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A Survivor Story
From her perch on a shelf above my bed, the doll accuses me with lifeless eyes of failing Juliette in the most heinous way imaginable, forcing me to crave the bite of his whip and the steel in his voice to drown out the ache in my chest.
For his entire life, Benjamin Martin’s parents drilled into his head that he must watch out for his little sister, but one horrific night, he failed. Now, the bite of a whip, cuffs digging into his wrists, his arms and legs stretched beyond endurance, these things give him what he needs to forget his sister’s violent death, at least for a while.
When Ben’s latest Dom casts him aside like a broken toy, he manipulates his best friend, Jude Archer, into picking up the pieces. Jude has been in love with Ben for years, but his fantasies about his friend never included whipping him. He doesn’t understand why Ben needs BDSM and he worries about Ben’s addiction. Most of all, he fears losing his humanity because he’s already lost himself in Ben. When he’s forced to trade the marks upon his soul for the pain that ravages Ben, Jude learns the real definition of submission.
J.P Barnaby is one of the most emotive writers I know. For some readers her characters will crawl under your skin, bind your heart and have you weeping for their tormented souls within the first 25% and if you aren’t? Ha! You soon will be, she has a propensity to sideswipe and compound the drama when you least expect it.
Emotional manipulation? No, not really it’s just the way she tells it. Her comprehensive characterisation of Ben’s guilt, pain and self-loathing is reason enough to feel moved. Bens POV is not an easy involvement, his sorrow is tangible and I wonder why I want to immerse myself in such misery. The author tempers grief and it’s trappings with solid, intense BDSM scenes – the best bit being the introduction of fire play. Wow right? J.P informatively reveals this craft with vivid imagery. My initial reaction being the vanilla (ish) girl that I am was: Are these guys NUTS? But then, when the scene reads like this…
“The flogger flew over his skin in alternating arcs of incandescent flame. The scorching trails left in its wake exploded into wings of fire, casting shadows over his face, transforming him into an angel of vengeance”
…my horror turns to wonder.
Painting with Fire is not a cheery tale. The author goes deep into the emotional pain and hard on the physical. Ben mourns his sister and laments his failures while Jude mourns for a love he thinks he will never have with Ben. There is a certain follow the dots healing-hearts formula to it BUT it’s a path worth following – the aftercare is exceptional and WILL leave you feeling satisfied, floating in your own happy bubble of hope.
The only real issue I have (ignoring niggles) is that this story is ALL about Ben. Ben’s pain, Ben’s guilt, Ben’s needs, Ben’s life …I never got a real feel for Jude because Jude is all about Ben too. There is nothing to Jude beyond what he felt for Ben or beyond what he was willing to sacrifice for him either. Jude is everything good and whole but I wanted to see more than the selfless and adoring Jude.
Painting with Fire is good and I enjoyed it – but not as much as The Forbidden Room and Deconstructing Ethan (IMO) this felt easier, more foreseeable and yet I felt comforted by the predictability. This book is affecting yet comforting, sexy and sensual, I can’t see anyone feeling dissatisfied with it.
Recommended for those who love the healing hearts tropes with some forceful BDSM.