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REVIEW: Slave & Need (Finding Anna series, Books 1 &...

Dear Ms. Hayes,

I requested your books because they are published by the same publishing house that first published Fifty Shades of Grey, and I was interested to read another of their authors, even though Fifty Shades really didn’t work for me. I guess I was missing something because I hadn’t grasped that The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House only publishes fan fiction, and that is the case here as well. Your stories are Twific, or, loosely based on the characters from the Twilight series. Honestly? I didn’t grasp that until Ridley alerted me to it on Twitter, but I can also be slow on the uptake. What I found was a story that I believe was intended to be a deep character study, but was almost wholly missing any action to drive the narrative forward.

Slave Sherri HayesStephen Coleman is a young, dynamic businessman running a large non-profit. He is also a Dominant. Stephen agrees to meet his former college roommate, Daren, for lunch one day to discuss a private matter. Daren has become aware of a young woman, Brianna, who is being kept as a sexual slave by a mutual acquaintance, Ian Pierce. Pierce is a sadistic son of a bitch who keeps multiple women as slaves. But when Stephen hears that this young woman, Brianna, is being kept against her will, he realizes he must do something to help her. He arranges to meet Ian and buys Brianna from him.

What he finds is a young woman who has been brutalized. She has scars all over her body from cigarette burns; she’s deeply bruised on her inner thighs and has been repeatedly raped. She’s practically catatonic and is completely terrified of Stephen.  As he gets to know Brianna, he discovers that the torture she’s been through is worse than anyone could imagine. At one point, her former Master punished her for trying to escape by putting her naked in an enclosed space with a bunch of snakes.  He allowed another man to penetrate her with any object he could find, big or small. He allowed others to beat her, rape her, and formulate any kind of abuse they could perpetrate. It was a horrifying existence for Brianna, and one that left both physical and emotional scars that seemed insurmountable to me.

As soon as Stephen sees her, though, he’s captivated. He knows that he’ll do anything to bring her out of her shell, and he wants her to be his submissive.  While Stephen is finding ways to heal Brianna, he is also falling in love with her. Although, to be honest, I never was really sure why. Was it her total reliance on him? Was it her vulnerability? It was never made clear to me what made him fall in love with her.

This story is told from both Stephen and Brianna’s perspective, although the books focus so much on Stephen’s viewpoint and the story seems as if it’s his, rather than Brianna’s.  Stephen is a mostly kindhearted guy who is desperate to begin a deeper relationship with Brianna, but realizes that he must help her get well first, as she’s terrified of everything. He keeps a very tight rein on his physical needs, understanding that rushing Brianna could be catastrophic. Brianna is mystified as to why Stephen is so anxious to help her. She’s been shown no compassion during her time with Ian Pierce and truly doesn’t understand why he’d go out of his way to help her.

Stephen is working to try to understand how Brianna came to be in the situation she was in. He discovers that Brianna was sold into slavery to pay some debts by her father. He also learns that Brianna’s father is searching for her, and has engaged a family friend to assist. Will Brianna’s father find her? What will she do when she discovers that she is, in fact, not Stephen’s slave?

This is definitely not your typical romance series. Brianna is a deeply troubled individual, and she is brought into a totally new situation. She is trying to adjust to her new Master’s expectations and is terrified that he’ll rape her at any moment. As Stephen consistently shows that he is only interested in her welfare, she begins the healing process. Stephen is desperate to have a more physical connection to Brianna, but he refuses to breach her trust and is trying to respect the fact that she is scarred physically and emotionally by the abuse that she’s faced. He tells her that he won’t have sex with her until she asks for it. But he is physical with her, kissing and fondling her as well as often forcing her to have conversations with her so that he understands her mindset. He gives her safe words and often asks her to rate on a scale of 1-10 what her panic threshold is as he exposes her to different situations.

Need SHERRI HAYESIt was unclear to me what Stephen’s motivations were throughout the two books. Was he training Briana strictly to be his submissive? He refuses help for Brianna on a number of fronts, including from his uncle, who is a psychologist. He wants to be the one to help her, and while his methods do help Brianna, as a rational person, I kept thinking that what she needed was beyond what he was going to be able to provide. How can someone without any professional training help someone who has been repeatedly brutalized?  His actions regarding her mental state read to me quite selfishly, as if his need for her to become “his” submissive overrode the understanding that she needed professional help. He was absolutely the sun around which her entire life orbited, and I think he liked it that way.  I wonder if the message is that the power of Stephen’s love could completely heal Brianna.

While I found both characters to be interesting, the lack of action in the story is what ultimately made it fail for me. This is almost literally an hour-by-hour unfolding love story. In particular, Brianna’s emotions were very unclear to me, but I’m not sure how they could be made clearer. She is conflicted about every action she takes: “Will Stephen be happy?”, “What will he do to me?”, etc.  Is this even an individual who is capable of love after the trauma she’s experienced?  Clearly, she’d felt love in the past, as she speaks with affection about her mother, who died when she was young.  But romantic love? She’s certainly not there yet when Need (Book 2) ends.

The book focuses primarily on him worrying about her, and her worrying that she’s failing in her service to him. Even after he explains that she is not his slave, she only cares about how she can serve him. She is deeply in need of professional assistance, which Stephen refuses on multiple occasions in order to “protect” her. The fact that she has been tortured by Ian Pierce is really never addressed, even though to me, he was the clear villain of the piece, along with her father. Plus, the sheer inertia of the story made it very slow reading for me. Both books end on a sort of cliffhanger, making the books seem unfinished. While book two ends with the potential for some actual action to take place, I find that I am no longer interested in what I assume will be the eventual Happily Ever After for Brianna and Stephen – they’ll have to find it without me. Final grade D.

Kind regards,
Kati

AmazonBN

Kati Brown

I've been reading romance for more than 30 years and reviewing regularly for the last five. My first romance was Irish Thoroughbred by Nora Roberts, and once I read it, I was a goner. I read most subgenres of romance (except inspirational and steampunk) but focus mostly on contemporary and paranormal, with a sprinkling of historical thrown in for flavor. I am an avid sports fan, so I have a special place in my heart for sports themed romances. I'm a sucker for old skool romance, which is probably most evident in the fact that The Windflower is my favorite romance of all time.

25 Comments

  1. Jane
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 10:34:56

    It was unclear to me what Stephen’s motivations were throughout the two books. Was he training Briana strictly to be his submissive?

    Such a great review Kati. Like you, I ‘ve read both books and while I was initially intrigued (partly against my will) but there are so many unanswered questions that the books raise and the fact that none of them were even addressed or even advanced in book 2 was problematic. I liked the phrase you used “sheer inertia” because it describes the snail progression of the series so aptly.

    I hope you do read book 3 just to save me the effort!

  2. Grace
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 10:46:23

    Just out of cruiosity, did anyone in the book think to call the cops on Ian Pierce? Held against her will, tortured, raped, etc. This scumbag would be doing some serious time for several felony counts, wouldn’t he? And her dad just engaged in white slavery by selling her. If Stephen knew all this and did nothing, then he’s a creeptastic sonofabitch too.

    ~shudders~ Pass.

  3. Jenny Lyn
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 11:49:06

    I have the same questions as @Grace. Why wouldn’t you be turning the people that abused Anna over to the police?

    I have to avoid stories like this because they’re so far past my comfortability level I’m unable to ignore the fact that she needs intense emotional help, therapy, time to heal from her traumas. My thought would be that the last person on Earth she’d want to have touch her or even talk to her would be another man. Wouldn’t she have trust issues? I suppose there are exceptions, but I’d bet they’re few and far between. I do admire authors who choose to tackle such dark subject matter, but it has to be handled with a very deft hand, otherwise you fail to honor the seriousness of the situation.

    And I am really enjoying your reviews, Kati!

  4. Jane
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 12:01:46

    @Grace – Kati and I emailed back and forth with “What about Ian”. I thought that something would be done to him, toward him in at least book 2 but Ian is confronted and basically…nothing. It’s very strange.

  5. Lucy
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 12:24:12

    I’m as uncomfortable as the other commenters are. The hero seems like a predator just like the bad guy. He doesn’t actually get her help but “fixes” her himself, which, of course, means an outcome of sex. Ugh.

  6. Tori
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 12:26:54

    Great review.
    So glad someone else read this book. lol I have it on my radar but hard core BDSM is not my cup of tea. Especially anything that smacks of non consensual anything.
    It seems odd that someone who is so interested in helping a victim heal would deny them treatment. Sounds like Stephan is just as bad as Ian, in fact worse, because at least Brianna knew what to expect from Ian. I can’t imagine the fear I would have, wondering when the other shoe would drop.

  7. Tara
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 12:27:39

    I haven’t read these books, but for a similar story that’s executed well, I’d recommend Cherise Sinclair’s To Command and Collar.

  8. MrsJoseph
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 12:41:50

    @Grace:

    Agreed. It does seem that Stephen is just as much a predator as Ian…just in a different way. WHY would he deny her help and why would they stand by knowing that Ian was enslaving unwilling women?? I hope this book comes with a warning. Maybe “Major Sexual Abuse Triggers Ahead”?

  9. Kati
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 13:49:53

    Thanks everyone for your comments. These were difficult books to read on a number of levels. The most disturbing being the crimes committed against Brianna, and the fact that the perpetrator, at least through book 2, had not been brought to justice. The second part being the fact that the story seems to be going nowhere, which is also difficult to read. Inert is a good word for the story, there was little to no action. I believe it was meant to be a deep character study, but given that I objected to the manner in which Stephen was caring for Brianna, and the book is mostly told from his viewpoint, it didn’t work for me.

    @Jane – Sorry, you’re on your own for book 3. :)

  10. April
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 14:57:04

    Great review as always! I wonder what it is about trilogies where nothing happens because it seems like quite a number of them come out. Then again, I usually only read the first book and give up so you’re a much braver reader than I am.

  11. Miashin
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 16:32:50

    So even by the end of book 2 Ian hadn’t been reported? How much time has passed between Stephen “buying” Brianna and the end of book 2?

    I don’t think this is a series I could ever get through myself, the fact that in this review alone two complacant males are mentined, the fact that one of them thought buying a person constitutes helping, and the apperant need for Stephen to dominate at the expense of Brianna are all things that would have me tossing the books into the fire.

  12. Jennie
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 17:35:07

    Ugh. I too am caught up on the fact that there’s no apparent retribution for Ian. Maybe this is supposed to be a fantasy where such considerations can be ignored, but it just doesn’t work for me. It feels too much, from the description, like Stephen is kinda sorta okay with a man keeping a woman as an unwilling slave, but just objects to the degradation and pain she’s suffered, or her reaction to it. I can’t go that far in accepting amorality. I am not big on BDSM as it is, and the only context I can read it in is if everyone is participating with enthusiastic consent. (I’m reading 50 Shades now, and in addition to the dreadful prose, one of my issues is that Ana just doesn’t seem to be that into the scene, and I think it’s kind of icky for Christian to draw her into it when it’s not something she naturally wants.)

  13. Alicia
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 19:08:49

    @Grace: I asked the same questions when someone explained what happens in these “books” to me. I shuddered right along with you.

    I’m so sad to see more repackaged fan fiction getting attention.

  14. Miashin
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 19:59:51

    There are a few fanfiction stories that I would gladly lay down the money to own a hard copy of. Unfortunately most of those fanfics are very relyant on the canon material and prior knowledge thereoff and thus would be very difficult to rewrite or package as original fiction. Then again much of the reason I like them is because of their interpretation or angle on canon, rewriting them as original fiction would lose that effect.

    I personally don’t mind seeing fanfiction rewritten and published, my bigger issue with the fics that have been published is their very problematic content. This is not a reflection of fanfiction itself, but the problem nature of the original book which spreads further and further.

  15. Jane
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 20:03:54

    @Miashin: No Ian hasn’t been reported and Stephen has actually been to his house in book 2 to do something. I can’t recall what it was. The lack of action toward Ian was probably what made these stories beyond the pale for me and I think Kati had the right of it – Stephen appeared to brook no interference because he wanted to retrain her to be his submissive. I recall there was one episode in book 2 where she flinches at the mention of a crop and instead of responding with an “I’ll never use it” Stephen replies that she’s never been on the end of a crop wielded by him.

    I wanted to be open minded about this but Brianna is incredibly young. 17 when she is sold and 18 when Stephen acquires her from Ian. She needs serious therapy with a professional so she can decide what kind of lifestyle she wants, not a different form of brainwashing.

    In Nicey’s Awakening, I also had the very uncomfortable feeling that there is this theme amongst BDSM books (no idea if this is in real life) that if you are sub, then no one interferes. In this case, Stephen only interferes to the extent that he buys Brianna from Ian but there seems to be hesitation or resistance to interfere with another Master’s decisions. Another man, for instance, beat Brianna and then realized that she didn’t enjoy it. He led Stephen to Brianna but no one takes Ian to task.

    In fact, the reason that Brianna was exposed to the snakes was that she was caught trying to escape – wriggle out underneath the gates to Ian’s estate. Ian said something like if she was going to writhe on the ground like snake, she might as well lie amongst them.

  16. Miashin
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 20:11:03

    Excuse me, I can not adequately put into words at the moment the sheer amount of utter disgust I feel for the book after reading that. It’s not just putting women on a lower social rank, but utterly dehumanizing them.

    I don’t know about BDSM books at large but I know that in theory the power on what happens and doesn’t happen should belong to the ‘submissive.’

  17. Annabelle
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 20:58:15

    So, P2P fanfic ethics aside, I’m supposed to see one guy who buys a HUMAN BEING TO BE HIS SEX SLAVE from another man who owned a HUMAN BEING TO BE HIS SEX SLAVE as a hero? Are you kidding me with this? BDSM is the opposite of sexual slavery. I can’t even… *SMH*

  18. Grace
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 21:46:43

    @Jane: OMG. After reading that description of the book, I feel sick. How does anyone differentiate the villains from the heroes here? The men in these books aren’t men; they’re monsters.

  19. Vicodiva
    Jul 27, 2012 @ 00:38:19

    Euwwwwwwww…. Imma gonna send price of those books to http://www.ijm.org — functioning as something like brain bleach

  20. Kaetrin
    Jul 27, 2012 @ 04:36:32

    What everyone else said. I have these on my TBR, having picked them up from NetGalley. But I don’t think I will read them now.

    So, The Writer’s Coffee Shop ONLY sell P2P fanfic? I have another book from them on my TBR, its called A Thin Dark Line by Emma Elliot. Before I requested it, I went to the authors website and there was no mention of fanfic, just mention of the author working on the manuscript and being excited about getting published. Does anyone know of that’s fanfic too?

  21. Nicki
    Jul 27, 2012 @ 20:35:21

    I’m a read and writer of fanfiction. Like some others who’ve comment, there’s some authors I’d pay a nice price for their fanfics to be original fics–or even if they wrote original fiction. I read the Finding Anna series when it was Finding Bella. It wasn’t complete, but from what I remember of the original series, it was a lot better than the books. There was a lot of isses in the ff as in the book (Ian, the “scene” in the woods, the cane) but at least in the ff it was going somewhere. I personally can’t believe Sherri wrote Need. I’m reading it going WTF? THIS is the woman who’s done extensive research? It didn’t even read the same as Slave. I read Slave again two days before Need came out to make sure I remembered everything. I can’t believe I wasted $7.99 on this ebook. I was so excited–now I’m disgusted. As a survivor of sexual abuse, and having had a Dominant (rest his soul) who helped me in the beginning (not like Stephan!) I can say that IN MY EXPERIENCE unconventional help sometimes works better. I’ve talked to other survivors who feel the same….and many who don’t. It’s all a matter of personality and preference. I’m not on facebook and I don’t know how to contact Sherri outside of it, but I hope someone sends her this page. I understand this series is fiction. Based on truth (her research and talking with Doms, Subs, Slaves and Masters–I’d like to see some of those sites by the way) but still fiction. I’m sorry, fiction or not….two months is NOT enough time to go from mind-numbing, heart-attack inducing terror at the thought of being near any man to asking a man who’s a Dominant (“similar but not the same”) as the man who abused you for ten months. It’s just not. I agree with Richard, Anna is in serious danger of developing Stockholm Syndrome, if she hasn’t already.

    I knew this series would be triggering for me. But when I finish Need, I felt violated. No one made me keep reading, this is true. But I have to wonder just who Sherri is talking to when she writes these books. I read a Harliquen novel called “The Unwilling Bride” where the husband rapes his bride, says it’s her fault and they fall in love. I shredded the book and threw it away. If I had a physical copy of Need, I’d do the same. I’m absolutely disgusted and horrified by this. Let’s say Anna is the type of person who would benefit more from non-traditional therapy. The fact is that she still needs some sort of traditional psychotherapy. Stephan won’t sleep with her until she ask–well guess what, she’s a trauma survivor who more than likely is bordering on the edge of sanity! Her entire focus is to PLEASE you, what make you think she has the mental capabilities of making that sort of choice?!

    I read Slave and said “finally, someone who’s getting it right!” but Need is just….I have no more words. There’s so much wrong with the book that I’m not sure what to comment on next. I’m trying to find out if I can have a refund.

  22. Polished Bookworm
    Jul 28, 2012 @ 07:56:47

    I met some of the editors and authors from The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House at BEA in June of this year. It is my understanding that, while some of their new authors were approached based on previous works of fanfiction, not all their catalogue is fanfiction. I’m pretty sure A Thin Dark Line by Emma Elliot is an original (i.e. not fanfiction).

    Thanks for the review … and confirming that these are a pass for me.

  23. Brian
    Aug 07, 2012 @ 16:18:55

    Have not read Ms. Hayes’ books, so I can’t comment to the validity of the review, but I do have one general point to repudiate here. The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House does NOT publish only fan fiction. Their catalog includes YA, sci-fi/fantasy, chick lit, even a little male nihilism, and much of it is original fiction.

  24. Diana
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 12:40:13

    This Twilight fanfiction was pulled before completion, with the author indicating if you wanted to know the end “you have to buy the book.” The first book is just the Twilight fanfic up to the point she’d written it. The second is new.

    http://twankhard.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/you-all-will-get-your-ended/

    This was widely criticized in Twilight circles as being abuse and rapefic. TWCS started as a haven for abuse and rapefic, and this is no different. The author admitted to having no outline, and her “source” for BDSM has admitted to “keeping” slaves even if they were unwilling. This particular set of “books” glorifies abuse and makes an abuser a hero. Sick stuff.

  25. Erin
    Oct 11, 2012 @ 20:31:55

    This is so disturbing. I’m in therapy now for the aftereffects of rape. I’ve been going for almost 2 years now (including for other issues), and there is currently no end in sight, even going twice a week-once for behavioral therapy and once for a “new” (over 20 years old) treatment called EMDR. (BTW, the EMDR is a fascinating therapy that works miracles – I’m blowing through processing some of my more minor traumas). There may not yet be words to describe how scary it is to me that BDSM (submission to another’s will) is used to treat issues relating to having your boundaries violated at another’s will.

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