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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lotus in the Wild by Fae Sutherland and Marguerite Labbe

Lotus in the Wild by Fae Sutherland and Marguerite Labbe
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (271 pgs)
Other: M/M, Spanking, Anal Sex
Rating: 4 cherries
Reviewed by Phlox

Six months after freeing his slave Roman and his thrall Aron, Wulfgar finds himself bored with the choices of bed partners in his lands. Thus while on a twice-yearly trip to Londinium to replenish supplies, Wulfgar visits the local slave auction in hopes of finding something to pique his interest. His eye is caught by Kintaro, a beautiful, feminine slave boy from the Far East.

Enthralled, Wulfgar doesn’t care how much Kintaro costs; he’s got to have him. But Kintaro is a very different sort of slave from Roman. He loves his duties, is proud of his skills, and as the former prized slave of an official of his homeland, is used to being spoiled and pampered in return for his efforts.

Though oblivious to matters of the heart, Wulfgar is enamored of Kintaro, but his son Gaeric is furious that this new slave feeds his father’s unnatural desires. Wulfgar’s passion, Kintaro’s pride, and Gaeric’s temper will clash as a ritual from the past and a dream of the future come to fruition… and Wulfgar’s heart is finally fulfilled.

Finding one’s heart’s desire is difficult at the best of times; finding it in someone who is your opposite in every way except sexual drive poses extra challenges.

For everyone who was concerned about Wulgar’s happiness at the end of Bee Among the Clover, this sequel is welcome and necessary. While we have the classic rough-hewn Alpha paired with a beautiful submissive half his size, a pairing so familiar in M/M fiction, the reader is given so much more than the usual. This is a tale of reaching across vast cultural divides, of adaptation and compromise, and of a determined love that refuses to bend to societal expectations.

The historical aspects of the novel, as with the previous installment, are a large part of the novel’s strengths. Wulfgar is everything a thane of his time should be: hard, fierce, demanding, generous with those who serve him well, and protective of what is his. While Norse/Germanic cultures at the time didn’t exactly condone male/male relationships, they didn’t necessarily censure them either. The shame in Norse culture was not in the act but in being the one who was taken. No free man would allow another male to use him willingly and the act of male rape was sometimes used to humiliate the conquered. With that said, a man of Wulgar’s rank could certainly have male bed slaves if he chose, since it would be quite clear to everyone who was topping whom. That his only son doesn’t approve is a different matter, part jealousy and part anger at seeing his father, as Gaeric sees it, manipulated by his slaves.

Kintaro is one of the most charming characters I’ve ever come across. He’s a whole person, so unlike most subs in m/m stories. Proud and often vain, he glories in who he is and what he’s been trained to do. No simple sex slave, he has the body of a gymnast and a sharp mind, his training running parallel to a geisha’s rather than a mere bed toy with all of the aesthetic qualities of grace and cultured skills one would expect. Though he has lived a privileged, spoiled life, and some of the misunderstandings he has with Wulfgar due to language barriers and cultural expectations become epic battles of wills, he truly does want to please his handsome thane and only wants the best for him. His efforts to adapt, to adjust to his new surroundings and still remain himself are wonderful to watch and he slowly unfolds to the reader as a young man of deep feeling and a compassionate heart much larger than his small frame.

Because the immersion in history is so well done and because the struggle of cultural divide is so fascinating, I found myself disappointed in the ending. While I do understand that Wulfgar needs some closure and perhaps a little shove in the right direction, the way the ending is handled felt too contrived to me. Magical interference in a world full of very real dangers seemed unnecessary and a more believable resolution certainly should have been possible.

With that said, the closing scene is lovely and I found the story as a whole more enjoyable than the previous one. With sympathy and an intuitive feel for the times, the authors have breathed life into two of the most memorable characters in historical fiction. What could have been clich├ęd portrayals have been painted instead as fully realized people, each with their own strengths and blind spots. Wulgar needed someone just for him, someone to challenge him and force him to think beyond his comfortable, familiar world. I’m so glad he found him.

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