March 8, 2012

Review: Branded Sanctuary by Joey Hill

Chloe isn't sleeping well. She's been an emotional (and therefore physical) wreck since she was attacked. At the beginning of the book, there's an evocative scene where Chloe is too scared to get up and go to the loo (sounds silly, but it works well). On a whim, she calls Brandon, a guy who gave her his number at her boss' wedding. He patiently talks to her and she manages not only to get over her fear and make it to the bathroom, but to indulge in some friskiness over the phone with him.

Brandon turns up on her doorstep the next morning. Chloe doesn't know how to react. The attack has left her unstable, confused about who she is, scared and angry. And at various points in the story, all of these emotions spill out over Brandon. Her character arc is getting over these emotions.

Brendan is the perfect sub, living to serve a Mistress, or any Dom, with no concern for himself. His character arc is accepting that he is a person who wants things for himself.

So there's no complaint about lack of character arc. There's oodles of character arc. What I don't understand is why Brendan likes Chloe. He's a complete submissive, what does he see in vanilla Chloe? She's not naturally dominant, and when she tries to be, everyone tries to talk her out of it. I don't get it.  Neither do I really understand why Chloe likes Brendan. He's sweet and lovely and all that, but he's branded (literally) by another woman, insensitive to the point of idiocy when it comes to introducing her to bdsm and ultimately seems to want to have his Mistress cake and his relationship too.

What irritates me in this story is that everyone (possibly including Chloe) don't want Chloe to express her emotions - they want her to go back to being the sweet girl she used to be. More to the point, no-one wants Chloe to use bdsm to work out her issues. She's thrown in the deep end of bdsm at weekend play party, disapproved of when she attempts to get involved, then made to feel awkward when she cops out and is upset. I'm not keen on the portrayal of Chloe's induction to bdsm at all. It's like bdsm is an exclusive members only club that she's being introduced to but not allowed to actually join. At one point Chloe says:
"Oh right, I forgot - I can't understand this. I don't know the secret handshake."
And I know what she means. Mistress Marguerite is Brendan's real domme and it feels to me that there is no room for Chloe. A character put in for tension says that Brendan really only wants Marguerite. And you know what - I believe him. I don't think that Brendan is 'over' Marguerite, or vice versa, to be honest. I even wonder if Brendan has fixated on Chloe because she is sort of Marguerite's vanilla pet, her friend. Brendan even says that Marguerite would always be his Mistress, Chloe his Beloved. It feels like Chloe and Brendan are both Tyler and Marguerite's playthings, or younger siblings. They are both taken under the dominant couple's care. Perhaps it's a real bdsm dynamic, (I wouldn't know), but it doesn't do it for me at all. I want to shout at Brendan and Chloe to get out of there and be themselves, work out their relationship themselves without the manipulations of their big brother and sister (metaphorical not literal).

There's one more thing that annoyed me about this book. I have no idea how long it is between Brendan and Chloe first meeting, and Chloe phoning him in the middle of the night. At one point is seems like it's a realistic few months, then at another a unfeasible year and a half.

There's plenty of hotness, lots of interesting conflict and that's all great. There are touching, emotional scenes, where you can feel the connection between Chloe and Brendan, especially at the beginning and the end of the book. The problem is, I don't believe the relationship really. I'm not sure if they're just the proteges of the dominant characters or whether they really are together for themselves. Don't get me wrong, this is still a good read. But for me, it's not emotionally satisfying. I probably wouldn't have had such a problem with that if it wasn't so close to being emotionally satisfying.


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