In this world one country has cut itself off, and is closed and mysterious to everyone else. What's the secret it's hiding? Magic? Monsters? No, just the cruel reality of slavery. But inside its borders life goes on as normal, and it competes with the rest of the world at sport just like everyone else, just to prove that it's the best.
Nicky accepts that, and is happy in his own small, simple life as a gymnastics coach. He accepts it because he's never known anything else, but he stays as far away from the brutality of slavery as he can, until he's given a present he doesn't want and isn’t allowed to refuse.
As for love? Well, he loves his sport, isn't that enough?
Faith Ashlin has a secure spot on my list of must read authors. It's my third unputdownable read by her. Also, the third AU slave fic, but hey, she does it so well.
To Stand Close was thought provoking, engaging and just fucking good.
Nicky, who is a girls gymnastics coach, was given a gift from all the girls' moms. There was certainly a hidden agenda behind the gift, but even so, Nicky is stuck with his new slave, Michael. Being the decent human that he is, he refuses to treat Michael as such.
The country where Nicky lives is cut off from the rest of the world. Nobody really knows what happens behind their walls, since once you're there, you don't come back out. Even though readers don't get the chance to really see the government at work, there's still a real sense of fear when it comes to what they're willing to do to keep the status quo.
So, Nicky's decision to treat Michael with equality is not only frowned upon, but, most likely, not safe.
The development of their relationship is slow, thoughtful and realistic. Nicky is trying to do the right thing by Michael, which means hands off. No matter what his slave says. I loved the sort of reversal of roles in private. It took some time for Michael to trust Nicky, but once he does, he kind of becomes the aggressor in the relationship. Nicky, with his doubts and insecurities, isn't willing to take a risk with someone as beautiful as Michael, even though he's the slave. I liked it. It was different and made the characters more genuine. I've read my fair share of slave romances and this one stands out. They won't be forced into roles the government pushes on them. In public yes, but when they're alone, they're just Michael and Nicky.
To Stand Close isn't fast paced, full of sex or action. It's just the love story between Michael and Nicky, who end up in this crazy Master/slave situation together. If you don't read much slave stories or are new to the genre, this is a good choice. There's a dark undertone, but Nicky and Michael's romance is the focus.
A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
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