Auctioned (8392 #1) by Cara Dee
Genre: M/M Dark Romance
Heat Level: Low
Gray Nolan’s biggest problem in life was the torch he carried for his closeted coach. He was just another happy-go-lucky dude, a college student and hockey player, when his ordinary existence was interrupted, and he became a human trafficking statistic.
He and seven other young men were taken aboard a luxurious yacht where they were to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Gray was beaten, shattered, and almost defeated by the time his buyer stepped out of the shadows in a swirl of his own cigarette smoke.
He was Gray’s new owner.
Darius Quinn had vowed never again to find himself in a situation like this. His days as a private military contractor were over. No more missions, no more risks, no more personal attachments. Yet, here he was, after weeks of searching, face-to-face with his broken prize.
It was time to get the knucklehead back to his family.
Quick and easy was Darius’s plan.
Then everything went sideways.
In Auctioned, twenty-something gay college student Gray gets kidnapped and sold into a human trafficking ring. After months of being transported with a bag over his head and surrounded by a rotating group of fellow captives, Gray finds himself on a yacht and auctioned-off to buyers looking for gay men to own. Little does he know, his stepdad has hired Darius Quinn to go undercover as a buyer and get Gray out.
I bought this novel-length tale because its blurb and cover caught my eye via a Twitter post. Cara Dee was a new-to-me author, but I didn’t hesitate because the price was only $2.99, and I love dark, crime-related, contemporary M/M romance. While this most definitely is a dark tale, it’s not as dark as some books I’ve read in the same genre, such as The Flesh Cartel by Heidi Belleau and Rachel Haimowitz. While Cartel features many scenes of graphic rape and abuse, Auctioned has just enough to convince the reader of the enemies and stakes Gray and Darius face, and Dee masterfully inserts comic relief where needed to keep the tale entertaining without being overly harrowing. The plot is intricate and ever-changing, and it kept me riveted as I devoured this in a couple of nights.
The love interest Darius is quite the compelling character. Sexy and enigmatic, he plays his role of a sadistic and emotionally cruel slave-owner almost too well, while privately, he gives Gray enough affection to keep him and the reader wanting more. As for Gray, Dee depicts his emotional reactions to the kidnapping in a believable and articulate way, and I was rooting for Gray in both his internal plot with Darius and in his quest for freedom. My only real issue with the story was the central relationship, which gave me but one sex scene and clearly promised one much earlier than it actually delivered. I like my erotic romances, well, erotic, and while this had that element, it wasn’t enough for me. I found myself hoping for a slightly darker and sexier take on Gray and Darius’s dynamic, but despite their circumstances, the two form quite the sweet connection.
The ending is less than satisfying; it barely qualifies as a happy-for-now, but it isn’t a cliffhanger. As a reader, I forgave it because Auctioned is the first in a series in which Gray and Darius will continue to be main characters. I’ll definitely be purchasing the next book, Stranded, whenever it comes out, as I am hungry for more intensity as Gray and Darius become closer, and I am confident that Dee will build another satisfying tale.
About Cara Dee
I’m often awkwardly silent or, if the topic interests me, a chronic rambler. In other words, I can discuss writing forever and ever. Fiction, in particular. The love story—while a huge draw and constantly present—is secondary for me, because there’s so much more to writing romance fiction than just making two (or more) people fall in love and have hot sex. There’s a world to build, characters to develop, interests to create, and a topic or two to research thoroughly. Every book is a challenge for me, an opportunity to learn something new, and a puzzle to piece together. I want my characters to come to life, and the only way I know to do that is to give them substance—passions, history, goals, quirks, and strong opinions—and to let them evolve. Additionally, I want my men and women to be relatable. That means allowing room for everyday problems and, for lack of a better word, flaws. My characters will never be perfect.
Wait…this was supposed to be about me, not my writing.
I’m a writey person who loves to write. Always wanderlusting, twitterpating, kinking, and geeking. There’s time for hockey and cupcakes, too. But mostly, I just love to write.