Penance by Ann Mayburn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The long awaited sequel is finally here! Wyatt and Michelle's continued journey into a D/s relationship with Michelle as the Domme starts to unravel. Michelle's one of those people who believe in mind over matter. While she recognizes PTSD symptoms in Wyatt, she refuses to acknowledge the same in herself. This is a problem as her past is revealed to the reader and Wyatt. It's not pretty. It is sad to say that she is perfectionist by training perhaps not nurture.
Children who are trained to be perfect by an exacting parent will either harden to become stronger or they will break. Michelle seemed to become stronger, almost a superwoman which explains how she stays calm under warfare. However, every person's endurance will come to an end, especially if there is no way to relieve the pressure. For Michelle, between her mother and loss of Owen mingled with her pride to show Wyatt off is too much.
This story is difficult to read for someone like me. It's not that I can see myself in Michelle's situation. It's more that I don't understand how someone so strong can become so messed up and illogical. Her behaviour becomes irrational which makes no sense to me. Ms. Mayburn does an excellent job of showing how the superwoman myth can end up harming a strong female and become her undoing. Michelle is trying so hard to take care of everyone else, that she leaves absolutely nothing left for herself. It's a depressingly accurate downward spiral as Michelle spins out of control and damages Wyatt in a cruel manner when he is most vulnerable. It's painful to watch.
From an emotional side, this story is filled with negative and destruction feelings. It really goes to show how much influence a person's behaviour can impact others. For those who are already weakened by other factors, it's appallingly easy to drag them down. Ms. Mayburn shows a plausible rock bottom before a person can decide to make a change and start healing. It's not a smooth road up either. It's filled with bumps and sometimes sliding back downward before moving up again. What is interesting is how those who are there to help don't necessarily use the coddling method. At one point, Michelle's mentor chastises her.
“Please, spare me the melodramatic self-pity. Whether or not you deserve him is irrelevant. He loves you, so you will be worthy of that love.” (loc. 1269-1270)
Still, this story isn't all angst, doom and gloom. Ms. Mayburn does add in a few amusing lines and the BDSM is delicious.
She [Michelle] laughed softly. “You were playing match maker?”
“I prefer to think of it as pussy purveyor.” (loc. 2874-2875)
How does one earn the title of pussy purveyor? Does one get to test all the pussy out first for a trial run? How fun would this be?
From a BDSM perspective, a very memorable scene is a rope bondage scene which also included suspension. The description of it is amazing and makes me wish to be in Wyatt's place. It's everything a rope bunny could hope to experience. In addition, there is a flip as Wyatt switches to be a Top. Ms. Mayburn does an excellent job of it. She blends it so well with the concept of penance. For those brought up with a religious upbringing, the concept of penance may be easier to swallow. For me, it made perfect sense and I find myself wishing more consequences in life are handled with penance. It's also interesting how Ms. Mayburn doesn't make penance to be physical punishment. Most people think of it as beatings through caning or flogging. In fact, Michelle would have preferred a physical cleansing rather than the penance Wyatt puts her through. Wyatt's punishment for Michelle to earn her way back to his good graces is effective and cathartic. The creative ways for her to feel as though she has paid for her sins is a bit of a mind fuck and for me, harsh. It really forces Michelle to focus and think about what she did. Through it all, Wyatt learns the art of D/s.
Still, the story is summed up beautifully with one thought.
You were always so full of life that just being with you made the even the most mundane things exciting, but when you left it was like the joy in the world died with you. (loc. 3811-3812)
Isn't this what most people hope for when they meet their "one"? This BDSM romance is recommended for those who want to see the ups and downs of a BDSM lifestyle.
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