Kaden knows he’s dying, but before he goes, he has one problem he needs to solve – he must ask his oldest friend Seth to take over as his beloved wife’s Dom and Master after his death. Seth has always seen himself as the perpetual screw-up and Kaden as the strong and steady one, so his friend’s request rocks his world. Now Seth finds himself immersed in a role he’s far from comfortable with: inflicting pain to provide emotional comfort for the woman he’s secretly loved for years.
Can he deal with his crushing grief and learn the skills he must master in time to become THE RELUCTANT DOM?
I finished reading this book two weeks ago but I haven’t been able to put my thoughts together about it until now. I think I knew what I was in for when I started reading it but I was not expecting the intensity of sorrow that this book caused me. To say that it was an intense read would be an understatement of epic proportions.
This is the story about three friends, Kaden, his wife Leah, and their best friend Seth. We find out on the very first page that Kaden has cancer and only has a year or so left to live. He asks his friend Seth, someone who he has known and trusted since they were kids, to take over as his wife’s … *ehem* … Dom and ultimately husband. Not your Disney variety of romance, that’s for sure. Seth didn’t even know at that stage that Kaden and Leah had a D/s relationship. They appeared as the perfect couple, doting on each other and loving each other completely. Seth had always been envious of their bond but never managed to find that kind of relationship in his own life, as three failed marriages stood proof. He is reluctant to even think about accepting but his friend’s terminal illness makes him reconsider. He eventually moves in with them and is slowly being taught to take over for Kaden.
Ok, this was not one of those situations that was easy for me to grasp and it felt a bit far-fetched in the beginning – I mean, how many guys who are desperately in love with their wives would happily hand them over to another man? – but once I understood the characters and their bonds, I got it. The characters were so real to me by the end of the book that I felt everything they felt. The more I found out about Kaden, Leah and Seth, the more I believed their story. I liked that the BDSM element of this book was brought as a necessity rather than a kink in Kaden and Leah’s marriage. It was heavy and it mainly involved pain – if I never hear the words “Do you need to feel the bite?” again, it will be too soon – and in this case I preferred knowing that Kaden chose to do it only as a way of helping Leah.
Leah was a victim of abuse, an emotionally deeply scarred woman who has no stress or grief coping mechanisms. When faced with those emotions, she just shuts down. She learned early on in her life that physical pain would help her snap out of that state so she used to hurt herself before she met Kaden. Kaden had no experience in dealing with such issues before he met Leah but he loved her so much that he desperately looked for a way of helping her. BDSM was a safe option and over the following twenty years they found a comfortable way of incorporating it into their marriage, resorting to the Master/slave relationship whenever Leah needed it in order to cope with everyday life. Knowing how hard it was initially for Kaden to inflict any type of pain on the woman he loved, I simply fell in love with his character. Only after I learned all this about Kaden did I fully understand how a man like him could just ‘pass’ his wife onto someone else. He loved Leah so much that he feared leaving her alone much more than he feared dying. He knew she would not cope well with his death if left on her own so he made the ultimate sacrifice and ‘groomed’ another man to take his place. The fact that Seth was someone they both loved made the whole situation a bit more bearable.
Seth is just incredible. He puts all his prejudices and reservations aside for one reason alone – he would do anything for his best friend. He is the one that has the most issues to overcome in this book – his best friend is dying, he is being asked to not only marry his friend’s wife but also become her Master, he has to admit to himself that he’s always had feelings for Leah, he is expected to help Leah deal with her grief rather than his own by going against everything he believes in and inflicting physical pain on the woman he loves. Oh, and he needs to re-program his brain into thinking that it’s ok to love and sleep with his friend’s wife while his friend is still alive. The rare scenes where he allows himself to grieve, like when he sobs alone in the shower, made my heart break into pieces. Every single “kaden’sdying” cut me like a blade. He really was the ultimate friend to Kaden, as screwed up as the nature of the situation was. He gave more of himself than he got back and in the process of all that he had to learn to deal with losing his best friend, someone who had been a constant in his life since childhood. He would have traded places with Kaden in a second and Kaden knew that.
“I’m looking at the man I love even more than a brother, a man I know would gladly switch places with me in a heartbeat to save my life if he thought he could. A man who will love and cherish the woman I love as much as I do.” – Kaden
I guess the polyamorous nature of their relationship towards the end of Kaden’s life was a bit hard for me to swallow but there was no way around it. The events leading to it and inevitably following it left no other choice of path to follow. These three characters loved each other so much and their lives were so deeply intertwined by the end that I understood how their love could eventually become physical as well. As sexy as some of those scenes were, there was an underlying sadness to them as well, especially when they realised that they could have had that connection between them all along and that it took an impending tragedy for them to accept that.
This is ultimately a book about friendship. To me this was Kaden and Seth’s book. Leah almost felt like a secondary character because, while everything in the book happened because of her and for her, nothing would have been possible hadn’t there been an amazing bond between Kaden and Seth. They truly proved that they would have done anything for each other. I loved loved loved this book so much but I don’t think I could survive re-reading it.