Author: Kim Fielding
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Length: 255 Pages
Category: Contemporary Alt U/Alt Reality
At a Glance: With all its potential triggers, Staged is most definitely not a book for every reader. True to form for Kim Fielding, however, it is a well written love story that’s deeply romantic—it’s just a different sort of romance from the norm.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Once the second-prize winner on My Slave’s Got Talent, Sky Blue has spent the past few years singing at a failing New York nightclub. While Sky has never had control over his fate, his life seems to take a turn for the worse when he’s torn from the familiar comfort of performing and sold to a rich and enigmatic man.
Morgan Wallace takes his newly purchased slave to San Francisco, his intentions unclear. On the one hand, he treats Sky with more kindness than Sky has ever known—treats him like a real person. On the other hand, he shares Sky at parties hosted by his sadistic new friends.
A confused slave is an endangered slave, and Sky isn’t even sure of his master’s real name. Is he Morgan Wallace, wealthy and cruel, or Mackenzie Webster, caring and compassionate? Caught between hope, fear, and an undeniably growing attachment, Sky struggles to untangle which parts are real and which are merely a performance. His future, his heart, and even his life may depend on it.
Review: I love books that test the definition of traditional romance, the stories that make us read outside the box and reach for the beauty of a relationship built outside the norms. Kim Fielding’s Staged is a great example of that sort of book. Fielding forces readers to see the love that grows between a slave and his Master through a distorted lens of horror and brutality that exists in the Belonging -verse, and she does so in a way that still somehow ends up being a touching and beautiful love story.
If you’ve not yet read the first two books set in this Alt Reality Contemporary series—Rachel Haimowitz’s Anchored and Aleksandr Voinov’s Counterpunch—let me start off by warning you that this is a world where slavery exists. Not the sort of voluntary servitude that takes place in consensual D/s relationships, but the sort of slavery that demeans and devalues human lives. The slaves in this world are subjugated to a degree that categorizes them as less than animals, believed to be soulless and incapable of feelings or intelligence. As a result, there is a level of cruelty toward the slaves that means habitual rape and beatings and a complete stripping of their freedom and dignity along with their humanity. While these circumstances may be unpalatable to some readers, the purpose this serves isn’t gratuitous within the narrative. Rather, it contrasts a society where those who are considered to be superior are the same humans who are the aggressors and predators, and therefore, are far more animalistic than the slaves upon whom those freemen prey.
Sky Blue is a slave in this world. Born into that life by virtue of his mother being a slave in a bordello, and then sold at the tender age of eight for his ability to sing, Sky found a slave’s version of success performing in a boy band, and later at a nightclub where he didn’t have anything resembling a good life, but there was at least a consistency to his routine of singing, waiting tables, and being used sexually by whomever his owner rented him to. Sky has never been his own man—but he’s self-aware enough to question the dogmatic concept that the freewill of which he’s been systematically stripped is due to a genetic deficiency which makes him intellectually inferior to his oppressors. In spite of him being denied his dignity, there is yet a spark inside Sky that makes him question his status in life and keeps him dreaming of the unattainable freedom that he knows exists yet remains so elusive.
When Sky’s sold at the whim of his current owner and enters into the terrifying unknown, he’s subsequently purchased by the enigmatic Morgan Wallace. And this is where the romance and the hell of Sky’s forced subordination intertwine and juxtapose. Morgan is unlike any Master Sky has ever encountered, and, of course, the puzzle of who this man is doesn’t fall into place in Sky’s experience as a slave. It becomes clear rather early on that Morgan isn’t the man he needs Sky to believe he is, and I loved the building of this relationship in all its contrasts—the inability for Sky to trust Morgan for any number of reasons beyond the fact that they are Master/slave, yet Morgan proves time and time again that he can be solicitous and kind. But then, just as suddenly, the nightmare of Sky’s status reemerges in rape and beatings that remind him trust and kindness don’t exist for slaves in this version of San Francisco. There was such a deep emotional underpinning to their story and the conflict of liking Morgan while loathing what he allowed to happen to Sky. That’s the sort of investment that, for me, allowed me to sit and binge read this book in a day. There was a fierce need for me to see this relationship through to the end, and in the end, I was so happy with the way the author resolved both the dramatic and romantic arc of the storyline.
With all its potential triggers, Staged is most definitely not a book for every reader. True to form for Kim Fielding, however, it is a well written love story that’s deeply romantic—it’s just a different sort of romance from the norm.
You can buy Staged here: