Description from Goodreads:
Khoram is an enforcer, a bodyguard, but his boss has just betrayed him. Now he’s stranded on a desert planet he’s never heard of, chained to the only other human around.
Atash grew up in the cracks of Dulia’s complex social structure, where dominance and submission are a man’s worth. He’s struggled for years on a lower caste but Khoram could be his ticket to a better life if they can find common ground.
Atash wants to teach Khoram the art of submitting by choice and maybe make a name for himself along the way. Khoram, however, isn’t here to play Atash’s political games. He’s going to escape, if his former employer doesn’t see him killed first.
So, I found my experience with Learning to Want mixed at best. Picking up a book about a master/slave relationship (and not one in which characters play master or slave, but a real one in which one is actually owned by the other) is always an iffy proposition. Add to the mix that the enslaved character was a free black man, even if the enslaving character is black scaled (he’s still of the dominant, slave owning culture) is an uncomfortable echo of recent Western history. Though, if this was just the authors attempt to include some diversity I have to appreciate the effort.
There was just a lot of squink around the edges of the story. Even the Ohiri, the perfectly bland race that entered enslavement willingly and was supposed to be an example of unproblematic slavery, were raised from birth to submission. There willingness was coerced at best and they’re completely dismissed in the book. Background fodder, basically.
But my main issue is that, with the exception of transport in the beginning, which we’re told was 20+ days, but we don’t see, the whole book is about a week. In that time a free man was captured, molested, sold at auction, fondled some more (with some dubious consent), introduced to BDSM (which was really JUST SPANKING), come to NEED it, fallen in love, accepted and appreciated his ‘collar and cuffs’ (a euphemism of slavery), performed a perfect power-play sex ‘scene’ in front of hundreds, formed a soul bond and lived happily ever after (as a slave). And I was just like, “Ummmm, uh-uh. No way. We have skimmed over some major trauma here.”
Some books have a magic peen, where someone has sex one time and everything is magically perfect in the plot. This book had a magic paddle. One spanking and Khoram released all his guilt over being a drug dealing slaver in the past and accepted his lot as a sexual slave, craved it even. NO. Big fat No.
This book seemed to want to have both slaves and consent in the same people. In fact, that the slave must consent is stated more than once by characters in the book, seriously stressed even. And that just can’t work. It can’t. Veldura tried real hard, but IT DOES NOT WORK.
The writing is fine. In fact there are the occasional turns of phrase that are really beautiful. And the editing didn’t stand out as problematic. But the plot did. It is too rushed and the ‘free and consenting slave’ is an impossibility that Veldura failed to make feel anything but icky. As fluff, ok it’s fine. I could even like it. But think even the smallest amount about the plot and the whole thing collapses in on itself.