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safewordTitle: Safeword
Author: AJ Rose
Publisher: Voodoo Lilly Press
Length: 110,000 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary BDSM Mystery Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sexy to Story
Keywords/Tags: Series, Sequel, Cops, Psychologists, PTSD, Serial Killer, Family, Child Abduction & Abuse, Obsession, Paparazzi!, HEA
Rating: Loved It!

Reviewed by Sadonna

****Spoiler alert****

This is a sequel to Power Exchange and as such contains quite a few spoilers for that book.  It is NOT recommended to read these books out of sequence.

BLURB

Everywhere Detective Gavin DeGrassi looks he’s reminded of his attack by the Breath Play Killer. It’s in the house he lives in with his partner and Dom, Ben Haverson. It’s in the sympathetic yet pitying looks he receives from his fellow detectives when he returns to the force after a year-long hiatus. It’s in the suffocating coddling of his entire family, and the relentless reporter demanding an exclusive of his ordeal.



Most of all, it’s in his lack of submission to Ben, who isn’t convinced Gavin’s recovered enough to trust the power exchange between them.



The miraculous recovery of two teen boys from a twisted kidnapper gives him heart, and Gavin’s determined to prove he can handle anything despite increasing strain between him and Ben, painful nightmares, and panic when anyone touches him.



But his next case is too close for comfort: a friend and colleague found raped and murdered in a fate chillingly similar to what could have been his own, and this killer isn’t stopping with one cop. As the body count rises and taunting souvenirs are being hand-delivered to Gavin, he faces a frustrating lack of leads, a crushing need to prove himself, and a sinking suspicion the imprisoned kidnapper’s reach is further than originally thought. A miasma of uncertainty and fear threaten to suffocate him when he asks a question with which he’s overwhelmingly familiar: what happens when a victim is pushed too far?

REVIEW

Safeword begins about a year after the events of Power Exchange.  Gavin and Ben are still together and Gavin has just returned to work after a year’s disability leave.  He’s been through intensive therapy with Ben’s partner Laura and he and Ben are also seeing her as a couple.  Things seem to be going OK with his return to work and his partner, Myah, who is now engaged to his brother Cole.  While Gavin is still dealing with some residual anxiety, he is able to work effectively even when his first case back turns out to be the murder of a fellow police officer.  And it’s not just any officer, but a colleague of Gavin and Myah’s who broke a big case involving two abducted teens and the man who was holding them hostage – one for a number of years.  This case may or may not be related to his murder.

As Gavin and Myah are investigating the case, there doesn’t seem to be any real motive or potential suspects but Gavin can’t help feeling there is some connection between the murder and the victim’s last big case.  While there are no real leads in the case, another cop is murdered and there are some potentially disturbing similarities between the murders and some coincidences that can’t be ignored.  This of course brings more stress to Myah and particularly Gavin who is still dealing with his own recovery and anxiety.  The other annoying issue is the reappearance of Gavin’s former partner Trent, who it turns out is still with Gavin’s ex-wife.  Trent has done nothing but bad-mouth Gavin since he was run out of their precinct after being caught in bed with Victoria, Gavin’s ex.  He’s a complete pain in the ass, but it turns out that he has a really disgusting skeleton in his closet that he doesn’t want public, so he tows the line – at least being civil.  And only for a little while.

Things have not gotten back to normal between Ben and Gavin in their sex life and while they haven’t given up getting back to their Dom/Sub relationship, things are moving much more slowly than Gavin would like. However, Ben is unwilling to risk Gavin’s psyche any more than it already has been compromised.  They are continuing to work on their relationship and Gavin’s limits, but he has to push Ben to get any forward movement. This is further complicated by a third cop murder and the murderer’s fixation on Gavin. Regardless of what precautions Gavin and Ben and the force take to protect him, there continue to be breaches in Gavin’s security. Needless to say, Gavin once again being in the crosshairs of a killer takes a toll on him and Ben.

If you read my review of the previous book, Power Exchange, you know that I was somewhat disappointed in the mystery and particularly with the resolution of the case and the identification of the murderer.  No such complaints with this book.  The murder mystery is really well done with some surprising twists and turns and some good police work by Gavin and Myah along with another nail biter of a climax.  There are plenty of villains to hate in this one and some pretty good payback as well, which really did give me some perverse satisfaction unlike the end of the first book 😉

The other central story of this book is the ongoing love story of Gavin and Ben.  I though the first book was incredible in describing the progression of their relationship.  It was incredibly intimate and intense and hot and so well written.  This part of the story in this book does not have that same level of intensity, but it is still really well written and very intimate.  Ben and Gavin are still trying to find their way back to themselves and each other in the aftermath of their ordeal in Power Exchange.  They are working through all of the issues together and they are incredibly committed to making things better and getting back to where they were before.  There are some really hard moments for them in this story but the one fundamental factor that prevails over everything else is their love for each other and what they are willing to do to fight for that love.

I really loved this book – so much so that I went back and reread Power Exchange again because I couldn’t get enough of Gavin and Ben.  I don’t know if A.J. Rose is planning to write more about these two, but I’d definitely read it!


Title: Power Exchange
Author: A.J. Rosen
Publisher: Voodoo Lily Press
Length: 117K words
Genre: MM BDSM Contemporary Mystery Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average sex to story ratio
Keywords/Tags: Cops, Serial Killer, Psychologist, Brothers, Coming Out
Rating: Really liked it

Reviewed by Sadonna

BLURB

From the moment Detective Gavin DeGrassi steps into the world of BDSM to solve the brutal slaying of Dom George Kaiser, his course is not his own. Mesmerized by the context in which the victim lived and the images of the lifestyle seared into his soul, Gavin must find a way to navigate these unknown waters. With his personal life in upheaval due to marital trouble, and his professional life uncertain with the assignment of a new partner, Gavin needs all the help he can get understanding the case.

Enter Ben Haverson, a psychologist and a well known Dom. With Ben’s help as a consultant and attention to Gavin’s own murky truths, Gavin delves deeper than he ever thought he would into the world of restraints and paddles. Forced to scrutinize his true nature and his innermost desires, Gavin has a choice: keep the fear of submitting at bay, or dive in and solve the case with the knowledge he gains. When another victim is discovered, Gavin’s choice is made for him, and he’s pulled headlong into the deepest, most emotional journey of his life.

Unfortunately for him and Ben, a killer has noticed, has taken stock, and has set his sights on the D/s pair. Can Gavin outwit him, or will his first exchange of power be his last?

REVIEW

Where to start! So I read the first chapter of this story online and was hooked immediately. The character of Gavin DeGrassi is so well written that I just wanted to read faster and faster to see what was going to happen to him. In this book, there are really two parallel journeys/stories: Gavin’s journey of self-discovery and the race to solve a string of serial murders in the local BDSM community.

It opens with the killing of man involved in BDSM and the staging of the murder in the man’s playroom. Gavin is one of the homicide detectives called in on the case. His partner, Trent, is kind of a jerk even if he is a pretty good detective. Gavin and Trent meet with consultant Dr. Ben Haverson who is not only a noted local psychologist, but also a Dom. Ben is to provide insight into both the BDSM world as well as the killings. Unfortunately Gavin is also extremely attracted to Ben. This is a problem since he is married and his partner is pretty homophobic. Gavin has spent years denying his attraction to men. Given the pressure from his family of 3 brothers – also all cops – and his retired police Lieutenant father and his social climbing wife, he is already on the edge.

The pressure from his family (really two of his brothers, his parents and his wife, Victoria) includes his refusal to go for a promotion. He is happy being a homicide detective and he’s good at it. He doesn’t like paperwork and politics and has no interest in climbing the ranks. At the family Sunday brunch, he feels blindsided by his wife and mother and father who start talking about his career and the possibility of starting a family. Later in the day, Gavin is blindsided yet again by Victoria’s actions and he leaves their home, thereby setting up his evening trip to a BDSM club where he runs into Ben.

From this point in the story, we learn much about Gavin’s pent-up desire and why he has been firmly in the closet all these years. However, he cannot resist Ben and begins a physical relationship with him. Ben believes that Gavin is a natural submissive and that he can show him the true meaning of the power exchange in such relationships. As they embark on this journey, another murder occurs and they are no closer to solving the original murder.

Gavin gets a new partner, Myah, who has transferred from Chicago. She is a beautiful woman who is used to not being taken seriously. She finds Gavin to be a breath of fresh air and they build a very good relationship – both working and personal. Unfortunately as soon as she joins homicide, another murder takes place of another Dom also staged in the dungeon of his home. This couple has a closer tie to Ben and Gavin is upset about that as well as the fact that there are now two unsolved murders and no physical evidence or suspects.

As Ben and Gavin deepen their relationship and Ben tutors Gavin in BDSM, they are racing against the clock to solve yet more murders within the community. As the case escalates, Myah and Gavin’s brother Cole are also instrumental in trying to solve the murders and find the killer. Unfortunately this is the place where the murder mystery part of the story falls apart a little for me. I was disappointed that Gavin didn’t figure out who the killer was since I’m sure virtually every reader did.

The relationship part of this story between Ben and Gavin was fascinating and hot and really well written. The exploration of the BDSM culture and the meaning it has in the lives of the participants was sensitively portrayed in the budding relationship between these two men. The mystery part – well that wasn’t too mysterious. But overall, it is still a very good read and I really enjoyed it. Recommended especially for anyone who wants more insight into BDSM.