Note: This book was provided by Riptide Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
When I read the synopsis for Counterpunch, I immediately knew I HAD to read the book. I didn't know it was previously released under a different publisher in late 2011 but that didn't really matter to me. It's never too late to read a good book so I jumped at the chance to see if my instincts were right, and I'm happy to say that yes, they were very right indeed. ^.^
Brooklyn Marshall's life is changed forever after he's accused, charged, and convicted of murdering a teenage rioter, who just happened to be the daughter of a high ranking member of Parliament, while he was doing his job as a policeman in London. He is later sold into slavery and, when not enduring the ill treatment from certain guards, he's climbing the ranks of the prizefighting circuit that has him going up against other slaves for entertainment and profit. Aside from being an in-demand boxer, Brooklyn is also rather in-demand as a sex slave, forced to perform sexual favors for those willing to pay the price.
Nathaniel Bishop is a barrister and a solicitor who requests for Brooklyn's services and while Brooklyn is initially apprehensive, he finds the first experience with Nathaniel far from what he expected. Their subsequent times together bring them closer, with Nathaniel treating Brooklyn like he would a freeman rather than as a slave more often than not. Then Nathaniel offers his assistance in getting Brooklyn's murder conviction overturned and goes on to take Brooklyn away from the life he's had ever since he became a slave.
Brooklyn and Nathaniel's relationship is an interesting one. From their first night together, there's something about Nathaniel that draws Brooklyn in. He recognizes that Nathaniel isn't like all the other men or women who paid for his services. Nathaniel admits that he's had a crush on Brooklyn for some time now and wanted to have an opportunity to be with him. The trust and respect between the two men is built slowly but surely, mixed in with the care and concern that Brooklyn feels Nathaniel is sincerely giving him.
As the story progresses, it's obvious that Nathaniel isn't as forthcoming as we'd like to think or hope. He's keeping certain secrets from Brooklyn that he believes will make the man he's falling in love with see him differently. Just when Brooklyn needs him the most, Nathaniel seems to have vanished, and Brooklyn is left to once again fend for himself the only way he knows how.
This was a thoroughly original story that made you feel as if you were right there, seeing and feeling everything that was going on. With the way everything was described, you can't help but appreciate that there was no sugarcoating involved. The story was gritty but had a touch of hope even when everything seemed to be spiraling out of control and Brooklyn and, to a lesser extent, Nathaniel were hardened individuals who saw in the world realistically and yet still sparked inspiration in one another.
The ending felt open-ended, leaving the reader to wonder what was going to happen next. In a way, it's a teeny tiny bit frustrating but then it also allows you to come up with your own hypotheses as to what life had in store for Brooklyn and Nathaniel. In hindsight, it was a nice change of pace from the usual punctuated ending that wraps everything up neatly and with a bright bow. ^.^
Counterpunch is the second book in the Belonging series but I have yet to read the prequel and first book. This book read very well as a standalone so I don't think it's absolutely necessary to have any knowledge of the characters and events from the previous books. However, my curiosity is pretty much going to get the better of me and I'll end up reading the other books sooner rather than later. ^.^
I know that Counterpunch isn't everyone's cup of tea but I'm hoping that other readers will discover it and see that it really is fantastic read. I highly recommend it and am adding it to my list of "Best Reads of 2014". I'm giving it a perfect five-star rating. ♥
Date read: 17 September 2014
Learn more about author Aleksandr Voinov here.