Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “I looked forward to a whole lifetime of tomorrows.”
Detective Gavin DeGrassi is slowly recovering from his kidnapping and the brutality that was forced upon him by the Breath Play Killer. Though it’s been over a year and he is in therapy, he is still unable to submit to his lover and Dom, Dr. Ben Haverson. Everywhere he looks, he is reminded of what happened and his inability to deal with it is slowly destroying his and Ben’s relationship.
When he is assigned to a case that brings back memories of his ordeal, Gavin finds himself once again the target of a madman. A madman whose own past makes him both victim and culprit. As the killings increase, Gavin finds himself pulled deeper into the case and fears that he and the killer have far more in common than he’d like.
First off, let me say that the cover of this book and the first one, Power Exchange (read my review here), are phenomenal. They are both a work of art that showcases the strength in submission. As Ben once said to Gavin, “It takes more courage to kneel before someone, then to stand beside them.“ And that is Gavin in a nutshell. A strong, courageous, intelligent man whose demanding job is buffered by the equally strong lover whose domination in the bedroom soothes Gavin’s restless soul. Ben is the perfect match for Gavin. Calm and serene, he grounds Gavin.
Safeword picks up about a year after Power Exchange. A sexy, romantic thriller that once again challenges our protagonists as they seek to catch a vicious serial killer. A well balanced mystery and romance hooks you deep as your heart struggles with what Gavin and Ben are enduring. AJ Rose continues to evolve Gavin and Ben’s relationship, addressing both the protagonist’s concerns and fears as their relationship and lives have taken a hard hit. Well written with a steady pace, we are once again able to easily submerge ourselves in Gavin’s life and pick up right where we left off.
Gavin and Ben have settled as a couple, having moved in together. You can feel the love they have for one another throughout the book. Plenty of time spent in domestic settings, doing ordinary things. The emotional aspects are heavy and heartfelt. Both are struggling to get beyond what happened to them. Neither are very good at communicating their feelings and the one place they could, through BDSM, has been cut off to them. Gavin still has panic attacks during scenes and Ben refuses to push it, feeling that Gavin isn’t ready to scene at all. Once again, BDSM isn’t portrayed as a cure all and Ben isn’t Gavin’s savior. They both work hard at finding middle ground and a way to go forward. I love that the author didn’t rush or minimize the trauma that Gavin and Ben went through. There was no easy fix. No magic words. And the storyline proves that by progressing at a rate that allows for a believable outcome.
The romance and sexual scenes are well done considering the crossroads that Ben and Gavin are at. Though there aren’t as many actual sexual scenes as book one, what we do see is more impacting as we are coherent of the turbulent emotional journey our protagonists are on. Ben continues to be a gentle yet firm lover, though in here, Gavin is forced to become the aggressor.
Secondary characters round out the story well, providing a stable base in which the plot and main conflict is built upon. We see more of Gavin’s family; especially in regards to the mystery. His brother Cole and his girlfriend, Myah, who is also Gavin’s partner, both play heavy roles in the storyline. I adored Myah. A badarse through and through. Her protectiveness of Gavin is both heartwarming and humorous. We see some old friends from the BDSM community and I enjoyed the subplot that addresses homosexuality in the police force.
The mystery is quite suspenseful and horrific at some points. Rose goes more in depth with the police procedurals and I enjoyed Gavin’s increased detective skills. Major twists and turns keep you on edge as you try and discover the killer and his motives. A major point of contention from book one is brought back and laid to rest in a satisfying manner. The ending wraps up everything nicely in a dramatic finale and we are left with a nice epilogue that deals well with the aftermath and clues us into possible future storylines should Rose ever choose to revisit this couple.
Overall Rating: B+