Love and Power
Welcome to the Belonging ’Verse re-release blog tour with Aleksandr Voinov and Rachel Haimowitz! We’re very excited to be bringing you edited second editions of our Belonging stories, Anchored and Counterpunch (in the case of Anchored, very edited, with over ten thousand new words and a completely different beginning and ending!), which are finally under the same roof and back in print after about a year out of circulation.
We’ll be touring for about two weeks, Aleks discussing his slave boxer and the barrister who tries to free him, and Rachel talking about her slave news anchor and the talk show host who covets him, and both of us discussing the world of Belonging at large—which, as you’ve probably guessed, is not a particularly pretty place. But good things can and do happen in this world, and we hope you’ll stick with us to find out what!
Speaking of good things, don’t forget to comment on this post for your chance to win a $25 gift certificate to the Riptide store! Each new post you comment on earns you an entry into the drawing, so be sure to check out the rest of the tour schedule too!
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While on the surface Anchored may look a lot like a romance—follow a lot of the tropes and have a lot of the same structural trappings—both the narrative and its author argue quite firmly that it isn’t one. Why? Because of the central issue of the power imbalance between the two main characters: master and slave.
I actually approached the relationship between Carl (master) and Daniel (slave) a lot like pet and owner. Carl holds tremendous power over Daniel: he controls what (and if) he eats, when (and if) he sleeps, what (if anything) he wears, what he does and doesn’t do, what he can and can’t say, even whether or not Daniel is punished—and potentially quite brutally (not that Carl ever chooses to do that, at least). Daniel’s living in Carl’s home, not their home. Carl may give Daniel leave to do and say what he wants, but when you’ve spent your whole life being conditioned to believe that what you want is what your master wants—and more importantly, being conditioned to understand that what you want doesn’t matter and can actually get you into huge quantities of trouble—that leave is essentially meaningless. Daniel can’t act on it because he doesn’t know how to, and because he’s afraid to.
Just like your dog technically could pee in the house, but certainly knows better and doesn’t. And if he does, he gets punished (though honestly I’m pretty sure must people even in the Belonging universe wouldn’t hit their dog as casually as they’d hit a slave).
And as with the dog/owner relationship, an owner may very well love their dog. They might dote on it and buy it treats and play with it. But in the end, the owner expects obedience: sit, stay, shake, stop barking at cars, no jumping on the counter to eat my sandwich, don’t pee in the house. And much of that obedience asks the dog to go against its very nature (mark its territory, warn against intruders, eat when food’s available), just as much of an owner’s expectations demand that a slave go against his nature (don’t speak your mind, don’t prioritize your needs, don’t avoid pain, don’t self-actualize, don’t tell me no).
So even though Carl, in his own way, works quite hard to woo Daniel throughout the story, and even though he tries to create an atmosphere of equality (but, let’s face it, fails miserably), and even though Anchored plays out much like a typical enemies to lovers story—and even though Daniel and Carl do become lovers, and Daniel enjoys it, and is happy, and goes as far as to acknowledge that under different circumstances it might have ended up being love—it isn’t love. Daniel, after all, is only as happy as a man in his position can conceivably be, which means it comes with a wheelbarrow full of caveats and fears. And Carl may think he loves Daniel, but he loves him like a pet, not an equal. As an author, I simply couldn’t bring myself to acknowledge the possibility of any dynamic beyond this, not with all the weight of a history and present of responsibility and power and fear between them. But it was, at least for me, fascinating to explore how close such a dynamic could come to the real thing, so to speak, and where the glaring differences reared their ugly heads. And I hope it’s just as interesting for you all to read and explore along with Daniel and Carl.
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Network news anchor Daniel Halstrom is at the top of his field, but being at the bottom of the social ladder—being a slave—makes that hard to enjoy. Especially when NewWorld Media, the company that’s owned him since childhood, decides to lease him privately on evenings and weekends to boost their flagging profits.
Daniel’s not stupid; he knows there’s only one reason someone would pay so much for what little free time he has. But dark memories of past sexual service leave him certain he won’t survive it again with his sanity intact.
He finds himself in the home of Carl Whitman, a talk show host whose words fail him when it comes to ordering Daniel into his bed. Carl can’t seem to take what he must want, and Daniel’s not willing to give it freely. His recalcitrance costs him dearly, but with patience and some hard-won understanding, affection just might flourish over fear and pain. Carl holds the power to be an anchor in Daniel’s turbulent life, but if he isn’t careful, he’ll end up the weight that sinks his slave for good.
Fight like a man, or die like a slave.
Two years ago, Brooklyn Marshall was a happily married London policeman and amateur boxer with a promising future. Then he accidentally killed a rioter whose powerful father had him convicted of murder. To ease the burden on the prison system, the state sold Brooklyn into slavery. Now he’s the “Mean Machine,” competing on the slave prizefighting circuit for the entertainment of freemen, and being rented out for sexual service to his wealthier fans.
When barrister Nathaniel Bishop purchases Brooklyn’s services for a night, Brooklyn braces himself for yet another round of humiliation and pain. But the pair form an unexpected bond that grows into something more. Brooklyn hesitates to call it love—such feelings can’t truly exist between freemen and slaves—but when Nathaniel reveals that he wants to get Brooklyn’s conviction overturned, Brooklyn dares to hope.
Until an accident in the ring sends Brooklyn on the run, jeopardizing everything he’s worked so hard for. With the law on his tail and Nathaniel in his corner, he must prepare for the most important fight of his life: the fight for his freedom.
About the Authors:
Rachel Haimowitz is an M/M erotic romance author and the Publisher of Riptide Publishing. She's also a sadist with a pesky conscience, shamelessly silly, and quite proudly pervish. Fortunately, all those things make writing a lot more fun for her . . . if not so much for her characters.
When she's not writing about hot guys getting it on (or just plain getting it; her characters rarely escape a story unscathed), she loves to read, hike, camp, sing, perform in community theater, and glue captions to cats. She also has a particular fondness for her very needy dog, her even needier cat, and shouting at kids to get off her lawn. You can connect with Rachel at: Website: rachelhaimowitz.com, Tumblr: rachelhaimowitz.tumblr.com, Twitter: @RachelHaimowitz, Goodreads: goodreads.com/metarachel, Email: email@example.com.
Aleksandr Voinov has been published for twenty years, both in print and ebook. He has ten years’ experience as a writing coach, book doctor, and writing teacher, and until recently worked as an editor in financial services.
After co-authoring the M/M military cult classic Special Forces, Aleksandr embarked on a quest to write gritty, edgy, sometimes literary M/M and gay fiction (much of which is romance/erotica)—the only way he can use his American Literature degree these days.
He’s been published with Heyne/Random House, Carina Press, Samhain Publishing, and others, and is an EPIC Awards winner and a Lambda Awards finalist. You can connect with Aleks at: Website: aleksandrvoinov.com, Blog: aleksandrvoinov.blogspot.com, Twitter:@aleksandrvoinov, Goodreads: goodreads.com/Vashtan.