Author: Rachel Haimowitz
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Rating: 5 stars
Type: Standalone Novella
Received from Publisher
Blurb: Network news anchor Daniel Halstrom is at the top of his field, but being at the bottom of the social ladder—being a slave—makes that hard to enjoy. Especially when NewWorld Media, the company that’s owned him since childhood, decides to lease him privately on evenings and weekends to boost their flagging profits.
Daniel’s not stupid; he knows there’s only one reason someone would pay so much for what little free time he has. But dark memories of past sexual service leave him certain he won’t survive it again with his sanity intact.
He finds himself in the home of Carl Whitman, a talk show host whose words fail him when it comes to ordering Daniel into his bed. Carl can’t seem to take what he must want, and Daniel’s not willing to give it freely. His recalcitrance costs him dearly, but with patience and some hard-won understanding, affection just might flourish over fear and pain. Carl holds the power to be an anchor in Daniel’s turbulent life, but if he isn’t careful, he’ll end up the weight that sinks his slave for good.
Review: Daniel Halstrom is a slave. Daniel is a well educated and attractive slave but still a slave. As an anchor on a nightly news program he’s much luckier than other slaves, but Daniel’s life and choices are not his own. Daniel is owned by NewWorldMedia. He is being leased to the highest bidder. The company is in need of additional revenues and is using all available resources to garner an increase in profits. Daniel doesn’t know to whom he has been leased nor does his immediate supervisor. As it turns out Daniel was leased to Carl Whitman, his biggest rival. Thankfully, Carl didn’t demand immediate sex from Daniel. It was well within his rights to do so. Because of the stress of being leased, Daniel made a mistake on air during his news broadcast. He was punished with 70 lashes. Carl had Daniel’s back tended to, when Daniel returned to Carl’s home that night. Again, he didn’t force Daniel to have sex. When Daniel again returns to Carl’s home, he arrives later than normal. Not knowing what to do, he sleeps on the floor. That was apparently the wrong thing to do. Daniel isn’t given a list of rules. At no point does Carl tell him what is expected of him. Daniel is left continually guessing and remembering childhood experiences of rape that have him completely terrified. Carl is beginning to get upset his very expensive slave is not behaving as expected.
When Daniel again returns to work he is escorted to a lower office. Slaves are to do as they’re told. Daniel will agree to have sex with Carl Whitman. He will stop being terrified of the man. After being violently gang raped Daniel finds new people to be afraid of. Carl is stunned his complaints to Daniel’s owners resulted in such a violent and horrific punishment. It was the first inkling for Carl that life as a slave is not easy. Carl was horrified by what was done to Daniel by NewWorld because of his complaint. Daniel has to find a new normal. He’s never going to have the perception of safety he had before NewWorld leased him to Carl. Daniel’s only hope is to achieve some modicum of safety with Carl.
This book is perfectly awful. I mean that as a compliment. The depths of an atrocity were expertly plumbed and described. Daniel has no autonomy and Carl cannot conceive of a life without autonomy. Carl’s idea of sitting and chatting with Daniel as though they were equals with the same interests was ludicrous. It wasn’t until Daniel was beaten and raped because of Carl’s complaint that Carl began to realize their respective situations were undeniably different. As the popular anchor of a news program, Daniel was in a no man’s land in terms of status. Manual laboring slaves felt resentful at what appeared to be freedom. Freemen didn’t know how to handle a slave that had an actual platform from which to speak. Daniel was intelligent and well spoken and able to speak his mind on a wide range of subjects, but he was still a slave. Daniel was also very white looking when the majority of slaves were obviously of black African descent. Daniel ended up being pulled from all directions.
Carl Whitman was fascinating character. He started off having no clue that he was toying with the life of a human for his own entertainment and enjoyment. Carl assumed Daniel would be just as interested in a relationship as he was. Carl had no idea whatsoever that Daniel was an abuse survivor who had never been allowed to have a consensual sexual relationship, and he didn’t really seem to care that he didn’t know that until it was too late. Even with all that Carl is actually a pretty good guy. Carl wants to do the right thing. He’s searching for what the right thing is even as he’s blundering along in his ignorance and privilege. Eventually it clicks for Carl that a lucky slave is still a slave, and a benevolent master is still a master.
There is so much left to be explored with these characters, but at the same time I feel the ending was strangely appropriate. Daniel is never going to be truly safe as long as he’s owned by NewWorldMedia. Daniel’s current safety is entirely dependent upon Carl’s happiness and willingness to continue leasing Daniel. Daniel appropriately feels he needs to keep Carl happy. I believe Carl has no clue at all Daniel still sees himself on the razor’s edge trying to attain salvation. I think Carl believes he is the White Knight who came in to save Daniel, but it’s just not possible. Carl still doesn’t seem to understand the depths of the disparity between their respective stations.
So, as I said this book is perfectly awful. As such, it’s not something I would recommend lightly in spite of its somewhat terrible brilliance. It’s a fantastic portrayal of overwhelming inequality and consequently is not a love story. This book does not end in an HEA, but it is worth a read.