Title: Choices (Golden Collar #1)
Author Name & Publisher: Grace R. Duncan (Dreamspinner Press)
Publication Date & Length: March 4, 2013 – 380 pgs
Born and raised a gypsy in the late eleventh century, Teman values freedom over everything. He and his best friend, Jasim, are thieves for hire—until one night they’re caught and their precious freedom is revoked. Given the choice between the dungeons or palace pleasure slavery, they become slaves, but Teman vows to escape someday.
Bathasar doesn’t want the throne. He supports his brother instead, which suits their sadistic father, Mukesh. When Teman, the handsome slave Bathasar has secretly been watching, saves his life, Bathasar requests a slave for the first time. Before long, Bathasar and Teman fall in love. But all is not well. One day Mukesh brutalizes Teman before the court, angering the empress of a neighboring nation. To appease her, he then offers her Jasim as a gift, and Teman decides to stay with Bathasar for now—despite the abuse he may suffer.
The peace doesn’t last. Mukesh plans to invade Jasim’s new country, and Bathasar must find a way to stop the destruction. But if he succeeds, he’ll ascend to the throne and have the power to grant Teman his liberty. Then Teman will surely leave him. What other choice could a gypsy make?
****this review contains spoilers****
Choices, by Grace R. Duncan, follows a gypsy slave Teman and his master, the amir (prince) Bathasar. There was quite a bit that I loved about this book. The dynamic between Teman and Bathasar was perfect, the way Bathasar tried his best to make them as equal as possible, while Teman struggled with his desire to submit to his master. On top of that, I was happy that Jasim found happiness in the end as well. Relationships aside, the political aspect of it, with the planned assassination was amazing and I loved that the malik ended up dying because he was just a terrible person anyway. The manner of his death, too, was incredibly fitting.
On the other hand, there were a few things that I didn’t particularly care for. Three, in particular. The first was Cyrus and Nadir’s relationship, and the way they fit in with everyone else. Poly relationships can work really well, but this one just didn’t…click. It wasn’t quite poly, but it wasn’t quite monogamous, either. While Cyrus and Nadir did love each other, it didn’t really feel like it all the time. At times, it felt like Nadir loved Jasim more than he loved Cyrus, and the same with Cyrus and Teman. That part left me more than a bit confused, and I wasn’t particularly fond of it. Additionally, the setting was a bit confusing. The book was supposed to be set in a fantasy world, with fantasy kingdoms, and yet there were pieces of our own world, like the mention of Beowulf. So that threw me just a bit. Thirdly, and this is completely my own personal taste, there was far too much focus on denial. The first few times was great, but eventually it became a bit repetitive, and I have to admit I skimmed over those parts toward the end.
Overall, though, this was a really good book, and I highly recommend it to people who love master/slave relationships, menage scenes, and orgasm denial. A bit of warning, there is a lot of violence in the book, done by the malik, but it isn’t condoned at all. So just take note of that.
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