When his father dies, Thomas is forced to abandon a burgeoning art career in New York. As difficult as it was to give up his lifelong dream, it’s nothing next to walking away from the man he loves. Marcus taught him to embrace who he is, a sexual submissive who responds to the touch of only one Master. But why would the sophisticated Marcus need some farm kid from the South?
Then Marcus shows up and offers him a way to continue his art career and help his family. There’s only one hitch – he asks Thomas to spend a week with him in the Berkshires. Thomas knows he should refuse. But he’s never been able to say no to his Master.
Nature of Desire Series Book Six (series does not need to be read in order)
Sigh...how does one encompass within a review the seemingly endless emotional range of a Joey W. Hill novel? I'm sitting here trying to organize my thoughts into a some semblance of understanding with little luck. I've already started the review once and managed to get half through it before deleting it all. And apparently now I'm whining. Okay, moving on.
Let me first start off by explaining that this was my first male/male romance. I didn't steer clear of the subject matter over prejudice but rather because I thought my own heterosexual preferences would leave much to be desired. Would I be able to relate without a female perspective? Due to my initial hesitance, I turned to my trusted reader source: Joey W. Hill. She's a remarkable writer with astounding talent and because I know that I would enjoy reading the contents of her grocery list, I would most likely enjoy her m/m BSDM novels. And yes, 'Rough Canvas' does delve into the Dominant/submissive sexual roles.
For some readers, extreme to even light BDSM erotic novels make them uncomfortable. Therefore, I think it's crucial to point out that Joey W. Hill not only creates a safe environment for her characters and their sexual preferences, but she also instills the morale belief in them that a true D/s relationship only works with absolute trust. This is perhaps partially the reason for her success for not only are her characters safe, but that safety also transcends into the reader mind.
Marcus is a sexual Dominant. He's also filthy rich, absurdly gorgeous and in possession of a rapier wit making him desired equally by both sexes. Unfortunately for the females of this world, Marcus is a homosexual and has been from a very early age. Despite being forty - give or take a few years - Marcus has only truly loved one man. But eighteen months ago, that love was lost - torn apart by family obligation and human prejudice. But Marcus has waited long enough to claim what's his and this time, he'll not let the man he loves go without a fight.
Thomas has done nothing but try to survive since he left not only the thriving art world of New York City but more importantly his lover Marcus. He's convinced himself that leaving Marcus was the right thing to do. His father had died and one month later his younger brother was paralyzed in a tractor accident. Now, as the head of the family, it's Thomas' job to make sure that their hardware store - his father's dream - stays alive while his own dream of being a painter is crushed.
It was Thomas' incredible gift of painting that captured Marcus' initial attention. As a very reputable art gallery owner, Marcus had always had a knack for detecting raw talent and Thomas' work shined bright as the next artist to revolutionize erotic art. But beyond that, it was Thomas and his shy farm boy nature that perked Marcus' sexual interest. It was within the bonds of trust that Marcus stripped Thomas down, revealing his previously unknown inner submissive. Even Marcus wouldn't have predicted the desperate need that grew within his heart to possess Thomas forever. Not until he was gone did he even realize that he loved Thomas. In an attempt to win Thomas forever, Marcus offers him one week. One week to start some projects for an interested buyer with the ultimate underlying goal of possessing Thomas' soul.
Since Thomas abandoned his life with Marcus, his muse has dried up leaving his imagination a barren wasteland that has only served to kindle the fires of his hellish prison of responsibility. Although he's in financial despair, Thomas is reluctant to entertain Marcus' offer but ultimately seizes the opportunity to provide for his family and hopefully purge Marcus from his system after one week of bliss. Well aware that seven days with Marcus might leave the already fragile pieces of his soul shattered, he rationalizes that it's better to have one week then no week at all.
Marcus wastes no time in re-establishing his claim of Thomas' body but in addition to unleashing his pent up lust, Marcus is delving as deeply as he can into Thomas' heart and soul. With his yearning knowing no bounds, Marcus reveals that he loves Thomas - has loved him and is determined to make a life with him.
These confessions from Marcus leave Thomas very disconcerted. For one, Marcus could never possibly love a farm boy like him. Just his sheer magnetism and undeniable wealth makes Thomas feel he has little to offer the perfection that is Marcus. Beyond that, Thomas can't make his homosexual preferences his way of life. His family are strict Catholics and his mother would never approve. He can't bear to hurt his family in that way. He's also promised his hand to a girl in his town therefore there is no way that he can even entertain the thought of Marcus' love for him. Resolved in his reasons, Thomas doesn't acknowledge Marcus' love.
Marcus notices Thomas' lack of response to his proclamations but truly what can he do? He knows and understands Thomas' reasons even when he doesn't voice them but he also can't help but feel anger. If all he has is a week, then that's what he'll take. But with this week Marcus is also determined to take their D/s relationship into a more intense realm. Previously, their sexual relationship, while practicing in BDSM, was still only conducted within the privacy of home. Marcus now feels that it's time to assert his dominance in a more public venue.
The Zone, a very popular and exclusive BDSM club in Florida, recently obtained another club in the north eastern area of the states that caters directly to male/male BDSM. It is here that Marcus takes Thomas. What next ensues are scenes that to me have always seemed to be choreographed as a play or dance. Hill lays out her stage in such an elaborate and captivating way with everything having a specific art and place to draw your attention and ensnare your senses. She then proceeds to place her characters in such an arrangement that not only is the reader focused on their actions, but there are also other erotic scenes playing out around them that leaves your mind's eye darting around in wonder. This is one of my favorite aspects of Hill's writing. There are fabulous examples of this "choreography" in not only 'Rough Canvas' but in The Vampire Queen's Servant, Natural Law, Ice Queen and Mirror of My Soul.
Up until this point, nothing of Marcus' past has been revealed. Thomas knows that the perfection of his exterior hides a difficult childhood but Marcus has easily deflected any of Thomas' inquires. While Marcus doesn't want to taint the purity and refreshing innocence that is Thomas, Thomas sees it as an act of distrust which allows him to further question Marcus' proclamations of love. How can Marcus love him but not trust him enough to divulge all of who he is?
When Marcus is severely injured in a brawl, the facts of his past are finally revealed and what Thomas learns doesn't surprise him but rather fills in the holes of his suspensions. It's in the unveiling of Marcus' past that opens Thomas' eyes to the truth. Marcus does love him and Thomas returns that love. But when Marcus once again reaches out to claim Thomas forever, Thomas says no. He knows that in order to complete the bonds of trust, Thomas must prove his love for Marcus. But when the darkness of Marcus' soul bleeds onto others after Thomas' refusal, Thomas knows he must work fast or loose the man that has come to mean everything.
'Rough Canvas' was an enlightening experience. Of course I've heard of the struggles that people go through to have their sexual preferences accepted by their families but to read about it in such detail brought a new found respect for anyone that needs immeasurable courage to stand up to those they love. Joey W. Hill doesn't approach the subject lightly but rather shines the power of the sun on the issue. She's also not afraid to venture into the darkest of souls to show the power of human refusal. To be abandoned by your family simply because of your love for the same sex is terrible and Hill paints a gruesome picture of it's aftereffects.
I perceived Marcus and Thomas characters, not as stereotypical, but rather easily identifiable roles in the struggle for familial acceptance of homosexuality. Marcus is the confident gay man, secure in his sexuality and life style while Thomas is the quintessential man still in the closet. He knows he's gay but fear of hurting his family is a major suppressant to him "coming out". Of course Thomas' reluctance is a major frustration for Marcus but knowing what he's personally gone through with his own family gives him an understanding of Thomas' plight.
While I enjoyed Hill's spotlight on human nature, I still had a little trouble connecting with the male/male romance. I loved how Marcus looked upon Thomas with heated passion and possession but I wanted it directed at a female so that I could relate better to the feel of his gaze. Marcus is my kind of hero and it lends credence to the saying that all the good ones are gay. Ha!
All and all, I enjoyed 'Rough Canvas' but my first love will always be male/female romances.
Hussy Approved Reading Material!