Monday, February 5, 2018

To Command and Collar by Cherise Sinclair

This is book 6 of the Shadowlands series and book 2 of the multibook story arc involving human trafficking. Sinclair does an excellent job writing each book in her Shadowlands series so that it's not necessary, although helpful, to read them in order. With the 4 book story arc that started with Make Me Sir (Book 5 of the Shadowlands), I strongly recommend reading them in order. Because of the mystery/adventure style of the story arc, it's better to follow them through.

This book focuses on Raoul and Kim. Kim is rescued early in the book and the story focuses mostly on how she and Raoul are constantly thrown together to help further the FBI's goal of bringing down the human trafficking ring. Raoul is portrayed as a stern but caring man. He has his own demons, mostly involving his ex-wife, but they are downplayed for the sake of helping Kim and the FBI. Kim is portrayed well considering that the storyline moves much more quickly then anyone is truly comfortable with - including the characters.

Some of this is because the book is fictional and for the sake of the story things that would normally happen in months, take only a few days. While it feels fast it doesn't feel rushed. There always seems to be something to anticipate. Will she cooperate? Will he accept? Will they free the other slaves?

I like that Raoul is gentle with Kim but still pushes her. She's been through severe trauma and he recognizes that. But he doesn't coddle her or let her hide. He also doesn't take over her life, forcing her to make some decisions on her own, or speak up for what she wants/needs. It's a fine line between domination and abuse - and it's even sharper when one, or both, parties have experienced the later. Sinclair handles that line beautifully by letting the characters develop on their own rather than forcing the story.

My one issue with the book is at the end. Raoul has made a decision that is mostly out of character for him and Kim is trying to convince him to change his mind. It takes Z stepping in and making a suggestion as to how she can "prove" herself to Raoul. I have a real issue with this section. Mostly because it crosses the line for several of the characters. First, Z, as a psychiatrist, would know what he was asking of Kim was not right. Second, having seen what it took to get Kim to trust him, it was out of character for Raoul to both turn her away and accept Z's suggestion. Third, Raoul and Kim's story is more about living a 24/7 Dom/sub lifestyle as opposed to Sinclairs other books were the Dom/sub dynamic was mostly limited to the bedroom. To have a single scene be the defining moment - one where it was more about having Kim do something to "prove" her loyalty - regardless of her fear - struck me as wrong. Yes, she would need to eventually deal with that particular fear but to force her to deal with it so immediately seemed abusive. She hadn't betrayed his trust or left him out of anger. So she shouldn't have had to prove anything. His rejection of Kim had more to do with his ex-wife than anything else, and even that had been downplayed to the point that it seemed almost trivial. So the fact that this suddenly becomes a reason to reject Kim is confusing.

Overall I liked this book. It was a good follow up to the previous book and laid the groundwork for the third book. It was also nice to see a different style of the BDSM genre. There is nothing wrong with "in the bedroom only" stories but it's nice to have a different perspective. And for the most part, this was 24/7 done well.