Stephan Coleman is the CEO of his family's non-profit organization, which he runs with absolute precision. He's been living the life of a dominant since college, but he hasn't had a sub for a while. When his friend and former mentor in the dominant scene invites him to lunch, Stephan wonders what's up. Over their meal, his friend tells a tale of meeting a slave at a party who he is certain is being held against her will. He has already conferred with the girl's master who is willing to part with her - for a price. He approached Stephan because he is wealthy and could likely afford it. Stephan is horrified at the idea of owning a slave, but since his whole life is about helping other people, neither can he let it rest. He sets a meeting with the master and purchases the girl who has quite obviously been terribly abused. Although he's deeply attracted to her and would like her to be his sub, he knows that if it happens, it must be her choice. However, because of her training, he cannot simply release her, because she's like a frightened, timid creature who wouldn't be able to survive in the outside world without guidance and healing. So instead, Stephan sets out to rebuild her trust and self-confidence one painstaking step at a time.
The only life Brianna Reeves has know for the past ten months is that of a slave. She never willingly entered this life, but after so long in captivity, any fight she possessed has been beaten out of her until she's little more than a shell of her former self. All she knows is that she owns nothing and that she is nothing, except what her master demands she be. When Stephan purchases her, she fears that he will be as bad or worse than her former master. But the longer she lives with him, the more she finds that he's a kind, caring man, leaving her determined to make him happy so that he'll keep her and won't send her back. Stephan surprises her at every turn by buying her nice things and allowing her to make her own choices, while demanding very little in return. Gradually he helps Brianna to put the broken pieces of her life back together, but since she still relies on him a great deal, what will she think and do when he finally reveals the truth that she is no longer a slave?
Slave is one of those random book choices that I picked up because it sounded good, and I'm happy to report that it turned out to be a great read. It's the first installment in a four-book series about two people who are brought together by strange circumstances, but who just might be perfect for one another once they're able to overcome the pain of the heroine's past. Our hero, Stephan, is a dominant, who reluctantly purchases the heroine, Brianna, who is being held against her will as a sex slave. From there, he sets out to rebuild her trust and self-confidence bit by bit, hoping that one day she might willingly consent to being his submissive. But their journey together is a long and gradual one that takes a great deal of patience on his part and courage on hers. Sometimes, it's a case of them taking two steps forward and one step back, but by the end, she's definitely showing signs of starting to heal and being on the road to recovery.
The author doesn't tell us how old Stephan is, but I got the sense that he's probably at least in his late twenties, possibly a bit older. He was introduced to the BDSM lifestyle in college and has been living the life of a dominant ever since, but he hasn't had a sub in a while. Then a college friend comes to him, telling a tale of having met a slave at a party who he didn't think was willingly playing that role and asking Stephan to look into buying her. Stephan is properly horrified at the thought of owning a slave, but as the CEO of a non-profit organization, he's also a man who cares deeply about others and wants to help people whenever he can. Having the monetary resources to do something about it, he can't ignore the situation, so he reluctantly meets with the girl's master and cuts a deal with him, buying her and taking her home with him. From there, all of his actions are very carefully and deliberately chosen to demonstrate to Brianna that she is, above all, safe and cared for, but also free to make her own choices. It's a long arduous road, but one that gradually pays off by slowly earning her trust. Stephan clearly displays some of his dominant tendencies, but at least in this volume of the story, he's no chest-beating alpha. In fact, he's nothing but kind, caring, tender, and loving toward Brianna in every word and deed, making him easy to fall for. He sometimes questions his ability to help her overcome her past, but I greatly admired his patience and self-control. He's not a man given to losing his temper and he's very deliberate in all of his actions. Also, even though he's deeply attracted to Brianna and later realizes that he's fallen in love with her, he keeps his libido in check, knowing that she's not ready for anything sexual yet and doing anything of that nature would only harm her further. Perhaps best of all, though, is that he loves her enough to let her go if she decides she doesn't wish to be his submissive, even though the thought of it breaks his heart.
Brianna was only seventeen years old when she was sold into sexual slavery against her will. The last ten months of her life have been a nightmare of horrific abuse at the hands of her so-called master that has left her with numerous scars both inside and out. It appears that she may have some natural submissive tendencies, but regardless of whether she does or not, she's been so beaten down by the things that have been done to her that she doesn't really see herself as anything but a slave anymore. When Stephan buys her, she fears that he might be even worse than her previous master, and therefore, she's pretty afraid of him at first. But as he shows her kindness and compassion every single day and even allows her to make some of her own choices, she slowly begins to trust him more and more. Brianna is a deeply broken character, who nearly broke my heart with how lost she is and how resigned she's become to the abuse she's suffered. Bits of her backstory are revealed in this book, too, that paint a rather bleak picture of her past and make me hope that those who've harmed her get what they deserve. I enjoyed seeing Stephan help put her back together piece by piece until she's starting to resemble a whole person again. The story ends just as he finally reveals that she isn't his slave and is free to leave if she chooses. I look forward to seeing more of her recovery in the next installment.
Given the subject matter, Slave is a surprisingly sweet and tender romance, but also a heart-wrenching one in its emotional intensity. Brianna is a brave young woman, but she still has a ways to go in getting back to some sense of normalcy in her life. Stephan is infinitely patient with her and finds creative ways to get her to open up and regain some of her self-confidence. Because of all that Brianna has been through, they're still in the early stages of their relationship even by the end of the book, but I can tell that Stephan loves her and I feel certain that given time, she'll eventually feel the same. The supporting characters are great, too. Stephan's aunt and uncle welcome Brianna with open arms, although his uncle, who is aware of Stephan's lifestyle, doesn't really approve, leading to a bit of friction. Stephan's friends, Logan and Lily, are a great help as well, with Lily eagerly becoming Brianna's friend, too. My only small complaint that knocked off the half star is that there were a few times I felt that the author could have given more details to enrich the narrative, such as when Stephan and Brianna are said to have had a long conversation but readers aren't given much information as to what they talked about. In those moments, I found myself craving more, but I have high hopes that we'll learn more in the installments to come. Otherwise, I really liked this book and very much look forward to delving deeper into Stephan and Brianna's relationship in the remaining books of the Finding Anna series.
Note: I'm classifying this book as an erotic romance, because of the underlying BDSM themes. However, there is very little in the way of actual sexual content in this installment.
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