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Reviews of books in a series, with a focus on urban fantasy.
Other genres include mystery, paranormal romance, and crime thrillers.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Review: Branded Sanctuary (Nature of Desire book 7) by Joey W. Hill

Let me start out this review by saying I love Joey W. Hill's Nature of Desire series. After Rough Canvas, I didn't think a BDSM story could get any better - Rough Canvas had the need for submission, and the need for a submissive. It had the intense emotional connection that can happen between Master and submissive. And the scenes were smokin' hot. Rough Canvas was one of the best love stories I've ever read. Then I read Natural Law and, Oh my. Next I read Ice Queen and Mirror of My Soul and when I finished Mirror of my Soul I had to pick Ice Queen back up and start from the beginning. The story touched me in ways that can't be described.

So it is to be expected that when Ms. Hill finally found time to give us book seven of this series, that I read it the first opportunity I had.

First, let me say you should not read Branded Sanctuary until you've read Ice Queen and Mirror of my Soul. We first meet Brendan in those books, and there is much you won't understand in Branded Sanctuary if you haven't already met Brendan.

With that said, it is going to be very hard for me to talk about what I liked and disliked about Branded Sanctuary without putting some spoilers in. So if you haven't yet read Branded Sanctuary then you may want to stop reading here, just knowing that I give the writing a 10 of 10, but the story a 4 of 10, which is how I ended up with a Book Rating of 7 of 10.


Second warning: There are spoilers past this point.

Joey W. Hill can explain a submissive's mindset better than any other author I have ever read. Submissive people have a mind of their own that they are more than capable of using, they aren't stupid, they aren't worthless. They choose to gift their submission to someone they care for and respect. A healthy Dom/sub relationship involves a lot of feelings, and a whole lot of trust. The trust aspect was missing in this relationship, and that really bothers me - but the feelings were all there, times ten.

Chloe and Brendan both blew it in the trust department on several occasions, and I don't believe either did anything particularly noteworthy in order to prove themselves trustworthy once again. Brendan freaks and bails on Chloe emotionally once, and Chloe is about as untrustworthy of a Dom as I believe I've ever seen. And yet Brendan gives her complete trust. There is something broken in both of them, and I wanted to see them both healed. But I don't believe we saw that. I think Chloe is well on her way, but I'm not so sure about Brendan. I was made to care for these characters, and I wanted them to find peace and happiness.

As someone in the BDSM lifestyle, before I found my soul mate and married him, I met a few vanilla guys I liked and tried to make it work with them. It was a disaster. I cared for two of them deeply, but my needs were not being met and when I tried to tell them what I needed they couldn't handle it. I learned the hard way that a relationship between a vanilla and someone who is wired to be very un-vanilla just won't work in the long term. And so I can't bring myself to believe that Chloe and Brendan's story is one of Happily Ever After, but at best, Happy for Now. I understand that we are supposed to believe that Brendan is so submissive that he'll want whatever Chloe wants and will be fine just making her happy - but I just can't bring myself to believe he's never going to want to be flogged or spanked again, I can't believe he isn't going to miss the discipline of a Mistress who knows how to handle him, who knows how to give him those extreme sensations. I feel sad for Brendan that the woman he loves isn't going to be able to give him those things. Submissives have needs, too. Part of finding a relatonship that works for everyone means finding someone with needs the opposite of yours. If you like to be flogged, find someone who likes to flog. If you like to be bound, find someone who loves shibari. If you can't stand needles then stay away from the people who love to do needle play. Brendan can take a 10 of 10 on the pain threshold level, and it doesn't look like he's going to be getting anything worse than about a 2 or a 3 from now on, if that. I find that very sad. It's okay for a submissive to have needs that they want to make sure get met. I wish Brendan had healed enough to see that.

Here is the blurb:

Chloe has always been a creature of joy and laughter. Since a brutal attack nearly a year ago, the trauma she experienced has gotten worse. She has started hiding from her life, even putting up walls between herself and those she cares about most. During a panic attack one night, she impulsively calls a number that she’s had for many months. Chloe met Brendan at her boss’s wedding. With confidence and seduction, he easily steps into the role of helping her manage her fear. By the end of the long call, they’ve indulged in some serious flirtation and mind-blowing phone sex—and she’s feeling things she’s buried for too long.

The problem is that Brendan is the perfect male submissive—and Chloe isn’t wired for the D/s lifestyle. While their attraction is undeniable, Chloe doesn’t know if she can be everything Brendan needs. As a submissive, Brendan would never ask her to be something she’s not—even if it will break both of their hearts to turn away from how they feel about each other.

I know Branded Sanctuary wasn't written to be a tragedy, but I can't help but seeing it that way. I thought things were going to be okay when Chloe punished Brendan near the end, but then she has to apologize to him because she doesn't like to hurt him. That just tells us, the readers, that she doesn't have a clue what hurts him, she doesn't have a clue about what he needs. I just feel so sad for Brendan. Well, for both of them, actually, to be so in love with someone when the relationship is not going to be fulfilling for one of them.

So, as I said earlier. Joey W. Hill is an incredibly talented writer, and I give her writing a 10 of 10. But the story? The story only gets a 4 of 10, because I could only see tragedy in the ending, not the Happily Ever After that I thought I'd be seeing, based on the other books in this series. The book gets a 7 of 10, though I was tempted to give it a lower rating. I care for both of these characters, and I really wanted to see a happy ending for them.

Book Rating: Branded Sanctuary: 7 of 10

Nature of Desire Series
1. Holding the Cards
2. Natural Law
3. Ice Queen
4. Mirror of My Soul
5. Mistress of Redemption
6. Rough Canvas
7. Branded Sanctuary

You can see my ratings of the earlier books in this series here.

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