Review: Kim Fielding – Staged (Belonging #3)

Author: Kim Fielding
Reviewer: Barb
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: MM Slave

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Summary: 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.


Review: Caution: This review contains descriptions that some readers may consider spoilers.

Sky Blue was born a slave to a slave mother and an unknown father, or at least unproven—his mother suspected that Jonny Walsh, legendary singer, was the free man who fathered Sky. But since a slave has no rights, Sky can only internally cherish the fact that he looks and sings like Jonny, but he can never reveal his suspicions.

His good looks and singing ability have kept him in the entertainment industry for most of his adult life, though his ownership has changed hands a number of times. Shocked when he’s suddenly sold once again, he’s bought by a handsome older man who doesn’t act as if he has a real purpose in owning Sky. The enigmatic, broody, muscular man doesn’t even seem to know how to treat a slave—Sky is treated kindly, fed well, and encouraged to exercise, so he’s pretty surprised. Even more, when the man encourages Sky to read to alleviate his boredom and later teaches Sky how to use the Internet, Sky is hesitant to trust his reaction to the man, assuming his master is setting him up for a fall.

Morgan Wallace is, in fact, a man on a mission. He simply refuses to reveal that mission to Sky. But when his mission forces him to take Sky to a party hosted by a businessman known to be a sadist, he’s concerned about the treatment Sky may receive. And his reservations are well-founded because he has to beat Sky to maintain his cover and then stand by while another Dom uses his whip on Sky’s back and then proceeds to rape him.

Bringing Sky back home to his apartment and caring for him as if he was sorry about what happened makes Sky inordinately confused. Who is this man who owns him? How can revel in Sky’s misery one minute and be contrite and caring in the next?

On the surface, this story fits into the universe where slaves have no hope of freedom and no right to care or think or act independently. It’s a universe first created by Rachel Haimowitz in Anchored and Alexander Voinov in Counterpunch. But it’s below the surface where the real story takes place. Sky is like a flower whose petals are slowly unfurling as he experiences someone caring for and about him for the first time. He’s praised and given positive affirmations on his intellect, his singing, and his strength. At one point Morgan tells him: “God when you hum to yourself or smile, it’s like a heavy burden lifted off my heart.” His level of self-perception, his outlook on his environment, and his desire for freedom all grow and expand under Morgan’s care and nurturing. And eventually he also discovers that slaves can love and be loved in return.

Morgan Wallace, aka Mackenzie Webster, also changes his outlook during the story, becoming more self-reflective, tapping into a greater inner strength, and ultimately finding his heart has the capacity for unconditional love. He learns that his job does not define him; he can freely give up control in moments of passion; and he can fight for what he feels is best for the man he loves.

A number of words and phrases come to mind to describe this amazing story but powerfully moving sums it up best for me as it engaged both my mind and my heart, interweaving both in a story fraught with intrigue, drama, moments of tender poignancy, and conversely, outright cruelty. It challenged my intellect while it warmed my heart, and though there are scenes of graphic violence, they were kept to a minimum but were necessary to instill the sense of danger and the cruelty of being without a voice in an otherwise free world. And there are many more scenes of each main character’s introspection as well as their philosophical discussions and heartfelt confessions of each other’s strengths and positive attributes than there are of the negative and violent scenes.

This story reached deep below the surface to yank up those emotions I generally keep well hidden, and I’m grateful for the experience of becoming involved with these characters. I very highly recommend Staged to those who are looking for more than a simple romance.

From the blurb:
Reader discretion advised. This title contains the following sensitive themes: dubious consent, explicit violence, and non-consent.

Listed as part of the Belonging series, however, this can very easily be read as a standalone as there are no continuing characters from the other books.

ARC provided by the publisher through Net Galley in exchange for an impartial review.

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