Rating: 5 stars out of 5
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.
First off, I’ve not read any of the previous books in this series, but I was told it was merely in the same universe and cold be read as a standalone. After reading it, I can assure anyone considering doing the same that I never felt like I didn’t understand anything during reading this story.
I’ve been interested in the series and had already purchased but not yet read the first book, but when I was offered the ARC of this one, I couldn’t turn it down since I’ve enjoyed every single book I’ve read by this author. And a few of them I’ve even loved. Might as well say right off the bat that Staged falls firmly into the loved category. This story sucked me in from page one and was one of those rare books that I hated to put down and was almost sorry to see end.
This isn’t the first book in which this author has ventured to the dark side, but readers should be aware that there is non-con, violence, and some pretty horrific torture scenes. Which for me, made the sweet and tender scenes amidst it stand out all the more. Sky and Morgan/Mac are two of the most enthralling main characters I’ve read in a while. Sky is a slave in a world where folks say that slaves aren’t like others, don’t feel emotions the same, aren’t fit to care for themselves. And yet Sky is, as Morgan/Mac says, just the most amazing person. He enthralled me from the beginning. The entire story is written from Sky’s POV. Very often in single POV stories, at some point I find myself wanting to get into the head of the other character for more depth and insight, but that was never at all the case here. It was perfect the way it was written.
There were so many feels wound into this. It touched my heart and made me say “Awww”, then turned around and horrified me. It also at parts alternately had me tears-eyed, irate, on the edge of my seat, and stupidly proud. Sky’s personality really starts to unfold and bloom as he’s allowed for the first time to experience all of the many bits and parts of life that were withheld from him which exhilarates and confuses him. He experiences TLC for the first time, but is understandably too confused and fearful to be able to trust in it. Watching him find pleasure and joy in small things and living in the moment even when he knows that more bad is coming because he has been warned to expect it. So poignant to see him learn in tiny sips what it feels like to be in control for short periods of time, to make decisions on his own, to read and search the net and learn things about the world. But it wasn’t all feeling, as there are also many bits that made me think.
Morgan/Mac, a man who’d never owned a slave but had an awful childhood of his own driving him, also grows a lot in this book as he discovers that all he’s accepted about slavery is wrong. And as he begins to lose his heart to a slave. Right from the start, he seems in awe of him. Throughout a lot of story, Morgan is left a bit of an enigma, and yet through Sky’s narrations, we see his heart come out, see what kind of man he seems to be.
I’m going to stop as I don’t want to go into the story much beyond the blurb. This his story has motivated me to make time in my busy line up of TBRs to fit in book one which I already own sooner rather than later. I definitely want to revisit this world again soon. I just wish I could also revisit these characters—I didn’t want to let them go.
The cover by Tami Santarossa was not a favorite because it wouldn’t have drawn me to look at the story if I’d seen just that, but the layout and style does fits with the series.
Sales Links: Riptide Publishing | ARe | Amazon – more links to come
ebook, 255 pages
Expected publication: July 18th 2016 by Riptide Publishing