Title ~ Release (Davlova: Book #1)
Author ~ A.M. Sexton
Published ~ 24thJune 2014
Genre ~ M/M Dystopian, Fantasy
Davlova: a poverty-ridden city-state ruled by a tyrannical upper class. Resources are scarce and technology is illegal. But in the slums, revolution is brewing.
Misha is a common pickpocket until his boss gives him a new job. Disguised as a whore, Misha is sent to work for one of the most powerful men in the city. But his real task is far more dangerous: get close to Miguel Donato, and find something – anything – that will help topple Davlova’s corrupt government.
Misha is plunged into the decadent world of the upper class, where slaves are common and even the most perverse pleasure can be found. Although he’s sure Davlova’s elite is involved in something horrific, proof is hard to come by, and Misha begins to fall in love with the man he’s supposed to betray. Then Misha meets Ayo – a sex slave forced by the neural implant in his brain to take pleasure from pain – and everything changes. As the lower class pushes toward a bloody revolution, Misha will find himself caught between his surprising feelings for Donato, his obligations to his clan, and his determination to save Ayo.
Warning: This book contains graphic descriptions of violent sexual acts of questionable consent that may be disturbing to some readers.
What I love most about reading M/M romance is that there is so much variety with the many sub genres, and like most readers I dip in and out and revel in it, but tend to gravitate to the darker side of erotic romance. So I have read and enjoyed Marie Sexton as a writer. But Marie Sexton writing as A.M. Sexton… I LOVE!!! The writing is flawless, a mixture of beautiful prose, darkened by the details of this cruel and evil world she has created. It’s smooth and it flows and somehow she creates a haunting experience. I was enchanted by this story told from Misha’s point of view. It was a truly excellent read and I want more!
Davloca is a city where the two classes are separated by a wall behind which the purebloods live and feast on the high life in opulence and grandeur, ruled by the power hungry council leaders who are no more than entitled dictators who indulge their fantasies. Throwing away the lowborn to themselves, alienating them to a life of filth and squalor. Unjustly ruling without sense or reason. Which as you know leads to discontent and with an underground network plotting to overthrow the power hungry privileged. Yes… Viva la revolution!
There are stirrings through out the book and we are made more aware of this through Misha’s involvement when his clan mother askes him to spy on Danato, the judge, jury and executioner of so many that live in the quadrants. Misha may be one of the lowborn living a life on the streets as a pickpocket in the trenches. But he’s happy and safe with a misfit family of sorts. There is an acceptance to him and he considers himself lucky compared to some, that he has a clan mother who has protected and cared for them, especially when there are others, not so fortunate. So when she askes him to whore himself in order to spy on the loathed and detested Donato, any misgivings are pushed aside.
I felt a whole lot of hostility towards Donata along with Misha but at the same time I could see how he became so attached to the man, that both seduced him as Miguel and abused him as Donata. Ohhh… I did all the shouting… don’t be so gullible! get a grip! …But he knows all that anyway. Love is a powerful thing, but in the hands of a man that has you so conflicted, confusion sets in, especially when the abuse and cruelty is replaced in the next breath by excuses, apologies and whispered words of affection. A see saw of emotions… euphoria replaced by devastation and hurt. Loved by Donata yet he was still abused. He was a pampered pet, he was a whore, he was beaten yet cherished. Donato was the beast, the cruel master. Miguel was the tender and compassionate lover that picked up the pieces seeking forgiveness aware of the beast but unable to control it. So Donato indulges both sides of his personality in his whore Misha and his slave Ayo.
I despised him for making Misha so conflicted, doubting himself and his loyalties… but don’t get me started on Ayo! For as tragic as the lives are outside the walls, they adapt and evolve and grow stronger. But poor sweet Ayo, my heart and Misha’s bled for this boy, who’s mind is betrayed by his body. He’s like a beaten puppy, wide eyed and innocent programmed by the Dollhouse, genetically engineered to specific requirements with neural manipulation and response conditioning, to react to pain as a sexual stimulus, to obey his master, to relish in the cruelty and torment he dishes out… But that’s all his body, an uncontrollable reaction, whilst inside he’s dying with no control, no free will. He is just a gentle, scared and lost boy filled with guilt, shame and humiliation which his mind cannot escape. In reality, mentally Ayo was still a child and one with no memories of his past life, no love that he can remember and no way to escape his nightmare his only memories are the tortured few years he has been brutalised at the hands of Donato. And as much as Donata inflicts on Misha, Misha is only too aware, that what he suffers is nothing compared to Ayo… which makes him all the more conflicted.
The boys go through the worst kind of abuse, non con, dub con, rape and violence, it’s ugly but it is written in such a a way as to not totally squish you out. With my level of immunity for dark, raw and gritty erotica, this would be a low level read, but it does in no way detract from the impact of the atrocity of it all.
There are a lot of players and pawns in this first book and I feel Marie perhaps concentrated on the characterisation more than the world building. We get enough of an insight to keep the story flowing and to sate my curiosity and keep my interest piqued, with some of it incredibly detailed, bringing the pages to life. But it unfortunately left little time for the unanswered questions with regards to the how’s and why’s that were constantly niggling at the back of my mind.
There is no romance as such, there is love, as misguided as that is, there is affection… and the writing was so amazing, that I was astonished by my own reactions at the end of the book and I think that was an outstanding achievement given my emotions throughout.
The second book promises so much more, I can’t wait! ..And I am hoping that Marie continues with her alter ego AM Sexton, because holy shit!… She can write up a storm!
A Word From Marie Sexton
Not surprisingly, the question I'm asked most about Release is, "Why did you choose to publish it under a different pen name?" I addressed that question on my blog (http://mariesexton.net/introducing-a-new-pen-name-am-sexton), but the short answer is, because Release is different from anything else I've written. Of course, the question I get next is often, "Why would you write something so different from Coda?"
The answer to that question is multi-layered. The simple reason is, because I wanted to. I spent most of my life reading fantasy novels of every variety, with a smattering of scifi, horror, and thrillers tossed in. The fact that my first published works were contemporary romances always felt like a bit of a fluke. A happy fluke, mind you, but a fluke nonetheless. So I was rather disheartened to learn that popularly touted wisdom for romance authors is to find a subgenre and stick with it, no matter what.
I'm not going to get into whether or not that advice is good or bad. We could argue about it for hours and never come up with an answer, because there simply is no right and wrong when it comes to individual authors and their careers. There is no "one size fits all." In my opinion, the "stick to one subgenre" rule may make perfect sense, but it also makes me want to strangle people. I can understand the logic behind it, but it doesn't make me want to do it. My very first trunked novel was an epic fantasy (although without any swords or sorcerers). I started it in 2009, after finishing A to Z, and then abandoned it in January 2010 in order to write The Letter Z. (I still wonder about going back and finishing that project. I think it even takes place in the same universe as Release.) Some part of my heart has always lived outside the contemporary world, and it probably always will.
Still, that doesn't explain the new pen name. After all, I've published several non-contemporaries as Marie Sexton. Why switch now? Again, the answer to that question can be found on my blog, and it'll be addressed again in an interview later on this very blog tour (stay tuned!). In hindsight, maybe I should have published Oestend under a different name, but it's too late to change that now. But even Oestend feels fluffy compared to Davlova. And while some of my readers have been gracious enough to follow me into space, or even into the wilds of Oestend (and I really appreciate that willingness!), Davlova was bound to throw some of them for a loop. Even my beta readers were saying, "Holy shit, Marie. You said it was dark, but I still thought it'd be a bit like Coda."
Well, it's not, folks. Davlova is hell and gone from Coda. (Although I could definitely imagine Angelo fitting in with Anzhéla's den of thieves, and the similarities in their names may not be coincidence.) But despite being a different name on the cover, despite being significantly darker in tone than my other work, I still believe this book is me. I've poured my heart into Misha's story. I've worked hard to bring these characters to life, and to give them depth and soul. My editor (who's read every one of my books) feels it's the best work I've ever done. I'm sure not everybody will agree, but my fingers are crossed that at least a few people will.
I hope you'll take a chance and follow me into the dirty streets of Davlova.
About A.M. Sexton
A.M. Sexton is a typical soccer mom. She has a fondness for wine and cheese, an addiction to coffee, and occasionally bleeds orange and blue. She lives in Colorado with her husband, their daughter, her dog, and one very stupid cat.
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