Power Play by Rachel Haimowitz and Cat Grant

  • Power Play: Awakening by Rachel Haimowitz and Cat GrantPower Play: Resistance by Rachel Haimowitz and Cat GrantTitle(s): Power Play: Resistance and Power Play: Awakening
  • Author(s): Rachel Haimowitz and Cat Grant
  • Series: Power Play
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, GLBTQ (M/M), Erotica
  • Publisher: Riptide Publishing, February/June 2012
  • Source: Provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($8.99 ebooks)
  • Length: Resistance: 267 pages; Awakening: 292 pages
  • Trope(s): BDSM, Angst, Hurt/Comfort, Tragic Past
  • Quick blurb: Sadistic billionaire offers troubled aspiring architect a $3 million contract to become his submissive/slave for six months.
  • Quick review: If you can handle the extreme kink, go for it – but only if you commit to reading BOTH BOOKS. Trust me.
  • Grade: Resistance: B-; Awakening: B+

Reading these books was not a choice made on a whim. I read all the reviews and all the warnings and all the samples and all the excerpts. When it was listed on NetGalley, I decided to test my smug self-assessment as a completely open-minded reader willing to push my boundaries.

These books blew those comfort zone doors WIDE OPEN. Off the fucking hinges.

Boundaries. As if. These authors laugh at my pathetic excuses for boundaries and gleefully push me over the fucking cliff.

I’m mixing my metaphors. Now do you understand what they did to me???

NOTE: Trigger warning – some of the excerpts below are graphic.

Power Play: Resistance

It was like Jonathan had chemically changed him somehow,  jacked into something raw and primal and needy that’d clung to him after he’d left that nightmare of a place.

I think “unsettled” would be the best way to describe how I felt while reading Resistance. A strange sense of hovering over the scenes, watching from a distance – disconnected and enthralled at the same time.

For a second, the sound of leather on bare skin tore Bran fifteen years into the past, but he clawed his way back; no way was he letting himself fall down that hole ever again.

When I finished the first book, I had no intention of reading the second. The writing was powerful, but the characters and the depiction of their Dom/sub relationship seemed to cross the line from “shocking” into “sordid.”

Another zap, and the scream didn’t even make it out this time – just a cracked, broken whimper, Brandon’s trembling body slumping in his restraints as the handkerchief, at last, fluttered to the ground.

HE’S NOT A DOM, HE’S A MOTHERFUCKING EVIL SELFISH BASTARD. WHY THE HELL DID BRAN GO BACK TO THAT ASSHOLE? I DON’T UNDERSTAAAAAAND! *whimper*

So I read some fluff instead. There were goats involved.

ANYWAY, within a few days, I finally realized – Hello, Dumbass! – that my reaction was exactly what Haimowitz and Grant intended. They drew me in, put me through the wringer, and then kicked me back to the curb – mirroring Bran’s journey. He was compelled to return, and so was I.

Power Play: Awakening

Shit, and shit, and shit again, he thought as Brandon’s arms wrapped around him and dragged them to the floor with the unfettered force of their passion. I’m in love. God help me, I’m in love.

Awakening was a completely different reading experience, primarily because Bran and Jonathon actually talk to each other. Their encounters FINALLY evolve beyond sadism and sex and frustration.

“These are your trappings. To help you find your headspace. You may not understand it now – you may well hate it now – but it’s important you understand none of this is meant to debase you in any way.”

[Well, why the HELL didn’t you say that in the first place, you selfish evil bastard motherfucker?!?]

We get to see behind the veil of pain and fear that Jonathan uses as armor, and we learn why breaching Bran’s control was so important to both men.

“Not to break you, but to crack you, do you understand? To…learn all that’s inside you, what drive you, what troubles you so. To bring you peace, with yourself and with the world. I think I’ve wanted that from the moment you opened that sharp-tongued mouth of yours. And that’s why you.”

[Dammit, you evil selfish motherfucking bastard, don’t make me start to like you. Asshole.]

After finishing the second book, I kept wondering why it was two separate books. Surely the editors could have trimmed a little of the “OMFG NOOOO” out of the first part and spliced in a transition. And then Dumbass Me realized once again that they knew exactly what they were doing. If it was a single book, I seriously doubt I could have finished – it was just too exhausting. But the abrupt ending of Resistance kept me wondering and obsessing until I decided I trusted the authors enough to hold my hand the rest of the way.

Was it worth it?

Yes. These books changed the way I will read (and rate) BDSM erotica. The alternating, stream-of-consciousness POVs were executed so well I never had any confusion over whose head I was in. The dungeon scenes were utterly claustrophobic (omfg, the sarcophagus, nooooo *whimper*). I found myself floating along with Bran when he finally “found his headspace.”

But ultimately, my grades of B- and B+ are more a reflection of the extreme subject matter than the writing. I’ve only read one or two “complete power exchange” stories, and each time I’m deeply conflicted about the infallibility of the dominant/master – especially when the rationales begin to sound like a cult leader’s brainwashing:

“Do you remember,” he asked, “how we talked about tearing down barriers and walls? About trusting me? About breaking you of all the destructive thoughts and habits that prevent you from realizing your true potential?”

Ahhh, no. Thanks, but no. I’ll just keep taking my Happy Pills for that.

I reserve my A grades for books I know I’ll read again. Once was definitely enough for this level of kink.

2 thoughts on “Power Play by Rachel Haimowitz and Cat Grant

  1. This is a great review, Kelly. You’ve paid the author a tremendous compliment by returning to the second book, made it clear why you did and why you won’t again. At their best, books change us, hopefully, in positive ways. Well done to you both.

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