After the revelation that she is no longer a slave, Brianna Reeves must come to terms with her newfound freedom and figure out what she wants to do with her life. She's come a long way since Stephan rescued her, but she still struggles with being around other people, making it difficult to function outside the safe environment of her protector's apartment. The one thing she does know is that she can't imagine her life without Stephan in it, but once she begins to understand what it means to be a submissive, she worries that her fears may prevent her from ever being able to give him what he needs.
Stephan Coleman never expected to fall in love with the young woman he rescued from slavery. He's sworn to let Brianna go if that's what she wants, but the longer she lives with him, the more impossible it becomes for him to even think of giving her up. Becoming his submissive must be her choice, but after spending nearly a year being horrifically abused by her previous master, her fears prevent her from being able to fully trust him. It will take all the love and patience Stephan can muster to help Brianna work through the trauma of her past to find a brighter future, but in the end, can he be all she needs?
Need is the second installment of Sherri Hayes' Finding Anna series, which follows the same two protagonists throughout. In the previous book, Slave, Brianna was held against her will as a slave to a wealthy man who used and abused her and passed her around to his friends for their amusement as well. When Stephan learned about her plight, he used his own considerable resources to buy her freedom. He's been caring for her ever since and hopes that one day, she might heal enough to willingly be his submissive. This book follows them through approximately another month of their lives as they get to know one another better and continue to build trust between them. However, there are still many obstacles for them to overcome, the biggest of which is Brianna's fears, but there is also the looming threat of her father - who it appears sold her into slavery in the first place - possibly discovering her whereabouts, as well as other reminders of her past life and abuse. Through it all, though, Stephan is right there by Brianna's side, helping her to cope and bringing her back to some semblance of peace, but each of them still worries whether they can be the person the other needs them to be.
Doms can be hit and miss with me, but thus far, Stephan has been a wonderful hero. His age was finally revealed in this book, and he turned out to be a bit younger than I expected. That being the case, I'd have to say that he's very mature and wise beyond his years. He certainly has some dominant tendencies, but he's always mindful of where Brianna came from and never asks more of her than she's willing or able to give. He has a calm, confident demeanor that engenders trust, never losing his temper and exercising an admirable level of patience and restraint. He's ever hopeful that one day Brianna will make it to a place where she's able to accept her submissive nature and fully trust him as her master, but he knows if that's ever to become a reality, he'll have to take things very slowly. Sometimes, it's a matter of taking two steps forward and one step back, but no matter what, he's always there offering his unconditional support. Stephan is also very protective, rushing to Brianna's side whenever she needs him and prepared to confront anyone who's harmed her. At the same time, he's rather disarmed by her himself, discovering a deep love for her that he's never felt for any other woman in his life. He's also a gentle, tender, patient lover, taking the time to help Brianna overcome her fears and realize that sex can be something genuinely beautiful and pleasurable and not something to be afraid of.
Brianna is very sweet and meek. She probably harbors some natural submissive tendencies that were exploited when she was being trafficked, leaving her a shell of her former self, someone who's practically afraid of her own shadow. As the story progresses, she slowly begins to blossom, although it's a painstaking process. Sometimes, I wished that she was a little less critical of herself, but given her background it does fit. She's still very dependent on Stephan for both physical and emotional support, but by the end, she's starting to become a little more confident. The structure and discipline that Stephan insists upon helps keep her anxieties at bay most of the time by helping her know what to expect. However, she must come face to face with her past a number of times, as she first meets Stephan's friend who alerted him to Brianna's plight and later one of her old Master's friends who abused her. She also chances to meet an old childhood friend who happens to be a business rival of Stephan's. Through these encounters and her conversations with Stephan, we learn a bit more about what happened to her and what her life was like before being sold into slavery. By the end, I would say that Brianna still has some work to do, but she's finally on the right track and clearly has fallen for Stephan. She simply can't even think of a life without him, even though she fears that she might not be able to be a good submissive.
I think that the title of this book, Need, if a very fitting one, because it explores both Stephan and Brianna's need for each other, along with their individual concerns as to whether they can each be what the other needs. Brianna is very reliant on Stephan as the person she trusts the most and one of the few people she trusts at all, but worries whether she can truly be a submissive. Stephan discovers a deep desire for Brianna that goes far beyond the sexual and into the realm of knowing that he wants her in his life always, but occasionally still harbors concern as to whether he can truly help her overcome all her fears. Together, these two are a beautiful combination, particularly as they grow to trust one another. Their relationship is sweet and tender, but gradually grows into something more passionate. Theirs is a deeply emotional story that's left me eager to keep reading. The only thing that made me drop the half-star is that the book has a number of mechanical issues such as typos, grammar mistakes, and continuity errors that should have been caught by a good editor and that could be a bit distracting. Otherwise, though, I very much enjoyed it and look forward to the next installment, especially since this one ended on a cliffhanger.
Note: I'm classifying this book as an erotic romance, because of the underlying BDSM themes. However, the sexual content in this installment is more on par with steamy romances with nothing of a particularly kinky nature occurring.
The Hope Chest Reviews on Facebook