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I read. Mostly Romance. I like to talk about books. The end.

Power Play: Resistance: Volume 1

Power Play: Resistance - Rachel Haimowitz, Cat Grant I'm not sure quite where to start. I'll admit upfront that I just don't get total power exchange, and unlike with many other kinks I know of, there's no, "Well, it's not my thing but I can see the appeal for others" with this. It's not a morality thing--it's just that it's baffling to me. I have less trouble with non-con stories (as long as there's no claim that what's happening is okay). I picked up this book after eavesdropping on a twitter conversation about the use of safe words and how, while often mentioned, safe words are rarely actually used in BDSM romances. Someone recommended Power Play as an example of a story where safe words are used and respected, and I decided to read it because even thought I'm not particularly interested in TPE, I'm not offended by it either, and the premise sounded interesting. Jonathan is the Dom in this book and--brace yourselves--a billionaire. I know, I hate them, too, but it turns out billionaire heroes are less annoying when the other person isn't a completely clueless virgin doormat. He and Brandon--who doesn't identify as a sub and hasn't "bottomed in years"--meet at a bar and have a sexual encounter in an alley. Jonathan forces Bran to his knees and sticks his dick down Bran's throat, which turns him on so much he comes in his pants. They meet up again a few days later at Jonathan's place, where he handcuffs Bran to the bed and fucks him. Afterwards, Jonathan offers him the $3 million Bran needs to buy the business he wants in exchange for 6 months of sexual surrender. Brandon agrees after several days when he realizes he has no other way to make that kind of money. He's clearly not enthusiastic for several reasons, but he's attracted to Jonathan and needs the money. Jonathan insists he sign a contract right there, after asking Bran what his limits are. The only two things Brandon comes up with are no blood--which Jonathan agrees to--and condoms at all times--which Jonathan refuses to consider because barebacking is so important to this journey they're embarking on but they compromise by going together to get tested. Brandon signs the contract and moves in two weeks later.And that's where the story starts to lose me, because it's so obvious that Brandon has no idea what he's getting into. He knows nothing about the lifestyle, can't even imagine the kind of practices that exist. Jonathan knows this and, I guess because he's so excited to play teacher, insists that Brandon sign over his life without giving him the chance to even do a bit of googling. And that would have been fine, if this were a story about an asshole using his money to get what he wants with no regard for anyone's feelings; if this were a story about that asshole's redemption, maybe. But instead we're clearly supposed to sympathize with Jonathan from the beginning. Never mind that the ideas of limits and consent are kind of meaningless when one of the people involved is deliberately left in the dark about what he's consenting to. The next four weeks are Jonathan making rules and punishing Brandon for disobeying. Brandon--who was abused by his father, which Jonathon knew about because he had Brandon investigated (he IS a billionaire, after all)--is angry and resentful most of the time, constantly triggered by Jonathan's actions and not even allowed to have a conversation about what's happening and how he feels. And we're regularly shown how hurt Jonathan is by all this. He truly doesn't understand what Brandon's problem is. I kept wondering...is Jonathan evil or is he stupid? Because it has to be one or the other; there's just no way for someone to do the things he does, to the person he's doing them too, and then be completely mystified by the reaction he gets unless something is not quite right in the head. After one particularly brutal encounter that ends with Jonathan feeling horrible about himself and me actually having tears in my eyes, he...decides to be even more brutal to force Brandon to leave. Evil? Or stupid? I just don't know!Oh, and about those safe words...yeah, Brandon uses them, but Jonathan made it clear early on that he would decide if Brandon truly meant it, and if he felt that Brandon was using them too much without "needing" to, the contract would be void. So there's that.Brandon does leave. And then he goes back after realizing that Jonathan had changed him and he wants what he can give him. Never mind that, except for their encounters before the contract and a brief period after, we never saw Brandon be anything but angry and in pain. No, there's just that leap from glad to get out and wanting to go back. And Jonathan sits back and expects Brandon to grovel. There is a great moment where Brandon tells Jonathan exactly how he fucked up and Jonathan finally getting it, but it was too late for me. The book ends with a happy-for-now ending and there's another book that continues their story, which I don't plan to read. I would have liked for this book to be condensed to the first few chapters and then continue on from there; the problems I had with the book just went on too long for me to get past them. You'd think I'd rate this book 1 star considering my issues with it, but it's very well written, and even the most disturbing scenes were gripping. There were a few moments where I was leaning towards 3 stars, but my dislike of a character that the narrative was insisting I should sympathize with killed this story for me.