In Sherrie Hayes’ novel, “Slave,” Stephan Coleman is no stranger to weird, culturally indecent relationships. His participation in a secretive BDSM (bondage-discipline/dominance-submission/sadism-masochism) lifestyle leaves him generally unsurprised when it comes to kinky. However, when his old college roommate and longtime mentor in BDSM approaches him to purchase a slave, Stephan is taken aback. It doesn’t take long for him to realize that his friend is simply trying to help a young lady in need. Stephan reluctantly buys the beautiful Brianna from her captor, but is at a loss as to what to do with the eighteen-year-old woman.
Brianna has lived the life of a slave for 10 months. She has been abused both physically and emotionally at the hands of her owner. She is broken. Her knowledge of relationships and sexual encounters is limited to what she has experienced at the hands of her owner and his friends. Her new master seems genuinely nice, but she knows that trust can lead to pain, so she continues to behave as a slave.
Stephan refuses to go to the police and insists on helping Brianna overcome her fears. He tries desperately to coax her into opening up about her life as a slave, and what led her to such an existence. The odd couple live in a sort of limbo for several weeks: Brianna trying to overcome the confusion welling up every time her master does something even remotely nice, and Stephan trying to figure out how to get her to trust him.
“Slave,” the first book in the Finding Anna series, tells the story of the first few weeks of Stephan and Brianna’s relationship. Unfortunately, this ebb and flow of progression and regression is as far as the book takes the reader. The perspective is unconventional, there is no real insight into the BDSM lifestyle, and the book doesn’t really end.
In general, books that are part of a longer series have a plot with a climax and some sort of resolution. There is usually a more complex overall story lingering in the background that will be resolved by the end of the series. Each book should bring the reader closer to the overall resolution, while still having a meaty subplot to keep up the action and interest. Otherwise, there is really no point in breaking the story into a multi-book series.
“Slave” does not have a meaty subplot and the end of the story is not really an end. No one stomps out in fit of rage and tears, no police come storming the condo and no ostracized exes try to break up the happy couple. The book seems to just end in the middle of the story.
Subplots aside, “Slave” does delve into human-trafficking, a topic that is taboo in the American society. Human-trafficking is an all-to-real problem that can be difficult to swallow. Hayes does a fine job in describing the gross mistreatment by those who buy and sell young women for pleasure.
However, the BDSM lifestyle, which is different than human-trafficking, is not thoroughly explored in this book. The reader comes away with a very slight understanding about what happens between a dominant and his/her submissive. Hayes just glazes over some of the customs of BDSM without giving any depth to them.
The story is seen both from Brianna and Stephan’s perspective via a rather unconventional writing style. Hayes tells the story in first person, switching back and forth from Brianna to Stephan. She clues the reader in by simply titling each section with the character’s name. Because Hayes writes each voice in such a distinct way, it actually becomes quite easy to distinguish between the two without even needing to read the name label.
On the other hand, the story may have been more effective if told from a third person perspective, or even first person-Stephan. The story behind Brianna’s enslavement and broken psyche could have been slowly unfolded without her perspective. Seeing everything from Brianna’s eyes is, at times, a little too much.
Overall, “Slave” is a good, yet not great, beginning to the Finding Anna series. The reader will probably not rush to the bookstore on the day the second book is available for sale, but may choose to read it when it trickles into the library.