Power Play: Awakening - Rachel Haimowitz, Cat Grant Even though I had VERY mixed feelings about the first volume, I was determined to read this - mostly to set my mind at ease about Brandon, whom I'd really come to care for. And it was him, too, who saved this book for me. He's really such a strong personality, someone who, despite the bad cards life dealt him, took his fate into his own hands and made the best of what he had. The methods he resorted to in order to achieve his goal were a bit... extreme (after all, it's not to forget that it was him who sold his freedom and bodily autonomy away in the first place, even though I still can't forgive Jonathan for dangling this particular bloody schnitzel in front of a starving lion - serves him right he had his hand bitten off, metaphorically...)though in the end, I wasn't wholly satisfied with Brandon's answer to Jonathan's question. Neither did I buy it, nor made it an awful lot of sense, blurted out like this.(which was the only real issue I had with the story arc and the writing in itself, by the way. Plot, writing and editing were otherwise amazing) I still don't like Jonathan an awful lot, though he, too, redeemed himself somewhat (I know I wrote this the last time, too. He did come to be a better man,though; still the terribly clichéed super-rich Dom, but he was supplied with at least SOME human traits this time)This book was much easier to endure than the first one for several reasons. For one, the authors wisely kept the bestiality down this time; this is still heavy BDSM, but not the tasering, starving, dehumanizing mess the other one was. Secondly, this time Jonathan finally bothered to TALK to Brandon, to take Brandon's inexperience into consideration and to EXPLAIN things to him. The dynamics between them worked much much better this time; it really felt as if Jonathan had done some serious thinking and did his share of the work instead of leaving all the heavy lifting to Brandon. Come to think of it, yes, I think I ended up liking Jonathan anyway. Well. Perhaps a little. Some. Or......there, this is what bothered me most about both books. While the first depicted Brandon being brainwashed by every trick in the book - take any random guy, beat him up, starve him, deprive him of useful tasks, isolate him and threaten him with electroshocks and whippings long enough and often enough, and he WILL kneel at your feet, suck your dick, feed from your hand and sing any song you want him to - the second one was somehow even worse in this regard, because Brandon agreed. He kissed the hand that wielded the whip, came from being fucked with the whip that broke him begged for the pain he feared. I didn't really know what to make of that. Serious Stockholm syndrome? Brainwashing so thoroughly the washee didn't even realize what hit him, in the true sense of the word? Or was this really the birth of a brand-new, as-of-then blissfully unaware submissive, his tendencies hidden so deeply it needed a godlike being like an all-knowing Dom to take one single look at him and decide, yes, you need my help, and I'll beat you until you realize that? I can only repeat myself and say I don't know. What I know, though, was that this book and its prequel engrossed me, made me think about the characters and upset me in a way testament of which is this long rambling review. I understand why the first book had to be the horrible butchery it was, so the bloody chunks could be put back together in the second book. I'm just not sure if the way this happened was enough for me. If you come outfitted with a stronger stomach than I do, by any means, try this duology and see for yourself. The writing alone is certainly worth the read.PS There's one character in here I really really hate with a vengeance, which is Sabrina, Jonathan's housekeeper. She creeped me out. Would've made a first class concentration camp guard.