Clarisse seeks refuge from her abusive ex-boyfriend on the Dilly Dally, her uncle's old fishing trawler in Tarpon Springs, Florida. She doesn't expect to find Mac and Sully, the Dilly's sexy new owners, on board making love. They're at first startled by her appearance, then outraged by the injuries her ex inflicted. They insist she stay with them, and with nowhere else to go, Clarisse agrees. Both men find themselves falling for Clarisse, but she can't bring herself to completely trust Sully, a former cop, like her ex. She's shocked to discover the men aren't just lovers either, but full-time Master and slave in a BDSM relationship. As she learns more about their history and lifestyle, she uncovers her own hidden desires. When danger from her past returns, can Sully and Mac provide Clarisse a Safe Harbor?
As I have confessed in some of my other posts on Desert Island Keepers and The Book Binge, I have been on a journey of discovery about various aspects of romance fiction. Two of those were M/M books as well as those featuring BDSM relationships. Curiously, this novel by Tymber Dalton contains both. So it has been a mind-boggling experience from page one.
That spousal/family abuse is brutal and often life-threatening is a fact that no one can dispute any longer. It is no longer society's dirty little secret--the one that even law enforcement refused to take seriously for decades putting their refusal under the guise of "matters between family members so we can't intrude" kind of baloney. Ms Dalton starts off this novel with a bang--a wounded woman whose cop boyfriend has beaten her to within an inch of her life and whose future safety is seriously in jeopardy. Now she has only one place to go: her uncle's fishing trawler where she spent many hours during her growing-up years and where she hopes she can find some safety. Once again she is doomed to be disappointed, or so it seems. Her Uncle Tad has sold his boat when he fell victim to stroke. Clarisse discovers that the new owners are lovers when she spies them on deck having sex and she is confronted with the truth that her hoped-for safety doesn't exist.
Brant McCaffrey and Sullivan Niccoleti are indeed lovers, but they are also Master & Slave in a 24/7 D/s relationship, one that Clarisse doesn't understand and with her history initially believes is hurtful and destructive. What throws her completely is the fact that Mac & Sully have empathized with her situation totally and take her in like a long lost relative, simply because of their anger over her being a victim of such abuse as well as the fact that she is Uncle Tad's niece--a man they deeply respect and one who has become important to them as well. Her presence in their home is conditional on her understanding and accepting who they are and the nature of their relationship with the BDSM lifestyle. Mac becomes very important to Clarisse very quickly, but Sully is another matter. He is a former cop--and in her mind, cops stick together. It takes lots of time for her to begin to realize that Sully is totally trustworthy and is just as much her champion as Mac.
There comes the day when Mac confesses to Sully that he is in love with Clarisse (who mistakenly thinks that these two guys are gay) and Mac discovers that Sully has fallen in love with her as well. They break this news to her, inviting her to enter into a Triad relationship with them, but only if she can accept their BDSM relationship and is willing to marry Sully -- he is sort of old-fashioned that way--and live under his authority and guidance. Needless to say, this is a true challenge for Clarisse and one that quickly takes her beyond her comfort zone, but one which she comes to understand is necessary for both Mac and Sully--and possibly for her as well.
This is a deeply emotional novel, one that is filled with hurt and disappointment, with betrayal and wounds of both body and spirit. Yet is also depicts an authentic caring and a love that is restorative and which brings out the best in all three of these people. In spite of tragedy and possible loss of Mac brought on by an attack by Clarisse's ex, these three people are sustained by their love for one another, their understanding of their deeper needs, and their absolute acceptance of their deeper needs and hopes for the future. It is a story that wraps itself around the reader's heart and just won't let go. Now if a reader goes in with prejudice against the M/M relationship between Mac & Sully, or who is deeply offended by BDSM in any form, then this will be a complete wash for them and it is not the kind of book for them. But I waded in with the determination that I would read with an open mind and found a story that distressed me deeply--there are far too many similar situations in real life--and which then, in turn, warmed my heart just as deeply. Mac & Sully's relationship had been born out of deep hurt and disappointment and they did, indeed, become "safe harbor" for one another. The depth and authenticity of their love was proven when they were also able to extend that safety and love to Clarisse and it became the family she thought she would never again have after the deaths of her parents--a death that possibly had been caused by her ex.
This is not a new novel having been published a couple of years ago. But it is one that bears reading and which is the kind of book that, while it is fiction, portrays relationships that are based on the quality of loving all of us yearn to experience in one form or another. As the Good Book teaches: a true and authentic loving seeks the best in the loved one. In so doing, that love shines back in return. What more could any of us desire?
I hope that all of you will investigate this and some of the other of Tymber Dalton's books. She is an amazing writer and one that is so delightful to read. Her writing moves the story along and keeps the strands of the tale alive as she weaves the lives of her characters in and out of one another's experience throughout the novel. No matter when a book has appeared, good writing is worth reading and I think this is an example of one of the best. I give this book a 4.75 out of 5.