While the Black Light books are generally standalones in the world, with a few character who may show up in various books, Brave isn’t quite a standalone. It follows a storyline that started in Roulette Redux, and then went on with Fearless. They are all related, and you don’t *have* to read the others to enjoy Brave, but you will enjoy it a lot more. There is enough of the back story that you will get the basics, but really, you should read the other two. The story in Redux is Shameless, by Maren, if that helps.
Anyway, here’s our story. We have Puppy and Pony. They are the only two left from Ethan’s Menagerie. Piggy and Kitty both managed to escape, and Ethan is in jail. At least for a little while longer. Puppy and Pony are living with Puppy’s mother, and neither are doing all that well. Puppy can’t hold a job, and Pony can’t do anything without Ethan. They go and visit him in jail, and he punishes Pony, even when Puppy screws up. One night, it gets way too much and Puppy just has to escape. She manages to get to Black Light, the exclusive BDSM club where she used to be a member, as part of Ethan’s Menagerie. She manages to walk in and sit down across from a Dom, for about a minute, before she runs far away.
Carlson, who works for Black Light, is surprised when this stranger dressed in things that no one would be seen in a kink club in just sits down at the table next to him. When she runs away, he feels like he needs to follow her because there’s just something about her.
Before we talk about Puppy and Carlson, I just want to say that Pony just makes my heart break. She is so profoundly broken. We don’t get anything from her POV, we’re just seeing her through Puppy’s POV and a little from Carlson’s, and yeah, she’s hurting so badly. Even with as broken as she is, I don’t particularly like her a lot of the time. I don’t know if the things I don’t like are part of her original personality, a reaction to her time spent under Ethan’s “care”, or the fact that she’s been abandoned by him. It could be a combination of all of the above. I don’t know if Maren is going to write a book for her, since the tag for this one is that the story ends with Puppy, so I think we’ll just have to wait and see.
And Ethan. I HATE Ethan. I hate him with the heat of 1000000 white hot suns. This book did nothing to make me like him more. In fact, it did a whole lot to make me like him even less.
I can’t miss talking about Spencer, since he does show up in here a couple of times, and we have a couple of chapters from his POV. He’s never been one of my favorite characters, at all. I understand his feelings and actions in this one, and I think that he may have made it hard for me to not like him a little more than I have in the past.
Now let’s talk about Puppy and Carlson.
Puppy, I have to give her all kinds of kudos for even making the attempt to have any kind of life after Ethan, especially since she was dealing with all kinds of things she was dealing with. I don’t think anyone was ever trying to help her after she left the hospital when she was freed from Ethan. I want to totally blame that on her mother, but that could be because I don’t like her mother, so I really want to blame all the things on her. But, Puppy has a lot of strength and a lot of bravery to even walk out of the house, I think. I mean, she knows that monsters exist in a much more visceral way than most people will ever know. I have to say that I’m really proud of her.
And on to Carlson. I mostly like him. Most of the time. I think that he is really patient with Puppy, and lets her get through things that she wouldn’t have been able to handle before. I think that there are a few times when he doesn’t handle everything as well as he could’ve, but Puppy is really a landmine, and she doesn’t even have the map for all the traps that Ethan planted in her. And Carlson, for as patient as he is, and as Dom-ly as he is, isn’t a mindreader or a psychologist, so it’s not a huge surprise that he stumbles sometimes. I think that even a trained professional would have problems with things too.
Ha. Ethan can suck it.
OK, that’s all for today. I heartily recommend all of the Black Light books. Happy reading!