What would you do to protect the last members of your family?

In Redemption by Olivia Duncan Craig, Jason’s family has been targeted by a dangerous criminal. He’s already lost his brother and his parents. To get enough money to send his sister, sister-in-law, and  his brother’s children far out of harm’s way, he will sell 25 years of his life. Becoming a bondmate has the added advantage of obscuring his past and hiding him where no one would expect, in the bed of a wealthy man.  Virtually a slave, he loses his name, his right to make his own decisions, his right to anything beyond basic human dignity.

This isn’t the tale of abuse you might expect. While being a bondmate is virtual slavery, it is legal and regulated in the future. Jason is expected to be an intimate companion but he also serves as a personal administrative assistant.  His skills are respected and he lives a comfortable life, but he is dependent to Devin for everything and that is just the way Devin wants it. After a terrible break-up, he sought out a bondmate to find a relationship he could control. Someone who couldn’t leave him. He quickly realizes, though, that you can’t control someone’s heart. To get what he wants from Jason he will have to open himself to being hurt again.

I absolutely loved this book. For me the romance always comes first and I enjoyed watching these two men struggle to adjust to new circumstances as they fought to keep their hearts out of the relationship.  Jason is no push-over submissive and Devon is as deep and complex as any underground cavern system. Jason is honorable and loyal to the man who saved his family (even if Devon didn’t know that is what he was doing). He also sees through Devon’s sometimes cold demeanor to the lonely, kindhearted man beneath. The author pulled off the delicate balance perfectly. The relationship develops over time and with many stumbles along the way.

On the suspense side there is a nice thread of threat to add tension and provide a dramatic, emotional climax to the story, but it doesn’t overpower the relationship and probably wouldn’t satisfy someone looking strictly for a suspense story.

Cultural SciFi
On the SciFi side it gave me so many things to think about and most of them to do with people and relationships, exactly what I enjoy. The biggest questions obviously revolve around whether or not our society would ever really get to a place where buying and selling people would ever come back into practice. Certainly, history tells us were capable of it, but would it fit into our society? The bondmate practice as it is described in the story seems like a very modern form of indenture—one with plenty of safeguards to protect the indentured person. It’s clear in the story that a bondmate who is abused can break the contract and file criminal or civil charges. Jason’s situation of a 25 year commitment is also explained as out of the ordinary. The average indenture would be more like a couple of years.

If you think about when indenture was last legal and common it was during the time of exploration and settling North America.  Redemption is set on Earth during the early phase of space exploration. Jason needs a huge amount of money to pay for passage for his family to a remote colony planet. We are also ever more a society where there is a vast divide between the wealthy and the not wealthy. Today, young men and women go into the military service for a few years in hopes of getting training and education and coming out on the other end better off financially. Is it so hard to believe someone might indenture themselves for similar reasons? Adding in the intimate service is more of a stretch to believe, but again the author paints Jason and Devon’s case as rare.  Is it the ultimate in individual freedom to be able to choose and control the terms of your own servitude?

The book doesn’t try to paint this as either a benevolent solution for all or a terrible abuse either. It paints things squarely in the middle and maybe that is why it worked…at least for me. It is not the future as I hope or expect to see it, but certainly made an interesting story amidst a great romance.

12 thoughts on “What would you do to protect the last members of your family?

    • Thanks, Jessica. If you have thoughts about this or similar stories, please share. I love to discuss the books I blog about and all opinions are welcome.

      • I’ve actually got a fantasy story I’m working on that has a very similar premise – man ‘sells’ himself as a slave to save his sister. It’s fascinating to see how the same basic concept has been taken in very different direction here. I don’t know of anything else that is similar, but I’ll keep my eyes out.

        I’ve read the Amazon preview of this (getting the book after I get paid). Several things make me thing ‘self-published’ (price point, cover), so I was very pleased with the quality of the writing. Often I find self published work has good stories, but the writing needs work (trying hard to avoid that trap myself!)

        Set up is good, characters are introduced well. We’ll see what happens.

      • Finished reading it this evening. The story moves very quickly all the action takes place in under a month. The author does a good job of making it believable, but if you have trouble with suspension of disbelief, the speed of emotional and relationship developments may be jarring for you.

        Other than that, highly enjoyable. Character interaction is awesome, world is interesting (‘natural’ food takes on a whole new meaning!). Not a book that is going to rank with any of the great works of sci fi, but a fun and relaxing read that does a wonderful treatment of a power exchange relationship between two men who aren’t quite sure what they’ve gotten into.

      • Jessica – So glad you enjoyed it and thanks for letting me know! I enjoyed how food was dealt with too. Been thinking about a blog post on ‘future food’. Not something that is dealt with in many stories.

  1. I have to admit I’m surprised no one wanted to argue a bit on this one. I mentioned to Julia on twitter that I think sometimes a m/m story works better on topics like these because putting a female into the mix is more likely to tap into our emotional hot spots and preconceived ideas of gender roles and abuse of power. I like to think of myself as an egalitarian, but I fear would have read the book differently if it were a m/f story. Any thoughts on that?

    • As someone familiar with the BDSM scene, the line between abuse and a power exchange relationship is fairly clear in my mind. That said, have you checked out standard romance novels over the last decade? So many of them feature woman falling for and submitting to a dominant man….

      Personally, it’s a relief to see something breaking the ‘men are always dominant/women are always submissive’ stereotype, a relief to see this kind of relationship handled upfront and with clear negotiation and boundaries.

      And… gotta say it… the fact that you would read it differently as a m/f story (aside from the built in assumption that the f would be the sub when you ‘put a female in the mix’) reveals a bias that men cannot be abused. That is a very scary bias which is alive and well in the real world. And probably a very different ‘preconceived idea of gender roles’ than what you were thinking of leaving this comment.

      • Thanks for adding to the discussion!

        I have read BDSM fiction and power exchange stories. There is a wide variety of them with varying degrees of similarity to and departure from real world BDSM communities. In BDSM stories (at least the ones I prefer) the submissive partner always has the power to stop things at any time. In this story the ‘bondmate’ would only be able to leave the situation if there was breach of contract. Another difference would be the motivation behind the submission. Subtle but important differences.

      • I agree that thinking men can’t be abused is a scary idea. That is not at all what I believe, but I can see how you might take that from what I said. Nevertheless, that subtext is out there in the culture and can be lurking even when we don’t truly believe it.

        The reason I might have read the story differently, isn’t really much better and taps into a different set of wrongheaded ideas. I would have gone into the story with more concern that the author might be trying to deliver the message that women who try to solve a problem by using their sexuality are somehow weak or morally bankrupt or unwitting partners in their own victimization. It’s the kind of generalization that annoys me. I prefer stories with more complexity than that.

      • I very much agree with you on the issue of complexity, the tendency for many authors to take short cuts that feed into some negative societal ideals has led me to walk away from many authors whose writing I enjoy but….

        I’ve actually read a fair amount of BDSM-based fic where the submissive didn’t have a way to get out of the contract, clearly labelled as fantasy. However I agree it isn’t my preferred story, if only because those stories also tend to be the ones that go to real extremes in what happens in the story.

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