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Master Bear
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Master Bear

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Master Bear is an unusual love story that may especially appeal to romance readers seeking a change from superficial subject matter. Certain topics such as death and illness are seldom explored in romance, but in real life there can be no greater test of someone’s love than to have to cope with the terminal illness of one’s lover. This is the “taboo” topic explored by this novella, which is set in the BDSM leather subculture.

Most fiction tends to exploit the eroticism of BDSM, but this story shows the participants as real people struggling with their mortality. For example, when a leatherman dies and his house has to be sold, his friends erase the traces of his lifestyle: “Tomorrow the de-kinking and de-gaying crew comes to, pardon the expression, straighten it up.”

My one problem with the story centers on its artificial construction to mimic the conventions of a fairy tale. I’m fine with the familiar ritual-of-three which introduces three doms, but I found their warnings about Master Bear and the entire secret identity thing to be contrived. That said, this is still an impressive story.

The story starts in the third-person viewpoint of William, whose cancer has recurred, compelling him to plan for his death. He is in a BDSM relationship with a sub Chris who is completely dependent upon him, and so he must find the right dom to take over the care and support of Chris. The viewpoint switches to Chris for the rest of the story, sparing the reader from the details of William’s illness.

Chris must struggle with his fear and grief through their last summer together as William invites over three of his closest friends, one by one, to have dinner and an extended sexual “scene” with Chris to determine their compatibility. None is a perfect fit and all warn that Chris is probably going to end up with the terrifying Master Bear.

Meanwhile, Chris finds emotional support and friendship with Mike, a kindly hospice nurse who used to be in the BDSM world. Other fiction by Angelia Sparrow and Naomi Brooks available at All Romance Ebooks includes The Curse of the Pharaoh’s Manicurists (one of my recommended reads for November 2009).

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  AReCafe | May 23, 2014 |
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