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.
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.