroines do tend to go through a whole lot of terrible stuff, but they come out the other side and are able to find themselves and find love.

33 Free Books

Everyone loves free books! Thirty-three authors have gotten together to offer up 33 free books!  The offer is good through the 12th, so check it out, especially if you like smexi romances.

The books include Born to Be Bound, the first book in Addison Cain’s Alpha’s Claim series, The Invitation by Jennifer Bene, who I love and it’s a book I enjoy, and Wicked Ways by Cari Silverwood. Cari is a new author to me, but I really enjoy her. She just put out a steampunk, dark erotica, science fiction story called Acquired Possession. (Check out my review!)

There are also other authors I enjoy, Skye Warren, Maren Smith, Maggie Ryan, Alta Hensley, Lee Savino, and Meredith O’Reilly. Honestly, I can personally recommend about 1/2 of the authors and their books, either because I have read them or have read other books by the various authors.

If you like your romance with a dash of spice (or maybe a little more than a dash), check out the giveaway.

 

Top Ten Part 2

Here we are again folks, back to my Top Ten darkest and fucked up reads. These are books 6-10. You’ll notice that one of my Top Ten has more than one book, but that’s because it’s a trilogy. There are also two instances where an author has two books on my list. I think that they all fit on my list quite well, so there’s that. So, without further adieu, let’s dig back in.

Comfort Food

Comfort Food is the first book I ever read by Kitty Thomas. She is an author that Addison Cain introduced me to. Comfort Food is an interesting book, very dark, and with a fucking great twist in the tail. Emily Vargas is an inspirational speaker who is kidnapped. She’s kept in a cell by a beautiful man who never speaks to her and won’t feed her anything but chicken and noodle soup and water. This book explores what happens when what is supposed to be comforting turns it into a punishment. So good, and so dark. I love the ending.

Big Sky

Big Sky is another Kitty Thomas book. She really does write some really dark and fabulous stuff. I love the way that her mind works. Tabula Rasa and her newest one Persephone are really good too. I love the Persephone and Hades myth, and Kitty’s retelling is amazing.

Anyway, back to Big Sky. Veronica is a big ad exec, making a lot of money. On the surface, she looks like she has a great life. In actuality, she is deep in debt, at risk of losing her job, and keeps spending. She loses her job and loses her apartment. She runs into a real life cowboy, Luke, who offers to help her and take her to his ranch in Vermont. Luke has plans for her since she looks remarkably like his dead wife. It is a good mind fuck. A really good mind fuck. There really isn’t an HEA here, more like a happily for now maybe. Or closer to Veronica coming to a place she can accept.

Fear and Desire

Dan is undercover, trying to bust a human trafficking ring. He and his partner are both Doms, trying to figure out how to help the women that get taken while staying in the good graces of their boss. Then the woman Dan loves, Laura, gets taken. They end up having to walk a very narrow line to make sure that they don’t blow us cover or end up dead.

Fear and Desire by Sophie Kisker is a brand new entry on my list. Mostly because I just finished it a couple of days ago. It’s a fabulous book, as is every Sophie Kisker offering I’ve ever read. It is hard for me to figure out whether it’s strictly non-con or whether it’s non-con with some consensual non-con tossed in. I’m leaning towards the latter. If you read it, you’ll see where I think there may be some consensual non-con in there. The line is really blurry though and open to personal interpretation, which I really like.

Pretty Little Dolls

Pretty Little Dolls is a series that’s written by Ker Dukey and K Webster. There are currently three books, with a fourth coming out in the near future. The series, as it currently stands, is made up of Pretty Stolen Dolls, Pretty Lost Dolls, and Pretty New Doll.

In PSD, we meet Benny, who is obsessed with dolls, Jade, and her little sister Macy. Benny steals them away and keeps them for years. After spending years in captivity, 18 year old Jade, Benny’s Dirty Little Doll, manages to escape, leaving her sister, Macy, in Benny’s hands. She gets hit by a car and can never find where she was being kept so that she can rescue her sister.

Fast forward a few years, and Jade is now a cop, and is obsessed with her sister’s case. When something pops up that is too similar to what happened to her, she has to investigate it, with her partner, Dillon. The first book ends on a cliffhanger, and the second picks up right after. All the twists in these books are fabulous. PND takes place 3 years later, and the focus is less on Jade, Dillon, and their family, and more on Elizabeth, who is a camgirl who dresses up like a doll and goes by the name Pretty New Doll. PND ends on a cliffhanger too. I had to ask K Webster and Ker Dukey if they were trying to kill me, because I’m pretty sure that they are.

Whispers and the Roars

Number 10 is another entry from K Webster. I cannot give you any description of this book, and I recommend that you do not read any of the reviews about it. I can’t emphasize this enough. This book is twisty, twister, and twistiest. It is a true mindfuck. I love how K Webster handles the story. There are some graphic parts, especially about abuse, that could trigger people, but the story is rich and well-written. Again, don’t read any reviews.

Well, there you are. My Top Ten darkest, twistiest, what the fuck did I just read books. I highly recommend each and every book on this list. There are plenty of others that I recommend as well, but these are the current ones on my list. I have read some that are darker, like the Beautiful Evil series by B. B. Blaque and the Dollar series by Pepper Winters, but they don’t quite make my current Top Ten. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t like them, I did, they just didn’t hit my list. I will probably talk about those series sometime in the near future, because they are good.

Thursday is going to be all about urban fantasy/horror/whatever you want to call it. I expect next week to be about some of my favorite authors in that genre.

My Top Ten Part 1

Everyone should have a top ten list. I actually have several. This one is my Top Ten darkest and most fucked up things I’ve read. The list changes around some and the order changes around. Number one is currently number one, but the order of other four in my top five can change around, depending on which one I’ve read recently. This post is going to be the five top stories. Next Tuesday will be part two with stories 6-10.

The Life of Anna

Seriously, when I say that LoA by Marissa Honeycutt is dark and fucked up, I might be understating it. The trigger warnings may need to have trigger warnings. I’ve talked to other people who read dark books and they rank this as their darkest read ever and considering some of the books we talk about, that’s saying a whole lot.

LoA takes place in an alternate universe. It’s still Earth but there are magical Immortals. Anna is part Immortal. The world is basically run by the BDSM version of the Masons. Two very, very, very bad men take advantage of Anna from a very young age. That’s because they know what she is and what she will be able to do at some point. They want to be able to control her and use her powers. There is one pretty good man who does what he can to save her. There is a lot of sex. There is some BDSM. There is also a lot of brutality towards Anna. It is a very intense read. I cried through huge swaths of it, and I had to take a break to read something else in the middle. The complete story is on KU, or you can buy the serialized version. But trust me when I say that it is dark, intense, sometimes brutal, and can be triggering. Marissa Honeycutt published a companion novella called Abandoned Grace, about Devin, the main bad guy in LoA, and I just found out today that she has a new one coming out on August 24! It’s in the same world, but not about Anna. It’s called Master of My Body: Finding Sabrina. I’ve already 1 clicked.

Monster

Remember how in my last post I said that I would be talking about Monster in this one? Well, here it is. Monster is a short from Hero Undercover. HU is an anthology by 25 authors, including Jennifer Bene and Addison Caine, who has a story in another anthology that is about to show up on this list. Now, the premise of this anthology is that there is a good guy, usually a cop, but not always, is undercover and rescues the heroine. There is often a lot of spanking involved, yum.

Anyway, telling the good guys from the bad guys isn’t always easy, especially when the good guy has been undercover for a long time. That’s what happens with Monster. Nikki walks into a situation that is way above what she can handle because she wants to save her brother. Andre wants her. Terrible things happen to Nikki.

This story just trips all my triggers in an oh, so good way. Jennifer manages to pack a whole lot of twisted shit into a little package. Everything that happens would be intense in a longer work, but in a short, you just don’t get a break from it, which is totally wow. Great story in a great anthology.

Nightmares in Wonderland

Nightmares in Wonderland is Addison Cain’s entry in The Dark Forest. DF is another anthology. In this one, several great authors get together to put their own spin on various fairy tales. Obviously, Addison took on Alice in Wonderland. OMFG, did she ever. Addison swims in the deep, dark, disturbing end of the pool right next to Jennifer Bene. In fact, it was through Addison that I found Jennifer, as well as some other dark authors like Kitty Thomas, who doesn’t show up on this list, but will show up on my blog sometime in the next few weeks.

Addison’s version of this particular story is disturbing. Deeply disturbing. Her Alice spends years unable to sleep and being basically tortured by nightly visitors. The only time she gets any peace is then the Hatter comes to visit. He guards her sleep. After years and years, her parents try to have her cured. This whole story is delightfully disturbing and dark.

Beast

This retelling of Beauty and the Beast is written by A Zavarelli. If there was going to be a movie version of this book, I’m pretty sure that Emma Watson would turn down the role of Bella. Beast is really dark. It has capture and non-con themes.

Bella won a singing contest, and her manager is trying to get into her pants. Javier was trained by her father, who is now missing. Bella rushes home to deal with what’s going on with her father, but mysterious things start happening. She gets drawings and other things start showing up. She feels like she is being watched. And of course, you can probably guess what’s happening, she is, of course, being watched, by Javi.

Poor Javier, bad things happened to him as a child and then Bella’s dad takes advantage of the poor kid that is Javier. Javi hates her father for what he did. Frankly, I don’t blame Javi one bit for that. Her dad is a massive prick.

Anyway, Javi takes Bella, locks her up, and subjects her to a lot of things. However, this book isn’t necessarily about what happens here, but it’s about the light that can come from the darkness. For a book that starts as a non-con, it ends up with an HEA. Now I need to go read it again. Can’t recommend it enough.

Dare

Dare was a book that I read because one of the FB groups I’m in had a takeover by the author, James Crow. Of all the books on my list, most of which have some mind-fuck going on, this is the most mind-fuckingest. I will never, ever play truth or dare again. I’m pretty sure that my response was along the lines of what the fuck did I just read?

I don’t even know where to start describing this book. Pretty much anything I saw about it is a spoiler. Let’s just say it’s truth or dare to the Nth degree. The end was so not what I expected at all. I spent quite some time afterwards trying to figure it out. If you read it, you’ll understand why.  There is a lot of sex, and some (well, a lot of) drug use.

Anyway, these are the top five of my Top Ten. The second half will come out next Tuesday, or maybe earlier, I don’t know yet. Also coming next week, a blog post about urban fantasy, another very favorite genre.

Reminder, Jennifer Bene is offering her book, Security Binds Her, for free on Amazon right now, until 7/15. This is a great time to grab this book and get started reading her Thalia series. The last book just came out and it is a wonderful end to the series.

Jennifer Bene and Thalia

Jennifer Bene likes to play in the deep, dark end of the pool, and I love to go swimming with her. Many of her stories have heavy themes like non-consent, D/s, and BDSM. Some of them are incredibly intense. They don’t all have happy endings. I’m looking right at you, Monster. Spoiler, there’s going to be more about that story in Thursday’s post. It makes my Top Ten, in fact, it’s in the top three.

I love her stories and have read almost everything she’s written. I’m working my way through the last three or four. I’m lucky enough to be on her ARC team, which means that I get to read her books early. On top of that, Jennifer is an all-around nifty person.

Today we’re talking about her Thalia series, Security Binds Her, Striking a Balance, Salvaged By Love, and Tying the Knot. There is also a companion novella, Christmas at Purgatory. They are all available on Kindle Unlimited so you can read them all for free. SBH is currently free to purchase, until 7/15.

Security Binds Her can be triggering to people because it is heavily non-consensual. Terrible, terrible things happen to Thalia. She is stolen by a security guard named Marcus so that he can train her to be submissive and sold as a sex slave. The man who stole her said that he recognized that she was a natural submissive, so he had to take her. The things that he does to her are terrible. What his partner does is even worse. Let’s just say that I will never think of electricity in quite the same way. Sadistic psychopaths are always fun. That’s only partly sarcasm.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Thalia. She is able to get away from her “Master”, Marcus. She is purchased and rescued by James, who is truly a good man, and helps her to heal and realize who she is. One thing that I really like about James is that he admits that he makes mistakes and he does what he can to fix them. He’s also willing to be held accountable by outside forces for some of the mistakes he made.

James gets help from his friend Kalen, his wife Maggie, and his sister Ailsa, when they visit Purgatory. Purgatory isn’t a bad place, it’s a BDSM training school. Thalia makes friends with other submissives, which really helps her to find a healthy place and her own voice.

Marcus turns obsessive and thinks that he and Thalia should be together forever, which leads to some nice conflict in Salvaged when he manages to grab her again. Thalia uses the feistiness that got her through SBH and uses it again here.

The stories are really good. There are good examples of bad Dominants, worse Dominants, and really good Dominants. There are also examples of good submissives and bad submissives. There is also a lot of discussion about submission. These books show a lot of examples of healthy D/s relationships, which seem to be missing in a lot of pop culture.

I really like Jennifer’s descriptions of women who are realizing that they like submission and punishment or that they are masochists. They don’t just magically realize oh, hey, this is what I am, awesome! There is some internal struggle to accept who they are and that they aren’t “wrong” for liking what they like or being who they are. Thalia really struggles here, mostly because she has to figure out how to go from a horrific 24/7 non-consensual experience to a healthy relationship with a balance of submissive and non-submissive behavior, especially since her first submissive experience was with Marcus, who was a sadist, and not in a fun way.

Anyway, this is a really good series to read, especially if you like dark erotica, a large helping of romance, and kink since there is a lot of it.The last book just came out on Monday, so this is a good time to read them.