Power Exchange by AJ Rose

Why I read it:  I read a review of Safeword (the sequel to this book) recently at SmexyBooks and it reminded me I had this one on my TBR.  I’ve already bought Safeword too.
What it’s about (from Goodreads):  From the moment Detective Gavin DeGrassi steps into the world of BDSM to solve the brutal slaying of Dom George Kaiser, his course is not his own. Mesmerized by the context in which the victim lived and the images of the lifestyle seared into his soul, Gavin must find a way to navigate these unknown waters. With his personal life in upheaval due to marital trouble, and his professional life uncertain with the assignment of a new partner, Gavin needs all the help he can get understanding the case.Enter Ben Haverson, a psychologist and a well known Dom. With Ben’s help as a consultant and attention to Gavin’s own murky truths, Gavin delves deeper than he ever thought he would into the world of restraints and paddles. Forced to scrutinize his true nature and his innermost desires, Gavin has a choice: keep the fear of submitting at bay, or dive in and solve the case with the knowledge he gains. When another victim is discovered, Gavin’s choice is made for him, and he’s pulled headlong into the deepest, most emotional journey of his life.

Unfortunately for him and Ben, a killer has noticed, has taken stock, and has set his sights on the D/s pair. Can Gavin outwit him, or will his first exchange of power be his last?

Warning: Some readers may find this book triggering and will wish to avoid it.  There is off page and on page (male) rape as well as some fairly graphic violence (all on the part of the villain).

What worked for me (and what didn’t): I had heard nothing but good things about this book and it turned out to be just what I was in the mood for.  I stayed up way too late the other night finishing it.  It’s not without flaws, but overall, it was a great read and I’m excited to read the second book in the series and see where the author takes these characters next.Gavin DeGrassi is a cop from a family of cops.  His father is a retired cop. His three brothers are all in law enforcement too.  He feels, keenly, the weight of expectation on him.  At the start of the story, he and his partner attend the scene of a violent homocide where a man was whipped, beaten, raped and strangled while bound to a St. Andrew’s Cross.  The investigation quickly turns to the local BDSM scene and Gavin requests assistance as he is a bit out of his depth with such matters.  Dr. Ben Haverson is a Dominant and therapist and is assigned to consult Gavin and his detective partner.  The sparks fly between Ben and Gavin when they meet but Gavin is not only deeply closeted, he’s married so it’s not going anywhere.

Gavin’s marriage is obviously a barrier to the HEA for Gavin and Ben and in some ways, I thought the author took the easy way out in having Victoria cheat on him.  However, I did think the narrative clearly showed that Gavin wasn’t completely invested in the marriage and the fact that he knew deep down that he was gay but married Victoria anyway probably meant it was doomed from the start.  I think, on balance, that Victoria wasn’t portrayed as 100% a bitch – sure she was cold, but I felt that she hadn’t always been that way – that we was perhaps reacting to Gavin’s increasing withdrawal.  Because the story is told from Gavin’s first person POV, there wasn’t much about Victoria after he left and they didn’t have anything to do with one another after the divorce, so it was hard to get a greater bead on her.  I’m prepared to give her character a pass however because there were some other wonderful female characters in the story and I did think Victoria was more than one note.

Midway through the investigation, Gavin is assigned a new partner, Myah Hayes and they quickly establish a rapport and a deep friendship.   Ben’s business partner, Dr. Laura Ribaldi is also a very sympathetic character – although she is less involved in the story and not as deeply drawn.  Myah has a little side storyline of her own and I liked the way it was woven into the larger plot.

Also, I think Myah is possibly a better cop than Gavin.

After leaving his wife, it is literally only a matter of hours until he and Ben hook up – Gavin has admitted to himself that he’s gay and he’s coming to grips with what that might mean, to him, his career and within his family and he also realised that he finds great pleasure in submission.  Just to make things extra complicated.

I thought the suspense and romance were well integrated. I picked the bad guy straight away and I found it a bit surprising that it took Gavin so long to clue in.  However, I read for the romance more than the suspense so I was able to go with it without too much trouble.

The sex scenes were hot and intimate as well.  The relationship between Ben and Gavin progressed very quickly – within the intense context of the story, this made sense.

There was a bit of “as you know Bob” in the exposition about the BDSM lifestyle but it felt like that’s what would happen when a detective with no experience of the scene was investigating a murder involving BDSM and it was kind of necessary, so again, it didn’t bother me.

What else? I thought the end was abrupt and the epilogue didn’t really satisfy, taking place over a year after the events in the last chapter of the book.  I wanted to see how Ben and Gavin interacted immediately after, but alas.The story is novel length and I felt there was plenty of time to develop both Gavin and Ben’s characters.  Even though the story is told from Gavin’s POV, there is a fair bit of dialogue and I felt I got to know Ben reasonably well.  They make a good pair and I was happy for them both to get their HEA with each other.

I really enjoyed this story.  The last part of the story in particular was very intense and gripping.  I enjoyed how the author fleshed out some of the secondary characters.  I liked the writing and the story – I devoured this book in only two evenings (one very late!).  I’m really looking forward to the next book, Safeword, which picks up about a year after the events of Power Exchange.

Grade: B+



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