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Sum of the Whole - Brenda Murphy

I went into this novel having read the blurb and the content message and I thought, “Okay, sounds interesting. I’ll just have a read and see what this BDSM business is all about.” Then I exited the book with my eyebrows permanently glued to my hairline. Holy add-your-own-word!

The book starts in Rowan House which caters for women’s sexual proclivities. Dominant/submissive situations. Which are explicitly detailed. In details. There are details. Jaya, all six feet of gorgeous, visits there and engages in said proclivities. A lot. And meets Sarah, who’s a submissive and wonderful and perfect and Jaya falls in love with her. Then Jaya tells Sarah to leave with her, which was a moment when I wanted to look up into Jaya’s eyes and say, “You know? For a smart person, that was a really stupid thing to say.”

Anyway, Sarah says it instead, and Jaya stomps off, away from Rowan House, like a toddler who can’t have her toy, and then the story jumps to six years later, when Sarah is defending her Ph.D and Jaya is a massively wealthy benefactor of places, like Sarah’s university. Oops. Jaya suggests to Sarah that she come back to her and Sarah looks at Jaya like she’s got three heads, but eventually says yes, but lays down some rules—I cheered for Sarah here because yes, girl!

Anyway, there’s an entire plot going on, besides the power balance between Sarah and Jaya, which is really good. Dark, nasty stuff in Jaya’s personal history—family crap and yuck—and Sarah’s personal history is just as hard, with struggles for independence and the need to overcome physical and psychological barriers to move forward with her life.

Right. So all of the plot, and sub-plot, is terrific. I enjoyed that, because it explained the shifting dynamics in the Dominant/submissive power roles that Jaya and Sarah engage in. Because Jaya is the Dominant in the bedroom. Yep. No question. There’s an invisible sign over her head that states, “There will be no negotiation.” And Sarah is the submissive, but here’s where things got a little hazy.

I realised, after my eyebrows descended from my hairline, that Sarah’s attitude and understanding of the structure of their play makes her quite strong, even dominant in a sense, despite taking the submissive role. Because Jaya is very soft—not weak, nope—outside in real life. And Sarah is her equal, which is exactly who Jaya needs.

Imagine a Venn diagram. Jaya is one circle and Sarah is the other. The overlap might not ever happen in some Dominant/submissive situations, but Brenda Murphy has capably shown that it can, because when Jaya and Sarah finally see themselves—and their roles—in each other, the beautiful overlap occurs. Having power and control is actually about seeing it and giving it away. Power and control is about trust.

I get it now. Will I read another BDSM novel? Uh huh. Brenda Murphy’s for sure. Will I read it outside the house anywhere? Hell no. I’d have to explain why my eyebrows were so far away from my eyeballs.

There are more books in the Rowan House series. Excuse me while I add them to my TBR pile.


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