Safeword Davenport and Safewords: Davenport and Chiffon are two halves of a longer story, one that begins with a woman slowly, almost reluctantly, recovering from the death of her husband (the only Master she's ever known), and a man recovering from the death of his wife (not the only, but the most significant slave he's ever known). There's a romance there, a promise of an outwardly seeming normal relationship, but one built around the idea of a total power exchange. As you might expect, it's a story that blurs a lot of lines, and occupies the shadows between those lines.
Between fantasy and reality.
Between romance and erotica.
Between domination and sadomasochism.
Between pain and pleasure.
I struggled with this one a lot, finding myself equally drawn to and repulsed by what was happening. The romance worked (both despite and because of the darkness), and the power exchange itself was undeniably attractive. Dana and Zach are both fascinating characters, well-rounded and well-developed, and the supporting cast is far more than just the usual Master/Mistress/slave background participants. I quite liked the start honesty of the writing, and the loving attention to detail in every scene.
Having said that, the shadows had me uncomfortable, particularly those between pleasure/pain and domination/sadomasochism. Personally, I am quite attracted to the idea of the power exchange, to the giving up of control, but Blevins takes it to an extent I've never before encountered. The idea of a safeword is something I've always known as being synonymous with 'stop' or 'enough,' a clear request to be respected without question. Here, there is a price to the safewords, a request granted but only at a cost. While the story rings true, the authenticity of that 'reality' definitely challenged my 'fantasy.'
For me, the second book was definitely the stronger (and more balanced) of the two, mostly because it introduced a level of honest communication and the fair exchange of ideas that I felt much more comfortable with. Jacob and Brent really bring something special to the story, which rather surprised me, since I wasn't sure what kind of role they would ultimately play.
Definitely a remarkable tale, and one that's exceptionally well-told - so long as you don't mind some winces and shudders mixed in with your gasps and shivers.