Emma Sea's Reviews > Resistance

Resistance by Rachel Haimowitz
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Apr 07, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: power-imbalance
Read in April, 2012

Sure, I'll be your sub: wait, is that a ...?!!

Riveting and enthralling book. Although it's fairly long it's such a page-turner that it seemed very short.

This is not actually a book about a BDSM relationship, although it deals with these kinds of sexual activities, and the heart of the book is the nature of consent. If you like Sean Michael BDSM books, consider carefully if you want to read this: there is no "Mine," "Yours," "It's big," or "I see you." There is, instead, a lot of pain. And extremely harsh 'punishments'.

Jonathan is a billionaire sadist who thinks he's a Dom, however Jonathan has no empathy, no patience, no self-awareness, and no ability to read people. Jonathan's had live-in subs before, and he believes he sees submissive potential in Bran. He offers Bran three million dollars for a six month 24/7 contract. However Bran has no clue about BDSM, no idea what he is getting into, and, importantly, although arguably he has some submissive tendancies, he isn't a sub! Whether Jonathan deliberately takes advantage of this ignorance, or is merely thoughtless and inexperienced is one of the questions the book raises: for example, how can anyone list hard limits in a contract when they have zero clue what is possible? While a Dom would point this out, a sadist would never do so.

Bran is tough; he lived homeless as a teen after escaping his abusive father, and everything he has he earned for himself. Bran's in it for the three million dollars, which has the potential to change him from a day labourer into a business owner, and fulfill his promise to his dead mother to become an architect. Bran is determined to stick out the six months.

The story offers a psychological view of the ensuing train wreck.

The pleasure is in seeing in advance exactly how badly this is going to go. When Jonathan tells Bran "I like you. I want to get to know you better" and then promptly introduces "rule #2. Never speak out of turn....If you have something you’re dying to say and I’ve not asked you a question, you may ask me for permission to speak" we know that this will be a disaster on the scale of the Hindenburg. It's the m/m equivalent of a British panto; the bad guy popping up in the scenery and the audience yelling out "BEHIND YOU!"

The book describes itself as hardcore kink, but this isn't hardcore kink, it's abuse. What makes this book different is that Jonathan doesn't want to be an abuser, he wants to be a Dom. He really truly wants he and Bran to be in a loving relationship where he gets to give beautiful pain as part of that love. He has no clue why his routine of punishment and sexual reward isn't working. We do, because we see it through Bran's eyes as well. Ooooh the deliciousness when Jonathan thinks everything is hunky dory, and we see the pure beautiful rage inside Bran's head.

I'm itching for the second book to find out what's going to happen. If you hate cliff-hangers I suggest you wait for June when book 2 comes out, as there is no conclusion in this book.

To reiterate, please be aware that this is not a BDSM book and pretty much every BDSM rule gets broken. That's the point. Jonathan is like a guy who read about BDSM and decided to be a Dom: he really doesn't know what the hell he's doing, other than that he likes to hurt people. Nothing about this relationship is safe or sane (example of the insanity (view spoiler), and the matter of whether it is consensual is the heart of the book. Nor is this risk-aware consensual kink. Bran has no idea about risks, and Jonathan, in his frustration, loses sight of these around day five.

The actual writing is excellent. The construction of the book is practically invisible: there is nothing in the way of the reader getting under the skin of the characters and their developing relationship.

Consent

It's notable that the book blurb emphasizes that this is consensual play, and that consent is reaffirmed throughout the book. I think Riptide (who use Paypal) want to reassure everyone involved that this isn't a book about rape, because of the recent Paypal crackdown against rape and bestiality content in books. However, this does the book a disservice, because what happens between Jonathan and Bran is not consensual play. There is a vast difference between submission offered freely, and being paid three million dollars to let someone hurt you for six months. This book, and clearly the sequel too, explores the line between consent and non-consent. (view spoiler) One parallel this book highlights is the sheer economic need that motivates the life choices of all but the 1%. The insistence that the play is consensual removes the interesting dialog which entwines discussion of BDSM activities with the economic realities of any postindustrial society. Bran is all of us.

P.S. I'm still working on the basis that pre-orders don't count for my m/m exile. God I want this month to be over and never have to write another thesis in my life.
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Comments (showing 1-37 of 37) (37 new)

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message 1: by Ery (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ery Awesome review! Unfortunately, you've only whetted my appetite for this book, when I'm trying to hold out for the sequel :)


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I fell over laughing at your Sean Michael comment. :D


Emma Sea @Erica - definitely wait. The ending is incredibly unsatisfying. This really is only half a book, and boy does the end sneak up fast.

@Kate - yeah, actually I always wondered if any readers decide to try BDSM because of how lovely Sean Michael makes it seem, and if so how that worked for them. I'd pay money to read that experience. I buy every book Michael publishes though!


Joanne I totally agree with everything you said, and like you can't wait for the next book..


Emma Sea God yes, the wait is going to KILL ME! What I really want to know is (view spoiler)


Nithu I think this is a brilliant review. Your comments about Jonathan pretty much summed up what I felt; however, it's what ruined this book for me. I think it's maybe about expectations. From reading the blurb, I hadn't expected Jonathan to be, essentially, incompetent as a Dom. If I'd started reading with that in mind, I think my reaction would have been very different.


Joanne I got the impression that Jonathan thought he knew what he was doing, but realised when Brandon thought he was being beaten by his dad, that actually he was so far out of his depth he didn't know what to do. Brandon also didn't have a clue what he was signing up to, he just desperately wants the money.


message 8: by Emma Sea (last edited Apr 09, 2012 02:24PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emma Sea Nithu wrote: "From reading the blurb, I hadn't expected Jonathan to be, essentially, incompetent as a Dom. If I'd started reading with that in mind, I think my reaction would have been very different. "

I definitely agree that this is not the book the blurb describes. I see this happening more and more. Writers have little control over the blurb and it sets the reader up for disappointment. You can't appreciate the awesomeness of the book, because it's not what it said on the tin. You wonder if whoever wrote that blurb even read a tenth of the book.


message 9: by Ery (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ery Yeah, I've gotten into the blurb-ignoring mode lately. Fewer disappointments that way.


message 10: by Emma Sea (last edited Apr 09, 2012 03:35PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emma Sea Josie wrote: "Jonathan thought he knew what he was doing, but realised when Brandon thought he was being beaten by his dad, that actually he was so far out of his depth he didn't know what to do"

Yes, definitely. That was the point where (view spoiler)


Emma Sea Erica wrote: "Yeah, I've gotten into the blurb-ignoring mode lately. Fewer disappointments that way."

Hi Erica, I miss chatting with you about books!


Emma Sea Actually I've decided Devon probably taught Jonathan to be this screwed up. After all it's Devon's idea to (view spoiler). Maybe Bran could strangle Devon and do the world a favour.


message 13: by Ery (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ery Hah - I was going to say earlier it was good to see you back as I was suffering from Emma- withdrawal, but I thought I'd limit the stalkerish comments. Oh well :)oon the bright side, my book expenses have declined in the past few weeks...


Emma Sea Erica wrote: "Hah - I was going to say earlier it was good to see you back as I was suffering from Emma- withdrawal, but I thought I'd limit the stalkerish comments. Oh well :)oon the bright side, my book expenses have declined in the past few weeks"

I miss Goodreads and everyone here so much! I miss you Erica. I can't talk about this stuff with anyone in my real life. Like you I have saved a bundle though. However I reckon I'm going to spend about $200 on ebooks in May having an m/m romance reading orgy. I don't even know what I'm going to want to read; I must be missing out on so many new releases. I'll have to go through the ratings from you and Eve and MandyM and Don and find out what the 4 and 5-stars were.


message 15: by Eve (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eve I'm waiting eagerly for your return too - didn't want to distract you from your good intentions but will send you some reading recommendations as soon as your thesis is done! Am still trying to exert my willpower and hold off on this book until the sequel though...


Emma Sea Eve wrote: "I'm waiting eagerly for your return too - didn't want to distract you from your good intentions but will send you some reading recommendations as soon as your thesis is done!"

Yay! Hi Eve! Thank you! This will give me renewed energy for tackling my stupid methodology section.

OK, going again now; Power Play was totally worth the distraction but I think I spent about 2 hours just on the review and comments. Hugs to all.


message 17: by Ery (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ery Been a little slower on new reads lately - I refuse to buy new books (except for a few select authors) until I go through the 300 or so in my kindle already. Unfortunately, many of those are m/f :(. Have fun cranking out ur thesis- halfway through the month (almost)!


message 18: by Edina (new)

Edina Rose Great review!


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Hi, I commented upthread, but now I've read the book and wanted to say I agree 100% with what you said. :D

One of the really fascinating things about this book is the role of the $3 million. It starts out as a weapon that Jonathan uses to gain and keep Bran's consent (or facsimile thereof) and a way for Bran to shield himself against anything that Jonathan does to him. So it creates a battle right off the starting line. Neither party has any incentive to work towards a mutual relationship. Jonathan uses it to keep Bran from walking away from all the incomprehensible and painful things Jonathan is doing to him and Bran is setting his teeth and resentfully enduring what Jonathan dishes out rather than trying to cooperate. Somewhere pre-agreement Jonathan says something like "I want to do these things WITH you, not TO you", but the money stops that from ever happening. The financial agreement ends up shackling Jonathan and giving Bran a psychological club which he uses to pretty good effect. So an interesting reversal of Dom/sub roles on the mental level. And you know? Bran breaks Jonathan before Jonathan ever gets close to breaking Bran.

I think that's where this book failed for me. That Jonathan couldn't or wouldn't see that and adapt to it. I felt like it left the story in a pointless place. The 3 mil is still distorting the connection between the two guys, Jonathan is blaming the problems they had on Bran, and Bran's late "submission" was really nothing more than economic duress and the lingering effects of Stockholm syndrome.

I'm guessing you like train wrecks more than I do, because I don't have a lot of interest is seeing where this ends up. LOL.


message 20: by Emma Sea (last edited Apr 14, 2012 12:00AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emma Sea Kate wrote: " I felt like it left the story in a pointless place. The 3 mil is still distorting the connection between the two guys, Jonathan is blaming the problems they had on Bran, and Bran's late "submission" was really nothing more than economic duress and the lingering effects of Stockholm syndrome. "

Hi Kate, yes I think you're completely right. The $3 mill is not just a plot device; it's the point of the book. I really like how it turns the book from just another m/m BDSM novel to a parable about our economic system.

I also agree that it's hard to see where this relationship can possibly go when there's no actual submission. But don't you wanna see how Haimowitz and Grant are gonna handle it? I'm finding the wait very difficult (however as a kid I also used to feel all my Xmas presents under the tree until they broke).

I see three ways the authors could play it.

1/ They ignore the situation they've so beautifully created and write vol 2 as if Bran's truly submitting, Jonathan is a good Dom, and they find happiness in Bran's submission. This possibility is my biggest fear: sequels so often screw up.

2/ The relationship remains as terrible as it is now and Devon is used as a deus ex machina to fix them. This is my "meh" option.

3/ Bran breaks Jonathan (again). Jonathan gives him the money. Bran then comes back anyway and HEA ensues with true submission with no strings. This is my bet, otherwise why have Jonathan refuse to consider offering Bran the money when he just wants him gone. It made no sense: as Jonathan himself says, it's like pocket change to him. I think the authors were holding this back to use in vol 2.

I find it very hard to believe vol 2 will be as good: I just don't see how it can be. However I'm trusting Haimowitz to deliver something at least satisfying (I've never read anything by Cat Grant so I have no idea if she's a good writer or not).

Yes, I definitely do like the train wreck aspects of the book: it's a nice contrast to the plethora of more conventional m/m BDSM books. Usually in the genre the Dom is all-knowing and generally wonderful (I like these too, of course. I just melt for strong toppy men caring for their boys. In Gay For Pay when the Dom calls his sub "Darling" my brain leaks out my ears). I haven't come across an incompetent Dom as the MC before. It's a common enough trope when they're being presented as the bad guy in contrast to the competent MC, as in Bound and Determined, By His Rules, or even Call Me Sir, Boy!

Actually, there are incompetent Doms as MCs, but this is where the BDSM is so ludicrous that it doesn't really count, like Deliver Us or Forced Fantasies. Power Play is a mile away from this kind of fake-BDSM where there are no consequences for actions. Unless, of course, this is where they go in vol 2. Please, please, not!


message 21: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 14, 2012 08:13AM) (new)

Heh. Yes some of my reluctance to read Vol. 2 is distrusting the authors to deliver. But GR is so cool. I can read what all the first reviews look like and change my mind if I need to.

When Jonathan was talking to Devon, Devon asked why not just give him the money to go away snd Jonathan said he would but Bran was too proud to take it under those terms and would throw it back in his face. So, I don't see how they work back around to that solution in vol. 2.

I enjoyed the Dom having an exaggerated (??!!) faith in his ability to find and bring out the submission in someone he is fascinated with. Kind of like one of those people who create mental fantasies that have very little grounding in reality and then is baffled and hurt when they can't make reality match.

I wanted to know about his previous subs and why they left after their first contracts were over. Curious, curious. I also wanted some hints of real submissiveness in Bran, because frankly I didn't see it and that leaves an enormous amount of character arc for the next book. So yeah, here's me being cynical and distrustful of authors again.

Want something quick and yummy? http://archiveofourown.org/works/256707 Pushy aggressive sub, Mr. Benson like Dom.


message 22: by Emma Sea (last edited Apr 14, 2012 11:26PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emma Sea Kate wrote: "When Jonathan was talking to Devon, Devon asked why not just give him the money to go away snd Jonathan said he would but Bran was too proud to take it under those terms and would throw it back in his face"

Do you think Jonathan was right? Or would Bran have taken the money and left?


message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

I think Bran would be too proud to accept that much money without completing his part of the deal. It would make him feel more of a whore than he already does.


Emma Sea Kate wrote: "I think Bran would be too proud to accept that much money without completing his part of the deal. It would make him feel more of a whore than he already does."

I'm not sure, but I did like how Jonathan is just so sure of himself it doesn't occur to him to try it. Better to set the alarm for 2am for as ass-kicking rather than offer someone the answer to their dreams.

Thanks for the link: that story was delicious! Gosh I wish she was going to keep going with it. It was very dangerous however, as then I found all her fan fiction and lost about four hours last night reading Jane Davitt Sentinel Daddy-kink fan fiction. Not a good use of my time!


message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

I live to corrupt. You can find lots of time wasting goodies on Ao3. I lost hours in there over the last few weeks. I have no idea how many, I refuse to count.

You know, I kind of felt sorry for Jonathan because he is so sincere and clueless all at the same time, but if you are going to keep pointing out all his worst personality traits I might change my mind. ;)


message 26: by Contrarius (new)

Contrarius Great review -- thanks so much for writing it! I would not be very likely to read the book described in the review, but much more likely to read the book as you described it. So IMHO the PR guys are shooting themselves in the foot on this one.


message 27: by Qi (new) - added it

Qi Thanks for the review. I just started reading this book and I think I would be seriously pissed off if I hadn't read your review first.


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

Fabulous review Emma. I really like how you've deconstructed the themes in the story and examined them. I must admit the book doesn't sound like my cup of tea but you've made a compelling argument for at least thinking about the scenarios in it, and my own reading boundaries.

I'm curious though: what aspect of the book have you given 5 stars to? I can't make out if you've enjoyed the plot (which, frankly, sounds kind of appalling -- but, of course, that's my reaction and not in any way yours), or if you've enjoyed more the examination of its flaws -- which is not to say the two are mutually exclusive, but given how negatively I'm thinking about the plot, I can't see any reconciling the two.


Emma Sea Moss wrote: "I'm curious though: what aspect of the book have you given 5 stars to?"

I adored this book. It's a case of a character I hate in a story I love. I am assuming that Haimowitz and Grant have written Jonathan with full awareness of his flaws. If, in book 2, it turns out that I was wrong and Jonathan is supposed to be a perfectly reasonable person then I will be gutted beyond belief.

So when I say

"The pleasure is in seeing in advance exactly how badly this is going to go. When Jonathan tells Bran "I like you. I want to get to know you better" and then promptly introduces "rule #2. Never speak out of turn....If you have something you’re dying to say and I’ve not asked you a question, you may ask me for permission to speak" we know that this will be a disaster on the scale of the Hindenburg.

I believe this was on purpose. Should it turn out in book 2 that Grant and Haimowitz did not do this on purpose, but rather didn't notice these are the words of an inexperienced megalomaniac, I will vent my wrath.

I feel pretty confident it'll be OK though. As Kate pointed out up-thread the fact the the two previous subs each served a six-month contract and left indicates that Jonathan doesn't know what he's doing, because this is against the rules of the m/m romance BDSM genre. In romance-BDSM, contracts don't just finish with everyone involved happy and walking away with what they wanted. A successful contract is "Yours," "Mine," "Always," "Forever!" time.

I think also there's a lot more enjoyment to be gained from this story if one is already an m/m BDSM fan. It plays with the genre a lot. All the faults that Jonathan has have appeared in Doms in other stories, but there it leads the MCs to melty subby twue wuv. In this book, it leads to Sean gritting his teeth and thinking "you're not gonna beat me, bubba." Which is way more believable.


message 30: by C. (new) - rated it 1 star

C. i really agree with some of the points in your review, however they are the reasons that i just didn`t like this book. i just couldn`t like jonathan at all, and omg i was so pissed at what he did towards the end! i mean how he could start doing scenes to make bran leave, what type of dom is that?? i don`t think i will be reading the sequel and frankly, i just don`t know how this book got such a high average rating!


Monique ~ Sinfully Great review Emma, did you have to make it so appealing?!?!.......Oh look I have purchased yet another book today!!!! Dear lord there is no help for me!!! Especially as I notice you mention there is no conclusion to this and I will need to buy the next one too!!!....Beans on toast for tea tomorrow night!!!


Emma Sea Monique wrote: "Oh look I have purchased yet another book today!!!! Dear lord there is no help for me!!! Especially as I notice you mention there is no conclusion to this and I will need to buy the next one too!!!"

Oh yeah, it's a two book deal. You won't be able to stop after the first one :D


Steelwhisper I liked your review for stating this is rape. I however have to say I find the sales spiel on this one so disgusting I would probably break GR rules if I stated how much precisely.


message 34: by Emma Sea (last edited Feb 24, 2013 10:00AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emma Sea Steelwhisper wrote: "I liked your review for stating this is rape. I however have to say I find the sales spiel on this one so disgusting I would probably break GR rules if I stated how much precisely."

Yeah, because I pre-ordered this and then forgot about it, and because I don't read any book blogs or participate in any groups, I missed the fact that it was promoted as reflecting the realities of a BDSM lifestyle. Which is clearly both crap, and highly concerning.


Steelwhisper Emma wrote: "Yeah, because I pre-ordered this and then forgot about it, and because I don't read any book blogs or participate in any groups, I missed the fact that it was promoted as reflecting the realities of a BDSM lifestyle. Which is clearly both crap, and highly concerning. ..."

What is even worse is that so many people are taking away from it that this is some "dark form of BDSM" or "BDSM gone wrong". I consider both books a wanton financial exploitation of the lifestyle, and don't really agree with the notion that they actually are some form of instruction of "how not to".


Maggie Simms your review is spot on.


Cheryl I was really conflicted about this one so I'm reading it again. I keep referencing your review to try to keep an open mind! Near the top of the comments there are remarks about the blurb not fitting the story and how authors don't have a lot of control over the blurb, but this is published by Haimowitz's own publishing company so I don't think that excuse applies here. She just mislabeled the story. Perhaps she's just as delusional as Jonathan about what's going on here.


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