After the horror of being enslaved for nearly a year, the past two months with Stephan Coleman have been more than Brianna Reeves could have ever asked for or imagined. She's slowly been falling in love with her handsome rescuer who's been nothing but kind and gentle with her. Although many things still frighten her, she's gradually coming out of her shell and beginning to envision a brighter future. With Stephan's help, Brianna has been able to form some new friendships and deepen her friendship with an old childhood acquaintance even though he doesn't really like or trust Stephan much. Brianna is also now aware of Stephan's nature as a Dominant, and although she isn't sure if she can be the submissive he wants and needs, she knows that she wants to try and that a life without Stephan would be unthinkable. But Brianna's father, who had a hand in her being sold into slavery in the first place, is now in town, posing a threat to her new life with Stephan, and if the truth ever gets out about Stephan buying her freedom, it could place their entire relationship in jeopardy.
Truth is the third book in Sherri Hayes' Finding Anna series, a serialized set of novels that follows wealthy CEO Stephan Coleman and Brianna Reeves, the young woman he rescued from horrific abuse by buying her from a man who'd enslaved her as a minor. The previous book had ended on a cliffhanger with Brianna's dad, who'd had a hand in her being sold into slavery, showing up at her door while Stephan is at work. This book begins with the outcome of that encounter, which unfortunately traumatizes Brianna a bit and forces her to deal with more of her troubled past. The remainder of the story follows Stephan and Brianna through roughly another month of their lives together as Stephan patiently and gently works through Brianna's fears and helps her to come out of her shell and be more comfortable around other people. She begins to see more of her childhood friend, Cal, even though he and Stephan don't entirely get along, and meets his girlfriend, Jade, as well as spending more time with Lily. Stephan and Brianna also talk more about a possible dom/sub relationship down the road and what that might look like, while Stephan still faces censure from multiple fronts for his lifestyle. Stephan continues his investigation into Ian, Brianna's former slave master, and with the help of his CFO, finds some incriminating evidence, but along with it, he's also outed for buying her freedom. Despite all the challenges they've face, Stephan and Brianna's love has only grown, but this information getting out, along with nasty allegations from her father, could destroy the beautiful life that they've been building together.
I love that we get to learn a little more about Stephan's background in this book, what it was like for him losing his parents and his relationship with the aunt and uncle who finished raising him. Throughout each book of the series so far, I've been falling more and more in love with Stephan. He's one of the kindest, gentlest romance heroes I've read in general and is definitely one of only two Dom heroes I recall reading that I could genuinely call sweet. However, he's not a pushover. He protects his own, namely Brianna, and doesn't hesitate to discipline her when he feels she needs more mastery over a particular area (not to worry though, it's a fairly gentle punishment and only happens once in this book). He's very good at reading her cues and knowing what she can handle. One time he messes up and overestimates where she's at, which only made him more human to me, and of course, he's right there to offer comfort and apologies. Although not a trained counselor, he does a great job of getting Brianna to open up and helps her deal with her past trauma in a healthy way though journaling and talking. He's an excellent communicator, always wanting to talk it out once she's calmed down, whenever she's had a panic attack or PTSD-type blackout when triggered. I love how tactile he is, always holding Brianna close, stroking and caressing her, which never fails to bring her solace. He's also a tender lover, and although he'd like them to someday be in an official dom/sub relationship and enjoy the BDSM lifestyle together, he's content with vanilla sex for the time being, because Brianna as a person and her well-being are the most important things to him. Over and over, Stephan proves his love for Brianna and that he's willing to do literally anything for her, including facing his own fears. All of this makes him one of the most swoon-worthy heroes I've ever read.
Brianna is still very shy and meek after all that's she's been through, and she also harbors some natural submissive tendencies. But with Stephan's help, she's been able to gradually open up more. Although still wary of other men and of being in crowded places, she's beginning to step out and take more risks. Her friendship with Cal has grown and she almost instantly connects with Cal's girlfriend, Jade. She also spends more time with Stephan's friend and co-worker, Lily, who has become Brianna's friend as well. Although she still has some panic attacks and blackouts, they seem to be lessening, and when Stephan is with her, she's able to do most things as long as she takes it slowly. Because of her father showing up, Brianna is forced to deal with more of her past, which is difficult for her, but again, with Stephan by her side, she finds the strength. In fact, she's gradually starting to discover her own voice, wanting to protect Stephan the same way he protects her and willing to stand up to Cal on his behalf when her friend makes some sordid accusations. Brianna is a very sweet heroine who's been deeply traumatized, but throughout this book, she takes more steps in a positive direction than steps back. However, given the way that this book ends, it will be interesting to see where things go from here for her. I hope the positive momentum will continue, especially since she takes the actions she does out of her love for Stephan and her need to protect him.
Overall, Truth was another wonderful installment of the Finding Anna series. I loved it as much as the first two books of the series. While it did have some minor editing issues, they weren't quite as distracting this time, so I was able give it the full five stars. Stephan definitely ranks near the top of my all-time favorite heroes list for just being so incredibly awesome. Brianna is super-sweet and has been through so much, I can't help but empathize with her pain, but also rejoice with her whenever she experiences something new and exciting with Stephan. She has an almost childlike enthusiasm whenever this happens that's very endearing. I love these two together and think they make a great couple. Both of them come to the realization that they love each other in this book and I very much enjoyed seeing them declare that love. In fact, most of the time, their actions speak louder than words. They both demonstrate that love consistently even without saying the words. That being the case, the ending of this book almost gutted me, leaving things once again on a cliffhanger that's perhaps even more intense than the one in the previous book. Deep down, I know that their love is strong enough to survive, but they're clearly going to have more obstacles to overcome before that love can be entirely fulfilled. The prospect of seeing how that happens makes me extremely eager to pick up the next book, Trust, soon.
Note: I'm classifying this book as an erotic romance, because of the underlying BDSM themes. However, there is only one mild, non-sexual scene of discipline, and one scene of exhibitionism/voyeurism that includes a little bondage but that doesn't go all the way either. So overall, the sexual content in this installment is more on par with steamy romances.
The Hope Chest Reviews on Facebook