Release Date: Dec. 13, 2012
Publisher: Fantastic Fiction Publishing
Genre: Gay/ Romance/ Suspense/ BDSM – m/m
Book Source: Author
“Don’t… open me.”
Three simple words that tease Jack, taking him places from his dark past. For Jack, BDSM is a way to resist his worst impulses. Yet, the stranger calling himself The Unknown seeks to use that to seduce him. As Jack slips further down into the abyss, two men hold the power to save him. Will it be Gray, the Master who knows Jack’s every secret? Or Jan, the first man to give Jack a reason to hope? With deadly ghosts coming out to play, Jack may lose everything, even his life.
Warnings: “apparent” rape, knife/blood play, psychological manipulation.
I’ll begin by saying that the author is correct when she warns that this story is not for the faint of heart. Although I don’t generally consider myself as such, I do not like nonconsensual sex in the stories I read. Rape is a bad thing as far as I’m concerned, and even “rape fantasy” within the story is usually enough to cause me to abandon the book immediately. Which is what nearly happened with Don’t. There is a rape scene, and a brutal one, about a third of the way through. Jack, the main character, is drugged and bound, restrained, and raped or otherwise assaulted more than once, before the reality of the “scene” is revealed. In a “Gotcha!” moment that never entirely dispels the hurt done by the scene itself, the author reveals that what transpired was actually part of a much more complicated scenario in which the main character has participated with full knowledge and consent. While the rest of the novel lost some of its edgy sexiness (at least for me) because of the brutality involved, what the scene did accomplish was establish with startling efficiency just how far Jack is both expected and willing to go.
Jack’s involvement in the scene was summed up well by this quote:
Jack thrives on sexual stimulation. It’s helped him manage what he constantly fears will rear its head again. He thought he’d been coping well over the years, we all did. That’s why we both sanctioned this psych-play scene. He wanted to test his resolve, face it.
Having said that, with a little extra time to think about the story, I’ve reevaluated a good bit of my original opinion about Don’t. Although I still have mixed feelings, both the premise behind the novel, as well as the bigger story as a whole, deserve a good look if you read within the BDSM genre. Ms. Pyke takes the subject seriously, delving into both the psychology behind various kinks, and the needs that the lifestyle as a whole attempts to address.
We’re given two vastly different main characters from whom we might gain perspective, as well as a third who acts as the cool voice of reason amid the chaos. First, there’s Jack Harrison, an auto-shop owner/mechanic by day and Master’s Sub, a special designation within the elite organization that is the “Master’s Circle.” Though he’s better suited to being a Dom himself, Jack is a hardcore role-player whose life within this BDSM community is his only salvation from his past and escape from his own inner demons. Diagnosed as OCD/ODD, he is an extremely complex character: sometimes defiant, at others generous, oftentimes lonely, and occasionally adrift and lost. There’s a lost innocence to Jack that made my heart ache for him throughout the story.
Then, there’s Jan Richards, the outsider who falls for Jack, and sees his own immersion into Jack’s world as his Dom as the only way to hold on to him. Of course, Jan is neither a Dom, nor is he involved in the scene in any way, and the entire situation spirals into complete chaos before it gets better. Jan’s lack of understanding about what he’ll be required to not only give up for Jack, but also take from him in turn, leads to some damaging moments for them both.
In the middle is Gray Raoul, Master Dom and all-around dangerous guy. He trains other Doms, taking on the responsibility for the well being of his trainees, as well as any sub they might take on. He’s tough and unyielding, and the only reason Jack was able to find his way to a life he stood a chance of surviving. While I understood Gray’s purpose within the context of the story, I was never able to like him. But, with the physical, sexual, and emotional lives of his clients in his hands, “liking” him isn’t really a factor.
Beyond its commentary on BDSM, Don’t is a psychological thriller as well, and it is this aspect of the novel I enjoyed the most. Ms. Pyke has crafted a genuinely disturbing mystery, and I had to toss aside my theories about the outcome over and over as the story progressed. My worry for Jack increased steadily throughout, most especially when Gray himself, the one who’s always in control, begins to panic on Jack’s behalf. Even though the ending attempts to regain a sense of levity, Don’t is a nail-biter to the end.
Don’t is not for everyone. It is dark and occasionally brutal, but Ms. Pyke should be credited with treating the subject with the respect and honesty it deserves, especially in light of the rampant misunderstanding surrounding the BDSM lifestyle. Despite my personal issues with part of the novel, Don’t is extremely well-written, edited, and researched, letting the story unfold without technical clutter that could have easily proved too much a distraction or cheapened the narrative. While it does its part to increase awareness, Don’t is more than that. It is also a tale of suspense and eroticism. But, mostly, I think, Don’t is a story about life and love…and all the kinks that go with it.
Liked it, but I had some issues – recommend (B)