Uneven by Anah Crow

Rating: 10/10 ★★★★★★★★★★ 
Title: Uneven
Author: Anah Crow
Genre: BDSM erotica
URL: Torquere Books
Price: US $5.95
Other Information/warnings: Explicit BDSM and m/m sex
Summary [from the publisher]:

Rase Illion is a middle-aged captain of industry, a restrained man with a spotless reputation just emerging from the shadow of his vicious, driven father. Since his father’s death, Rase has been living like the old man was still alive, keeping up appearances with his trophy wife and appropriately luxurious house. Which is when Rase meets Gabriel.

Gabriel loses his temper during his first meeting with Rase and lashes out, which unleashes Rase’s carefully hidden submissive and masochistic tendencies. His encounter with Gabriel snaps Rase out of his sleepwalking life, and he sets about remaking his world in his own way. Rase isn’t the only one shaken by their encounter, though. Can he convince Gabriel to give their relationship a chance?

My review:

Most m/m BDSM fiction sucks, let’s be blunt. It’s written by people with no knowledge of the lifestyle, and with no understanding of the mentality, the drives, the urges. It’s aimed at heterosexuals who think being tied up with scarves and spanked is the height of naughtiness, and who would pass out if they actually saw a hard core scene or some of the more explicit BDSM pornography. The authors don’t really get what drives people who are into BDSM, but that’s okay – neither does their audience.

Anah Crow isn’t cut from that cloth, and Uneven is not a book for people who want to be lightly titillated. It’s raw, bare, brutal – gut wrenching. It’s made me cry both times I read it, and hold my breath through much of it. It’s possibly one of the most powerful, honest books I’ve ever read on any subject.

But it’s also beautiful, and romantic, and sweet. Damned if I know how she manages that when one protagonist belts the other one across the face on their first meeting, and it only gets more violent from then on.

Actually, I do know. Because she understands Rase and Gabriel, and knows that their love and their desires need the violence, the pain and the humilation. She shows that from the inside, so we get why Rase needs this so much. Why it’s been such a scorching pain for him to have suppressed this for all his adult life – even more than the pain of suppressing his sexuality to please his domineering father. Rase being gay is nothing compared to Rase being a submissive masochist, and the hunger he feels is driving him to an early grave. Until he meets Gabriel, a sadistic dom with a chip on his shoulder and a murky past, who’s mesmerised and terrified by Rase’s need and his utter submission. You feel the terror, the screaming need in both men, and understand why they have to do what they do, and why it’s actually healthy and good that they do it.

You understand it because Anah Crow is an astonishing good and powerful writer. She makes this very difficult, this almost ugly love affair, spring to life, makes you sympathise and understand and yearn along with Rase and Gabriel. Writers this good are rare. Writers tackling a subject this tough, are even more special and unusual.

This is not an easy book to read, especially if you’re used to the pap most writers turn out when they write about BDSM. Though I’m not part of the lifestyle myself, I’ve read a lot of frank and explicit material, and watched a lot of porn. I wasn’t shocked by Uneven – well, not too much, anyway. It’s too raw not to shock a little, and that’s deliberate, because the author wants to shock you, the way Rase is shocked out of his sleepwalking life.

But once you accept that – and if you can’t bring an open mind to this, you may as well not bother buying the book because you’ll never get past the disapproval – there is so much to enjoy. Not just Rase and Gabriel’s stuttering relationship of intense scenes and long separation as they try and figure out what the hell they’re doing, but the other characters. Allen, the devoted factotum and gleeful enabler. Rase’s ex-wife who loves him and wants him to be happy, and his son, belatedly reconciled and cheerfully accepting of his father’s new identity. Even the realtor is a delight. Rase’s headlong tumble into happiness and self-expression is so joyful and enjoyable, and you cheer as he casts off the misery and shackles of parental disapproval, and a path in life that fits him so badly. Not everyone’s route to happiness will involve having the shit beaten out of them on alternate Saturdays, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t – if it’s what you really want. And for Rase, it’s exactly right.

I can’t say this is a recommended read for the same reason guns make very poor toys for children. A lot of readers will be utterly revolted by this book. Those who aren’t, may still not get it. But for those who accept and understand, this is a rare, precious and very beautiful jewel of a book, and to those, I say, buy it now and love it for the wonderful creation it is.