I find book recommendations all over the place. Various authors, other readers, blogs, so on and so forth. I also get some from the groups I belong to on Goodreads. Two of the groups have book of the month reads. This is one of the books from one of those groups.
Under His Heel is dark. It’s noncon. It’s intense. It’s an M/m book, which not everyone likes, but I do. I will warn you that when I say dark and intense, I know of what I speak. The light in here is only lighter in comparison, and there are things which may trigger some people. Neither of our main characters are necessarily all that nice or likable, and they are very much written to be that.
So, here’s the story. Alex, who isn’t stupid but isn’t the sharpest pencil in the box and who has been manipulated by his twin brother for years, has been set up to sell his services as a bondservant. In the world in which they live, if you are in debt, you can sell your services and you end up doing whatever. For most people, for bondservant read sex slave. You write a contract that both parties sign stipulating what can and can’t be done, and then the owner pays off the servant’s wages. For Alex, his contract included that he gave up all bodily autonomy and no body mods were allowed, for a time period of 5 years.
The reason that Alex has to do this because his twin brother, Nick, has run up a gambling debt in his name, and they weren’t able to escape. Now Alex is the one who has to come up with the money, so the two of them hatched this plan. More like Nick hatched the plan and conned Alex into doing it.
Captain Tracht is a very authoritarian, strict, blunt, gives no fucks kind of guy. He’s also a pure sadist. He loves causing pain, both physical and mental. It gets him off big time, and for him, it’s even better if the person doesn’t get off on being hurt. I’m pretty sure he’s a total sociopath too. He’s also scrupulously polite and doesn’t like foul language. He runs a very tight ship, literally and figuratively. He is at the agency to get a new bondservant because the one he just returned was unsatisfactory. That guy was a masochist and he liked Tracht’s games just a little bit too much.
After a full body inspection that Tracht performs on Alex, he decides that Alex will be perfect. Alex isn’t all that excited, but he figures a 5 year contract with this guy is better than having a contract with the gangsters that own his debt. He saw one of their bondservants once, and she’s the reason that he has no body mods written into his contract.
Tracht isn’t nice. I’m relatively sure that we aren’t supposed to like him. I kinda do. The thing is that he is exactly who and what he says he is. He never says one thing and does another. He is consistent within himself. He’s a WYSIWYG system, even if he does like to play mind games with Alex. But that’s part of who he is, and he never told Alex that he would have loads of fun or that Alex wouldn’t be hurt.
Alex. Poor, poor Alex. He’s lost all over the place. He thinks that he can survive Tracht, but it’s pretty immediately obvious that he can’t. He has spent most of his life in way over his head and Tracht throws him right into the very deep end of the pool. Alex has such a hard time. Tracht is not an easy man.
Then there’s Parsons. He’s a member of the crew and he tries to be friends with Alex. I don’t like him. He’s a douche.
I’m so glad that Alex saw through Nick, eventually. I hated Nick even before we ever saw him. He’s absolutely terrible. I mean, who does that shit to their twin brother? Alex is all about trying to protect his brother, but Nick is all about getting whatever he can out of everyone, including Alex.
Ugh. Parsons. Gods save me from people like him. He’s just such a shit. He’s judgmental, condescending, and turns into a user. The thing is, Alex could’ve really used a friend outside of Tracht, and Tracht was mostly OK with it. Luckily there was doctor’s bondservant he could talk to, but only when they were in coms range. She at least got it.
OK, that’s all I have to say on this one. I loved it. It left me gasping at the end. There’s a followup novella called Kidnapping. She’s also written another book called In Life, In Death. It’s totally different to Under His Heel. It was so lovely. They are all available in KU, so check them out.