This is a review of an erotic romance and contains adult material. It also contains *spoilers* for the story, so be warned.
The Silver Chain (Unbreakable trilogy #1) by Primula Bond, published by Avon in 2013.
Source: I received an electronic copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley.
One dark evening in London, photographer Serena Folkes is indulging her impulsive side with a night-time shoot. But someone is watching her – mysterious entrepreneur Gustav Levi. Serena doesn’t know it yet, but this handsome stranger will change her life forever…
Serena is fascinated by Gustav, the enigmatic owner of the Levi Gallery, and she soon feels an irresistible pull of attraction. The interest is mutual, and Gustav promises to launch Serena’s photographic career at his gallery, but only if Serena agrees to become his exclusive companion.
To mark their agreement, Gustav gives Serena a bracelet to wear at all times. Attached to it is a silver chain of which he is the keeper. With the chain Gustav controls Serena physically and symbolically – a sign that she is under his power.
As their passionate relationship intensifies, Gustav’s hold on the silver chain grows stronger. But will Gustav’s dark past tear them apart? (Goodreads)
* * *
My rating: 2/5
Again, I am warning you, this review contains major spoilers for the plot of the novel. I will rant quite a bit here, too.
Apart from the too-often-used contract plot, the beginning and the first passionate scenes between Serena and Gustav are surprisingly tasteful. I liked Serena at first, because she is career-driven, strong and fairly successful even without Gustav’s business proposition. She knows she’s good at photography and has escaped a small town to follow her dreams. Gustav, too, is just mysterious enough without being cheesy, though he’s a bit old for her for my taste (she’s in her early 20s, he’s closer to forty).
The first tastes of sex between them are literally just those – tastes – and it actually takes them very long to have proper sex together. These first encounters are spiced with enough novelty and passion to make for a very interesting first half of the novel, which is the reason I didn’t give the book a 1/5 rating, though I was tempted to do just that.
I have to say that I’m quite fed up with the fact that most hero/ine/s in erotic novels (which mostly feature some sort of sub-dom relationship and unusual sex life) are damaged in some way. Here, Serena was abused (mostly verbally, but sometimes also physically) as a child and Gustav went through a truly poisonous marriage that left him emotionally crippled. Novels from E. L. James, Maya Banks, etc., all feature broken individuals who try – and usually succeed – to heal their cracked souls with sex. And while I understand how this could possibly work (though there’s usually some shoddy psychology behind that), I also feel like there’s a lack of healthy (imaginary) people who just enjoy some kinky sex for kinky sex’s sake. I know that every story needs a conflict, but surely we can come up with something slightly different once in a while, as evindenced by most other romances out there.
So the first part of the novel passes along quite nicely (apart from a truly weird story about Serena’s visit to a Venetian monastery where she witnesses nuns whipping themselves for pleasure and takes erotic pictures of them), but then things start turning south. Her voyeuristic tendencies – she holds that photography is essentially voyeurism, a statement I’m not too happy about – start acting up, she watches an ex-boyfriend having sex with his new girlfriend, and her frustration with Gustav being so reticent in their relationship starts taking its toll on her.
And then she finds out why he can’t connect: after whipping Serena for the first time and giving her a shattering orgasm, Gustav tells Serena he cannot forget his ex-wife, Margot. Instead of talking things out in London, he drags Serena to Switzerland and practically abandons her in a house which is nothing short of a shrine to his estranged wife, complete with a wall-of-crazy collection of pictures he made of her.
It’s like Serena loses her mind completely and turns from a slighty-needy-but-rational girl to a total weirdo. She finds a stash of Margot’s old dominatrix gear and stuffs herself into a latex suit she can’t get out of and smears purple lipstick on her lips. This is how Gustave finds her, has to cut her out of the suit and then angry-fucks her as a punishment, which is actually the first time they have sex.
What bothered me the most, perhaps, is Gustav’s behaviour towards Serena. He’s the polar opposite of a gentleman, he doesn’t take care of her in any way and doesn’t respect her. This is just something that I find very distasteful in a romance hero, though I may be holding on to cliches. He says things like: “Oh, I wish you’d shut that pouting sulky mouth of yours for just one minute,” when she tries to argue with him, and “Forgive me if I hurt you, Serena. I’m going to blame you. You make me like this,” and calls her “my darling little whore.” I’m sorry, what?
There’s also the question of privacy – which she gives up when she signs the contract, sure, but Gustav still goes too far. “We’ve been through your belongings … Yes, I know that’s intrusive but I have to know everything about you, Serena.” Oh, that’s ok, then. Why can’t he just ASK her about her life? And when she asks about his love life, he accuses her of being “like a terrier with a bone“.
But Serena happily forgives him, which seems spectacularly unhealthy, as she says: “I think I’m addicted to Gustav. That’s the madness keeping me here. Why I’ll keep flipping back to him like a boomerang no matter what he chucks at me.” They’re together at the end of this first part of the series, but we’re still uncertain of their fate, even though Gustav came grovelling for her, saying how she’s the only one for him.
I don’t think I’ll be reading the next instalment, sadly, and this novel, which had a very promising beginning, just didn’t deliver in the end.