Friday, November 8, 2013

This Week's Retro Review: "To Command and Collar" by Cherise Sinclair

Determined to find the human traffickers preying on Shadowlands’ submissives, Master Raoul gets himself invited to a small slave auction. Once informed, the FBI orders him to reject the limited choices so the slavers will invite him to the big auction. To Raoul’s shock, one of the slaves is the kidnapped friend of a Shadowlands sub. She has a scarred body…and an unbroken spirit. He can’t leave her behind. Ruining the FBI’s carefully laid plans, he buys her.

Kimberly’s freedom has come at a devastating price: the other women are still slaves. An FBI raid is their only hope for rescue. Desperate to help the Feds locate the big auction, she agrees to pose as Master Raoul’s slave. Wearing a collar again is terrifying, but under the powerful dominant’s care, Kim starts to heal and then to blossom. This is what she’s been drawn to—and fled from—her entire life.

She escaped the slavers who captured her body—can she escape the master who’s captured her heart?

I think that Cherise Sinclair's BDSM series, Masters of Shadowlands, is some of the best romance literature in that genre and one that is intentional written to present a set of stories based on the kind of power exchanges that may be kinky but are definitely involving good people who are honest and caring and who may need the kink to meet their own needs but who have not left behind the "normal" involvement in contemporary society.  

However, Books 5 and 6 are probably the most difficult to read to date as they involve the efforts of Shadowlands owner and master to cooperate with the FBI in dismantling the Harvest Association, an international organization for the purpose of kidnapping and selling women "on order" by unprincipled individuals who think nothing of indulging truly evil urges at the cost of the dignity and often the lives of women living the BDSM lifestyle in one degree or another.  This book is about the recovery of one such woman, the friend of Gabi, the heroine of Book 5, and a highly intelligent, well-educated woman who has owned up to needing a "side helping" of kink to meet her personal needs.  As she is rescued and brought into the home of one of the Shadowlands masters, Kim must reclaim her sense of self, re-learn how to relate to a man in a healthy way and reclaim that part of herself that has been soiled and corrupted by the Overseer and his minions.  

Once again Ms Sinclair creates a BDSM master who is Hispanic and highly successful in his architectural engineering business, a man who has lost much due to the prejudice and lack of understanding of his own family and yet whose gentle spirit is enclosed in the mind, body and spirit of an Alpha-male.  His insightful handling of this very damaged woman is difficult to read but is a story that bears telling and is one that highlights the many positive ways that well-orchestrated BDSM scenes can bring healing into the experience of those who are open to and need these kinds of relationships.   There are scenes early in the book that will be distress-inducing.  But by the same token they need to be read as we who live in what most people would consider the "normal" world are seldom exposed to the dark and dirty underbelly of the sex trade.  There are definitely purient books "out there" but this novel seeks to tell the story without the gratuitous elements or that sense of being a voyeur.  Most of all it is a novel that is really about redemption and reclamation of the life of a really fine woman who needs to become whole.

There is no doubt that BDSM is not for everyone and certainly novels based on that lifestyle are not for everyone either.  But in a world where barriers are being dismantled in society, there is a place for understanding and acceptance, especially when stories are written by authors who want people needing this way of relating to be safe and involved with caring and authentic practitioners.

And as always, all of Sinclair's books are written with that deft touch which only the best authors bring to their work.  The stories flow, and for those who have read all the books in this series from the first, they will also be meeting and greeting characters from past novels who continue to grow in their relationships and who continue to form this close knit family of people connected by mutual respect and a level of acceptance that embraces all kinds of people who need all kinds of ways of relating.  I give this novel a rating of 4 out of 5.

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