Author: Olivia Duncan Craig
Cover Artist: Olivia Duncan Craig
Publisher: self published
Genre: Urban Fantasy, science fiction
Length: 101K words/205 Printed Pages
Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
Review Summary: The world and the characters were equally vivid and I didn’t want to leave. A gem.
It’s a different world. Space has been colonized, the wealthy fly to work rather than drive, and slavery is legal.
Jason’s family has been ripped apart by tragedy. The only way he can save the ones left is to offer himself up as a bondmate. The more he’s willing to give, the higher the price he can command. And Jason is willing to give a lot.
Devin is wealthy and heartbroken after the wife he adored walked out on him. He isn’t looking for love. All he wants is a relationship he can control. Buying a bondmate seems like the perfect solution.
Yet when he purchases Jason’s contract, Devin gets more than he bargained for.
This was a surprisingly enjoyable book, surprising because I didn’t expect much as it is self published and my experience with self publishing to date has been up and down, mostly down, although I admit that I found a few gems over the past year and this is among the bright spots. Despite the theme of human slavery in a futuristic setting, a topic that does not appeal to me at all and I rarely read books with this as a main plot, I found the story to be original and fresh and the characters really showed depth and growth. In the end I didn’t want to leave Devin and Jason because I fell in love with them.
At 28 Devin was heir to the most successful interplanetary mining company in the galaxy. When he and his wife divorced a year ago his friend Mike suggested that he purchase a Class One bondmate, sort of a two for one deal, a personal assistant and bed partner. Redemption, a firm that specialized in transactions of this type, was the obvious choice as the source of said bondmate and they produced Jason who seemed like the perfect choice — attractive and biddable as well as very intelligent.
At the conclusion of the protracted negotiations with Redemption Devin left with his new companion and employee, his bond mate for the next 20 years, if he decided to keep him. The 20 year commitment was not carved in stone as there was an option to return Jason to Redemption at the end of 72 hours if they decided that it wasn’t going to work out, and the contract would be sold to someone else. Jason was not forthcoming about why he was selling himself but he seemed to accept his role. The bracelet he wore as well as the GPS tracking device in his neck signified that he was Devin’s property and he knew he had to accept his new status because he had no choice. Jason’s parents had recently been killed in an accident and he had also lost his brother Aaron in another mysterious accident, so he was alone in the world except for his teenage sister who was offworld with Aaron’s widow and son.
Jason was well educated, studying for his Masters in Art when he became a member of Devin’s household. As a bondmate he had no property other than a couple of suitcases that contained his personal belongings, so he was entirely dependent on Devin. He wasn’t a guest, as Devin called all the shots even when and where they had sex. If he passed the 72 hour trial period he would belong to Devin for however long he chose to keep him.
At first I thought that the relationship between Jason and Devin would be cold and one sided like any other business deal because Devin had been advised by Redemption to keep his dealings with Jason on a businesslike footing, otherwise he might have to deal with a love struck bondmate should he ever want to get married again, have children and get rid of Jason. Devin made it clear to Jason that he was expected to be completely faithful but that he, Devin, could have as many lovers as he wanted. After initially keeping his distance, gradually Devin started to warm up to Jason who got under his skin. He no longer thought of him as property and started treating him as someone he cared about, seeking him out when there was no need, and because Jason loved to eat, even bringing him treats like fettuccine alfredo :), which surprised and charmed him.
What I loved about this book was the level of detail in the worldbuilding. This is a world where natural food such as steak, fish, vegetables or pasta or any of the foods we eat were luxuries as everyone lived on liquid supplements, even the rich, because it was quick and nutritious. Only a few high end restaurants served natural foods as a special delicacy and there was hardly any need for chefs since very few people actually cooked or ate. Devin didn’t drive to work – his pilot flew him in his private plane. I guess there was no traffic jam in the skies.
The protagonists were well crafted. Jason’s initial nervousness and uncertainty came through clearly, not only about having sex with someone he didn’t know especially since this would be his first time with a man, but about everyday questions such as what to call Devin, privacy issues, being totally dependent on another person when he had been accustomed to supporting himself, not having any credits (money), and a whole host of things that on the surface seemed easy enough but in practice were not quite as clear cut to resolve. Devin also had to deal with living with someone else (a man) after being married for 2 years to a woman whom he loved and subsequently divorced, fending off a controlling father, a high profile and demanding job that was almost 24/7 if he let it take over his life, and being with Jason who was fast becoming important to him.
Just when they were getting to know each other well and tender feelings emerged on both sides, disaster struck. What Jason feared came true and he had no hope of ever seeing Devin again, the man he had come to love.
This is Olivia Duncan Craig’s first published novel and I thought she did a wonderful and credible job. Her characters were three dimensional, even the supporting ones, and everyone had enough face time for me to get to know them.
My main issue was the frequent use of the words “bondmate” and “contract-holder” which got a bit tedious after a while. It would have been less repetitive if the protagonists were referred to by their names but I suppose the author wanted to emphasize that the relationship was one of master and slave. It didn’t spoil the book for me but it was annoying. There were a few spelling errors and one name switch, but considering the length of the book (101K) and that it was self published, I think the editing compared very favourably to books released by major epublishers. Last, there were a couple of spots where the book dragged just a little but again, not so much that it spoiled my reading experience.
Some scenes in the end were tough to read and might be a little difficult if you have a hard time with violence but they were essential to the plot.
The world created by the author was completely different to what we know but was entirely believable, and little touches brought it to life and made it sparkle. The writing was crisp and the characters moved me so much that I didn’t want to put this book down. A wonderful debut novel and I can’t wait for Olivia Duncan Craig’s next book.