Title: Forged in Trust
Author: Mickie B. Ashling
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 215 Pages
At a Glance: For me, this may be the weakest story to date, but even that does not detract from the fact that the Bay City Professional series is definitely a great one to invest some time in.
Blurb: Dr. Ethan Marshall is the young medical student on call the night Tessa Duran murders her husband for abusing her twelve-year-old-son, Rino. Ethan stays in the cubicle while the rape kit is performed and is surprised when the boy resorts to prayers instead of tears.
Despite compelling evidence, Tessa is sent to jail for life. To avoid placing Rino in foster care, their parish priest agrees to raise him. Ethan is touched by Rino’s plight and visits whenever possible, but the connection is broken when the priest and young boy leave the area months later.
Raised by the Dominicans in California, Rino considers joining the order until a romance blossoms with a fellow student. After much soul-searching, he turns his back on everything familiar, and chooses his orientation over his perceived vocation. Upon graduating dental hygiene school, Rino takes a job at the office of Scott Gregory and Robin Kennedy.
Seventeen years have passed since that horrible night in the emergency room. Forty-three-year-old Ethan is now a Dominant in search of a full-time submissive. Twenty-nine-year-old Rino is adrift, longing for someone or something to help him find the serenity he’s lost along the way. As they rekindle their friendship, they realize they might be perfect for each other.
Review: Forged In Trust is the fourth installment of Mickie B. Ashling’s Bay City Professionals series. While this novel does have some returning characters, it definitely could be read as a standalone, given that the two main guys are new to the storyline. I have read the others in this series and really enjoyed them. This one, however, left me shaking my head just a bit. Also, just a note for those who may need to be careful, while the scenes are minor in terms of time on the page, and handled very well by the author, the two instances of rape, one of which was a case of child molestation, may be potential triggers for some. I feel these were handled with great enough care as to not dwell on the subject matter, but still make the reader aware of the horrors that occurred in Rino’s past, and set up his introduction to Ethan.
The story begins with a woman and her young son seeking to leave their country when the U.S. forces begin their troop withdrawal. Having been much the company “whore” for various servicemen, she finally manages to find a man who will declare her as his fiancée and take care of her and her boy, Rino, when they get stateside. However, the man has a dark side to him and before long, both she and Rino are barely surviving his angry outbursts. To make matters worse, he is not satisfied just using Rino’s mother for sex; he wants the boy as well. After Rino experiences a particularly violent rape, which was dealt with off page, Rino’s mother fulfills the promise she made to herself and kills her husband. She then rushes her twelve-year-old son to the ER, where a young resident helps take Rino through the awful rape case examination. A special bond is created between the young doctor, Ethan, and Rino that night. Months later, when Rino is now in the foster care of a Dominican priest, due to his mother being incarcerated, Ethan attempts to keep in contact with the boy until the priest is relocated from Texas to California and they lose contact with each other.
Fast forward many years, and Rino is now a dental hygienist just finding work with some old familiar faces from this series. By luck, Rino decides to check out a club, not knowing it is a private BDSM establishment, and stumbles upon the very place where Ethan has invested his time and money, socially. Now the two men are thrown together again but much has changed for each of them. Ethan is a Dominant who has had little luck finding a sub to fulfill his rather stringent standards, leaving him unsatisfied and lonely. Rino is a tangled mess of conflicting beliefs and emotions, stemming from his rigid catholic upbringing and his realization that being gay means he will never be welcomed in his beloved church. The two meet and all the past trust and tenderness they had for each other bubbles rapidly to the surface. But can a fast and furious lust actually translate into a love that can last for the long haul?
Fast and furious is a good way to describe the passionate relationship that erupts between Rino and Ethan. In fact, for two men who’d been described as mostly unable to trust others and do more than one night encounters that were solely sex-driven, the speed with which these two fell for each other was stunning. Unfortunately, I felt the author gave up precious story time dwelling on both the “how to” be a submissive and the rather complex exposition about the career field that Ethan ended up pursuing. First, there were several pages dedicated to explaining just what a BDSM relationship could look like—giving us rudimentary explanations as to what was and was not standard fare.
Alongside that, we had extensive details on Ethan’s chosen field of urology as it specifically focused on sexual re-orientation surgery. As a third side story, we also had quite a lengthy subplot concerning faith, specifically as regards catholic beliefs. While all these elements were good for the story, overall, I felt they tended to go on and on, pushing me out of the story and making it difficult to really grasp and believe this near instant attraction and sexual intensity that Rino and Ethan experienced. There was too much discussion and not enough action. Further, Rino had an actual negative physical reaction as well as genuine emotional turmoil over the whipping scene he witnessed at the BDSM club. Given that, and the fact that it was Ethan administering the whipping, it was quite a stretch to swallow that he would fall into a D/s situation with Ethan so very easily. Here was a man who was raped—twice—and yet it took just two or three days of being together for him to allow for anal sex with Ethan? I just didn’t buy it.
I have really enjoyed other installments in this series, but Forged In Trust had too much explanation and set up, and not enough interaction and relationship building to make it palatable. For me, this may be the weakest story to date, but even that does not detract from the fact that the Bay City Professional series is definitely a great one to invest some time in.
You can buy Forged in Trust here: