“Will you step into my parlour?” said the spider to the fly…
Though I’m a romance junkie at heart, lately I’ve been reading more BDSM erotica than a Dom could shake a cane at. I’d just
decided that I needed to take a break from it in favour of something a little lighter when I stumbled upon Tender Mercies
by Kitty Thomas. I was drawn in by the beautiful cover art (so deceptively innocent looking and serene), the premise, and the fact that it had been read (and enjoyed!) by a new Goodreads friend of mine, Breann.
In Tender Mercies
, we’re introduced to Grace Warner, a young woman who has grown tired of the regular BDSM scene and everyone in it. As far as Grace is concerned, it isn’t real enough – a collection of Doms and submissives posing and posturing in an elaborate game of pretend. But what Grace craves is significantly darker – a lifetime of total and complete domination from which there is no escape. One day, while cruising chat rooms in the darkest corners of the web, she meets Lucas, a man who lives on an island where slavery is legal and a slave’s only protection is the “right” not to be murdered by their Master. Knowing that this man holds the key to her deepest desires, Grace gives up everything – including her freedom - to be with him.
But almost as soon as she arrives on Elue, it becomes clear that Grace has played into the hands of a monster. Her new Master sets out to systematically break her down for his own perverse pleasure. Finally, after enduring months of horrendous and unspeakable torture, Grace is barely a shell of her former self. Tired of the games, her Master sells her to Asher – a man rumoured to have killed his last slave and gotten away with it.
On a very basic level, I thought the book was technically really well-written. Kitty Thomas’ pacing, dialogue, and description were fantastic; there was none of the awkward phrasing or over-the-top dialogue that I find in a lot of other books in this genre. The characters were also pretty spectacular. Their every thought, feeling, action and reaction felt natural within each scene.
As for the concept of Elue?! Wow. Just wow. It was original, inventive, and so well-realized that you could almost believe that it truly existed somewhere in our modern world. I think that’s what made this story all the more frightening.
And the book was
pretty frightening. As an author that explores the issues of power dynamics, sexuality, and the psychology of ownership, Kitty Thomas has an incredible ability to craft a story that seems to reach into the psyche of her reader and demand that they examine their own thoughts and beliefs. She had a way of presenting ideas that my vanilla-loving brain instantly rejected, then explaining them, winding them into the fabric of the story so well that they start to make sense to me. Some of them even started to appeal to me. That’s a rare skill in an author, I think.
Verdict: At one point in the novel, Asher realizes that while he was appalled by the things Lucas had done to Grace, the resulting effect was nothing less than spectacular. This book is a little like that – while I may find the actuality of slavery appalling, the idea
of it (in this fantasy context), is kind of spectacular. Tender Mercies
is really worthy of a 4.5 star-rating.