Network news anchor Daniel Halstrom is at the top of his field, but being at the bottom of the social ladder—being a slave—makes that hard to enjoy. Especially when NewWorld Media, the company who’s owned him since childhood, decides to lease him on evenings and weekends to boost their flagging profits.
Daniel’s not stupid; he knows there’s only one reason a man would pay so much for what little free time he has, and it’s got nothing to do with his knowledge of current events. But he’s never been made to serve like that before, and he fears he won’t survive the experience with his sanity intact.
He finds himself in the home of Carl Whitman, a talk show host whose words fail him time and again when it comes to ordering Daniel to bed. Daniel knows what Carl wants, but it seems as if Carl isn’t willing to take it, and Daniel’s not willing to give it freely. His recalcitrance costs him dearly, but with patience and some hard-won understanding, love just might flourish where once there’d been only fear and pain. Can Carl become the anchor in Daniel’s turbulent life, or will he end up the weight that sinks his slave for good?
(WARNING: [highlight to view] This book contains potentially triggering subject matter, including a violent rape that is NOT committed by either hero. Please take heed.)
After reading Counterpunch I decided to try reading Rachel Haimowitz’s take on the modern world with ingrained slavery.
Short version: I prefer all things British.
Make no mistake, this is an erotic BDSM novel, and not a romance. For a moment I thought about giving this book an extra star for not romanticising the Master and slave dynamics but then I stopped to think about all the other things I found disturbing and decided not to.
Counterpunch worked, for me, because Brooklyn had been born free. He grew up making his own choices and knowing who he was. He only lost that privilege due to an unfortunate sequence of events. Brooklyn was and is an unyielding character who’s never resigned himself to slavery.
Here, Daniel has presumably been born into slavery. He may not have been groomed to be a sexual companion to anyone willing to pay for his services, but he’s been beaten and schooled to obey his Master. Daniel doesn’t know what freedom is. He doesn’t have any idea what the concept of consent means. He’s not capable of willingly submitting to his master.
What’s worse, Haimowitz writes Daniel as an overgrown child. All the aspects of his life have been carefully controlled and Daniel never experienced the joys of child’s play or eating until he’s too full to eat anymore. The only thing he does know and take pleasure in—supposedly—is his work. The tasks and chores given to him to be performed like any trained monkey. I used the word supposedly because the reader never actually sees Daniel enjoying his job or taking solace in it. The closest he comes to using the news as a crutch is reading his Master’s morning paper. And when he most needs the comfort, Daniel chooses to watch an unnamed anime instead of his precious information broadcasts.
Where Brooklyn would brace himself and face the forced assignations, Daniel seems to have grown up in a cocoon where proper sex didn’t really exist. I could maybe buy Daniel’s virginal inexperience hadn’t the author contradicted herself: We’re supposed to believe a pair of slaves wouldn’t have a five minutes for themselves while trusted slaves are left to roam free in the weekends. Also, I refuse to believe Daniel could be good at his job and have spent years reporting from the field without stumbling on people who actually enjoy sex.
Then there’s the fact that for an erotica this book isn’t very erotic. The first half is spent on explaining how inexperienced Daniel is and highlighting his unease with his uncaring and thoughtless new Master whose name I’ve forgotten. Said Master spends night after night sleeping in the same bed with Daniel without demanding anything from him. We’re supposed to believe he’s caring and kind because he doesn’t force himself on Daniel, that he’s a good Master who just never bothers to make the rules clear to his new slave. If the Master truly were such a good Master, surely he’d know what he wants from a slave and how to make his will known with words and without scaring the new toy.
Finally, when the sex happens (view spoiler). Then there’s the rushed magic cock cure for all and a very unsatisfying end to the whole thing.