I picked up Sex Slave directly from the author at Yaoi-Con 2011. I was trying to decide among a few of her novels when I mentioned that I’m a writer, too, and I wanted to show my support because us writers have to stick together. She seemed pleased and even knocked a dollar each from the two novels I ended up buying.
I had a plane flight to New York from Los Angeles and since I couldn’t fit my original book choice (“The Complete Sherlock Holmes”—yes, really) into my bag, I was pleased to bring with me instead the more compact Sex Slave. I read the 196-page novel from cover to cover during the trip (and was then left with the dilemma of what to read on the flight home!).
Let’s not mistake this, though the title would presumably make that difficult: Sex Slave is erotica. Of the gay variety. AKA: woo hoo! There’s no doubt about it. It’s fantasy. A captain in the king’s army takes in the only survivor of a group of bandits that his (the captain’s) men have all killed. It turns out that the bandits had been using this captive as a sex slave and he’s been so traumatized that he cowers at the very sight of other men… including all of the captain’s soldiers. The captive has no memory of his past life and so Captain Marinel names him Kitten and the story follows that he tries to re-acclimatize Kitten to freedom while simultaneously trying to find any information about his new ward’s past—his name, his birthplace, anything.
Kitten’s entire existence (as much as he can remember, since he remembers nothing before the bandits’ camp), however, has been as a sex slave, so Marinel’s plans immediately go awry when he discovers that the only way to help Kitten feel like he’s safe is to have sex with him. (I did say erotica, didn’t I? Enter sexy times.) When they return to the kingdom, Marinel and Kitten move into the captain’s aunt’s
house mansion and proceed to grapple with Kitten’s past trauma—and his past life before his time as a captive.
Sex Slave is a fast read; I read the entire thing in less than six hours (though I admit I was a captive audience, sitting in a window seat of an aeroplane). First, the things I didn’t like. As a person who’s personally experienced sexual violence, I found Kitten’s reaction to men (that is, abject terror and subservience in the service of survival) to be completely realistic—and I found Captain Marinel’s reaction to Kitten (basically, he becomes a stand-in for the bandit king after his death) to be completely heinous. Marinel does feel guilt for his actions toward Kitten later in the novel, but he never stops having sex with him or takes him to see a physician. The time period sort of implies the lack of the existence of psychiatrists or psychologists, but I would have thought that Marinel would’ve tried someone before just deciding that Kitten was his and that he was going to defend the kid from his (admittedly abusive) family-ties.
Now, the things I liked. Putting aside that I found it personally difficult to suspend my disbelief regarding the captain’s dealings with Kitten (other readers may not have the same problem), the story was pretty good. I really, really loved Marinel’s aunt, Lady Faline. She’s possibly the greatest character in the whole novel. I was really happy to read a sympathetic female character in a gay romance novel. Truly, it was the highlight of the story. Faline takes both Marinel (her adopted nephew) and Kitten under her wing without so much as lifting an eyebrow, and she stays stubbornly loyal to them throughout the plot, though at times she may act as loyal opposition. She made the novel worth it for me (though, don’t get me wrong, here: I like me some man-on-man sex, same as the next girl). Also, having a horse (that is, Thunder, Captain Marinel’s warhorse) that can basically understand you is pretty fantastical—and pretty awesome.
Overall, I wasn’t disappointed. I mentioned buying two novels by the same author, and reading Sex Slave did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for reading the other, Sacrifice, which is looking like it may actually be the better of the two. I may just take it with me next time I have time to kill.
You can buy Sex Slave now on Lulu for just $10.99 plus shipping. You can also visit the author’s website for her other work. (Click on the cover image—not the same cover I have for my copy, but it’s similar—to visit her tumblr as well.)