A.J. RoseSafeword (Power Exchange #2)Voodoo Lily Press | June 1, 2013 | 110,000 words, 333 pages
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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?
Genre & Keywords: Contemporary Romance, M/M, Suspense, BDSM, Police Investigation, PTSD, Violence, Danger, Recovery, Bondage
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Heat level: 2.5 out of 3 flames
** This review may contain spoilers for the previous book, Power Exchange **
Note: Safeword is the sequel to Power Exchange in which we met Gavin and Ben, the main characters of these books. Power Exchange should be read first for a better understanding of Safeword, since Ben and Gavin deal with the aftermath of what happened to them at the end of the first book in Safeword.
After reading Power Exchange I was hoping for this sequel because I was so engrossed in Gavin and Ben's romance and I felt their story wasn't completely told yet.
Safeword certainly proved their was still a lot to enjoy with these two engaging characters. Their adventures and their emotional journey in this sequel are even more compelling than before.
There's a time lapse of one and a half year between the ending of the first book and the beginning of the second. Gavin has recently returned to his job as a Detective, doing deskwork for the past couple of months. He and his partner Myah are finally getting back to their usual work, while Gavin and Ben are still struggling to find the balance back in their D/s relationship. That's where we enter the story again.
The case Myah and Gavin are assigned to is the rape and murder of one of their colleagues, soon to be followed by another killed cop. The violence and circumstances of the killings are hitting close to home for Gavin. While the investigation is absorbing him more and more, he and Ben are gradually but steadily working through their issues as well. They are having small breakthroughs, in which they switch from Gavin's problems to Ben's insecurities and back. When they gradually find their footing, Gavin becomes stronger and calmer again which helps him to keep his cool during the case and the confrontations with his homophobic ex partner and a stress-inducing reporter, who are connected to the case.
The two main arcs, the suspense and the romantic arc, are balanced very skillfully. I never felt once that the one arc was slowing down the other arc or the other way around. They were both equally important and interwoven with each other at the right moments. At a certain point in the investigation the couple's life becomes part of the suspenseful events too. And vice versa this interferes with their relationship development as well. It doesn't stay without consequences in the end either. Again Ben and Gavin have to face some serious danger and violence related to the case Gavin's working on.
The procedural police work from the first novel is back in this sequel, and I found myself really enjoying the pace and the way the author takes me as a reader along with the investigation. I felt challenged to solve the murders together with Gavin and Myah. The cases are built-up well and seem to be very realistic and furnished with psychological layers. Therefore my sympathy went to the victims as well as to the murderer nearly to the same extent. The author even managed to raise my empathy for the bad guys who became victims of the murderer, solely by the way their ordeal was described.
Although this second book perhaps doesn't have as many hot sex scenes as the first book, I thought that the heat level was still immeasurably high. Ben and Gavin's intimate scenes are not only sexy but very emotional too and these moments are showing excellently the progress in their relationship development. Rose not only knows how to write a wickedly hot scene which involves purple rope, the scenes also make it quite tangible what it must feel like to completely submit to someone else, someone you trust and who can make you fly. It's a pretty intense experience, or so it seems. It takes a talented author with a skillful pen to convey those emotions and feelings so well.
A few minor niggles had me rating this book the same as the first book. Firstly, the POV from Ben, that I missed slightly in the first book as well, was still amiss in this sequel. We solely witness the relationship plot line from Gavin's perspective. Admittedly, the author does not do a bad job conveying Ben's feelings and view on things too, but not as elaborate as Gavin's. This is just a personal regret though.
Secondly, towards the end of the investigation everything becomes very explosive, again, and the dramatic level is a bit higher than is to my taste. A few things also made me raise my eyebrows in surprise. Like the way the police department 'uses' a minor without the consent of his parents for a broadcasted message to the suspect, and the mild and empathetic way Gavin thinks about his hateful former partner in the end (making Gavin almost a saint). Also, I couldn't quite understand the murderer's focus on (or near obsession with) Gavin and Ben. This seemed maybe a bit far fetched to me and I couldn't help but think that it provided some convenient extra excitement, that wasn't necessary in my opinion.
However, like I said, these were only small niggles because while I was reading I was too engrossed to really notice them, let alone be bothered by them much. I was too busy to keep from falling from the edge of my seat, where I had been seated for a while already, quickly turning page after page.
So, I'm rather sad to have finished this book because I will miss Gavin and Ben, and Myah and Cole and the rest of the colorful secondary cast, fiercely. I understand from the author that there are no further books in this series planned (at least for now). I can see why not, after the way things ended in this story. The good news is that Rose is writing a whole new book, called Queers, which is supposed to come out by the end of this year. The first chapter was included at the end of Safeword and it's quite promising really.
For those who haven't read the Power Exchange series by this author yet, just know that I'm rather envious of you being able to experience the compelling and thrilling ride that these books will provide, for the first time. I will have to content myself with rereading them.