I haven’t read many stories centered around the world of boxing so this caught my eye. Added to that it is by a favorite author and centered in an alternate modern day setting. Definite reasons to snatch it up. I read through this one quickly, captivated from the very first page.
The story is the second book in the Belonging series which I didn’t realize until after I read it. I guess that means that it does well as a standalone. In fact, I didn’t notice anything that would have directly tied it to a previous book. Maybe they just share the same universe.
The premise of this series about a modern day alternative earth is that slavery is alive and well world-wide. Folks can be born into it, but they can also become enslaved for various reasons. In this story, former police-officer, Brooklyn Marshall was sentenced to life long slavery for an incident that happened during his police career. He hadn’t meant to kill the rioter, but it happened and her rich, influential father made sure that Brooklyn got the full extent of the law.
Now Brooklyn is owned by a conglomerate group and he is part of their boxing stable. He trains hard, fights his bouts, and some nights he is sent to be sexually used by paying clients of the group. Loss of freedom and privacy doesn’t set well, but he has learned the hard way not to resist anything his owners or guards want. Part of him is anger at his situation, but another part is resigned that he deserves it for accidentally killing the girl.
Brooklyn’s routine is interrupted by the interesting behavior of his latest john. First the guy doesn’t take his pound of flesh and use Brooklyn’s body in the usual way, even treating Brooklyn like a human being for once, but then with further enigmatic encounters this Nathaniel promises to work to get Brooklyn freed.
Brooklyn gears up for the biggest bouts of his professional career, deals with his conflicted emotions about Nathaniel, and runs the gauntlet between hopeful, betrayed, and despondent after a big incident. Is it worth it to care or even hope?
Once I learned about the slavery angle, I was intrigued. In fact, it was almost hard to settle into the story because I was so caught up in imagining such a world. I know slavery still exists for some, but the idea of it being a prevalent, accepted part of society was disturbing to me.
But the captivating character of Brooklyn Marshall and those surrounding him couldn’t be ignored. Brooklyn is full of nuances. He is a fighter through and through and I don’t mean his superb boxing skills only. His anger and zest are palpable and seething even as he pragmatically accepts his situation to avoid extra torture. This is a hero worth rooting for.
Beyond Brooklyn, there were several characters that were colored in and had depth in their own right. The sadistic and evil guard who salivated when he got the chance to break Brooklyn, the weak yet kind trainer, the friendly promoter, and the many-layered and secret filled client-lover-?
Even though Brooklyn had the narration of the story, these characters were close and a strong part of the plot.
The boxing world felt authentic whether it was the training scenes or the exciting, intense fights. There were details that boxing aficionados would appreciate, but not so technical that the novice would be confused or bored. Those fight scenes were written so that I felt like I was in the ring with Brooklyn.
This story was paced well and the gritty, dark tones were balanced right. The reader gets the feel for the misery, fear, and hopelessness of a slaves world- particularly the lack of control over their own body even, but it isn’t overdone for shock and awe that would have pushed aside the story itself. The twists near the end were partial surprises. I loved guessing just what Nathaniel was all about and was he friend or secret foe to Brooklyn.
All in all, this was another fantastic story that gripped my interest and emotions. I would recommend it to M/M romance fans who like things on the grittier side. Not sure what genre exactly, but maybe Contemporary or Sci-Fi? Definitely Sports Romance lovers who like some heat in their romance.
My thanks to Riptide Publishing for the opportunity to read this story in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #260 LGBT
Mt. TBR #102
New to Me #130 series
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