Monday, March 7, 2011

Master Bear by Angelia Sparrow & Naomi Brooks

TITLE: Master Bear
AUTHOR: Angelia Sparrow & Naomi Brooks
PUBLISHER: Amber Allure
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 20k)
GENRE: Gay contemporary BDSM erotic romance
COST: $5.00

When his Master decides not to undergo a fourth round of chemotherapy, Chris finds himself forced to take part in finding his next dom, someone to take care of him when William is gone, someone he can serve with the same dedication and love. Through his Master’s decline, he tries to be strong, but it’s only with the new friendship of William’s hospice nurse that he’s able to start having hope for his future…

High angst is a hard sell for me in romance, though I do occasionally get sucked into buying one. This particular story worked for me in some regards, but not so much in others.

For the past five years, Chris has been William’s sub, his slave in many senses of the word. Things were good for the first three years, but then William was diagnosed with cancer. The first three rounds of chemotherapy failed, but William doesn’t have the strength to endure a fourth. He’s decided to have a quiet, dignified death. His only regret is that he has to leave Chris behind. Because he doesn’t want to leave Chris alone, he decides to find his boy a new Master, a prospect that fills Chris with trepidation. He loves William with everything he has and cannot imagine life without him. His only source of solace is Mike, the hospice nurse who comes two days a week to check on William. He becomes a quick friend, and helps Chris stay strong while William conducts his search.

There’s a fervent desperation in Chris right from the start. His anguish over William’s impending death is palpable, heartbreaking in its intensity. Though there’s little hope for William, I found myself yearning for a miracle, just to save Chris the pain of what was to come. Watching William interview prospective masters for Chris was uncomfortable, but some of that was mitigated by the arrival of Mike, William’s hospice nurse. He helped balance out Chris’s angst, giving him a healthy outlet for some of his confusing and pent-up feelings.

So far, so good. The arrival of the second interview, however, sparked the beginning of my trouble with this short novella. Until this point, the story was deeply entrenched in a contemporary setting, within the context of this 24/7 Master/slave relationship. The second Dom mentions something similar to the first, a warning of sorts about another one called Master Bear. It’s repeated in the third encounter, which is all well and good, but when the time comes that Chris actually meets Master Bear…I hate the idea of spoiling readers, I really do, but this is the crux of why this book ultimately fell apart for me. Because every ounce of respect I might have had for Chris fell apart in that moment. I knew exactly what was going on, mostly because it’s insanely obvious and partially telegraphed beforehand, but Chris was completely and utterly blind to it. The fact that he’s grieving isn’t an excuse. What he’s blind to is so basic and so simple that when he finally sees it, I rolled my eyes, mildly disgusted it took him so long. It didn’t work, because it yanked me entirely out of the reading experience. I lost my empathy for his grief, I lost caring about Mike, I lost it all in the face of my mounting frustration.

The BDSM in this is tastefully done, though mostly within the context of trying Chris out with new Masters. The variety of partners didn't bother me, though it might others who are more sensitive to sharing partners. In this world, however, it made sense, and I accepted it enough to enjoy it when it was appropriate.

There’s a lot of potential in this short novella, enough to keep me interested in the authors’ work. But Chris missing something so obvious, I lost respect for him as a character. And when his emotional journey is the primary thrust of the story…there’s not much else to grab onto.


7/10 – Delicate and simple, but much gets telegraphed early on

Hero #1

6/10 – I liked him a lot more before he seemed overly blind and stupid to what was really going on

Hero #2

6/10 – Sweet and heartwarming though too good to be true

Entertainment value

6/10 – Though I felt for the grief/loss aspect of the story, I couldn’t get into the potential romance because it just felt too obvious

World building

6/10 – Most care is given to the BDSM aspects, not so much to anything else



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