It’s funny this thing that reviewing books is, at least for me. The more a book affects me the harder I find it to review. If Grif’s Toy was difficult to review because there were things in that book that just had me going through every human emotion possible then reviewing Wes’ Denial is bordering impossible to review. This review has taken me close two months to master.
Those of you who read my review on Grif’s Toy and who happened to catch some of my comments on Facebook while reading it knows very well my reaction to that book. In all honestly when picking up Wes’ Denial I was in doubt how the hell Joseph Lance Tonlet was going to pull this off, first, because Grif’s Toy was not only a really great book pure fiction wise but the message in that book was so loud and clear. Grif’s voice was strong and there were no doubts left at the end of the book about who Grif was or who was truly in charge in that relationship and (pardon my French) it sure as fuck wasn’t Wes. I was afraid that I was going to read a doublet of Grif’s Toy but from Wes perspective together with having Tonlet tying up a few lose ends like the big significance of Wes tattoo and who Henrik was. Even if my worry was slight, there had been no need for it slight or other. Wes Denial is just as good and I would say even better than Grif’s Toy for no other reason than the end.
Books like this touch me, because not only have the author, Joseph Lance Tonlet, managed to convey a magnificently emotional story but like I’ve said before managed to convey a message, or several messages, in a subject matter that is very complicated for most of people to understand, especially those of us who don’t live in the BDSM lifestyle or anywhere near it. Yet, we all tend to have a lot to say about it. Funny how that is, isn’t it?
One of the issues I have when reading MM books in general, if to generalize for a bit, is that I find a lot of them to be all about sex and I’m not talking about how many acts of sex there are. There can be a book with 5 scenes with actual sex acts but not have very much to do with sex or vice versa. You following? The clichés of BDSM books with the dark clubs, whips and chains, dungeons (and I am sorry but it doesn’t matter how much white or yellow painted walls you have in these dungeons they are still play rooms set out for one thing to “play” to indulge in whatever play it is that get a certain couple off), sex and more sex, child/parent play as I call it, which is about the dominant telling the submissive what he/she needs like they don’t have a clue themselves about that because first they need to be saved, it is all the typical encounters when reading a BDSM book. It might seem a bit harsh but it’s true, and I’m not saying they are bad books just that because of this they become very one sided or people who don’t tend to question things they know little about get the wrong idea.
Like so many other “things” BDSM is in my opinion over sexualized, it is the desire of having great sex that is the drive to seek out the BDSM lifestyle and that fact alone gives people a somewhat skewed view of what it's really about. After reading Wes’ Denial, not reading Grif’s Toy, but reading about Wes and what experiences forms his life I can finally say there’s one more book (to a very short list of books) that desexualize and, lack of a better words, re-humanize the BDSM lifestyle and makes it out to be what it’s meant to be a way of living your life together and getting your needs/interests met in more than just your sex life because it has to do with a state of mind and emotional needs that many times have a physical way of being satisfied.
Wes has this confident way about him but at the same time he has secrets and things that makes him vulnerable. Through life he finds out things about himself that in many ways disturbs him and makes him feel like a freak and like I said in my review on Grif’s Toy, it isn’t until he meets Grif that he truly understands himself or rather allow himself to do so. You learn throughout the book how he finds out what he is and what that means and how he struggles to find acceptance in being him. Thomas and Henrik are two of those people that he meets and two people who seen sides of him that are both good and bad. There are things in Wes’ past (that I won’t go into that are dark and to the point of cruel) that he’s shamed by, things that forces Grif to take on a role that is not his typical role for no other reason than to help the man he loves to deal with his past. Does this remind you of anyone you know? It does, doesn’t it, because we all do it at times to help others deal with things buried in their past, we shoulder tasks or situations, accept the burden of crosses not really ours to bear for no other reason than to help the people we love. Tonlet says himself that submission are gifts given from one person to another and I agree but Tonlet taught me something else too, that no matter how many labels we put on people or on ourselves in the end we are all the same. We bleed the same, we love the same, we want and need the same thing for those we love to accept us for who we are.
Wes’ Denial is about everything but sex, and there’s plenty of sex scenes in this book. Wes and Grif shows us it’s about the same thing every other relationship is about, which is love and commitment, about helping your partner through the worst thing they experienced in their life so they’ll be able to move on. Wes’ Denial is not a repeat of Grif’s Toy, nor is it an easy story to read both because there are scenes in it that are very graphic both in violence but also when it comes to the D/S structure of things.
Mostly it’s a hard book to read because of the emotional journey, Wes journey is so completely gripping and heart twisting at times it is hard to read because of the tears you shed. What Wes’ Denial really is about is finding and forgiving yourself, it’s that easy. It is about accepting yourself for who you are, good and bad, with the good choices and bad choices you’ve made, that you are not a weak man or less dominant because you need help and that being turned on by what you are turned on by isn’t wrong if with the right partner, the yin to your yang. On the contrary, Wes’ over and over again kills the stigmas of BDSM not being abuse, it isn’t just about sex, it isn’t weak or mean but it is just about two consenting adults, loving each other as much as the next couple, doing everything they can to make each other and themselves happy and also being openly proud of the life choices they made. Wes’ Denial is really a Cinderella story about true love and fighting evil for that love. Finally, this is a book that says all the things that every BDSM conversation should start with: Once upon a time there was a submissive boy who fell in love with a dominant boy…. And then they lived happily till it was their time. There’s a quote from Wes’ that I like to share from the book that is so spot on about what is about. To as the author says he done for himself and his own life too, the important question isn’t why (and trust me I am a very why asking person), the important question is, Are you happy? Or possibly, What makes you happy?
“Thomas had taught me there was nothing about either—sadism or masochism—which made either of us better or superior to the other. We were what we were; I was simply Wes and he was simply Grif.” From Wes’ Denial by Joseph Lance Tonlet
Joseph Lance Tonlet didn’t only give us an amazing and hard story telling us about Wes but he also gave us the most magnificent ending (and don’t think I don’t see the raised eyebrows because I do). But even though as I sit there and realize what is going on, there on the last pages and wanted nothing else but to yell at the author for being so damn cruel, I can’t picture another ending for Grif and Wes, because this end is the ultimate proof of how much Wes and Grif really loved each other and how deep that love truly goes. That nothing about them or their life together was driven by anything else but respect and love that they felt for each other’s. So, Mr. Benson move over the throne now belongs to Mr. De Luca!
Grif’s Toy by Joseph Lance Tonlet, oh boy, this will be one of the strangest, longest and most likely one of the most philosophical book reviews I’ve ever written, be prepared.
If you research about what people fear the most, one of the most common things people fear in this world is death. The reasons why can differ immensely depending on who you ask but generally they fear leaving their loved ones, which is a legit fear, I don’t doubt but I don’t have it, (I know appalling) how I don’t fear death. If I die I won’t be here, I’ll be dead nothing to fear when there’s nothing to feel. I don’t control dying, all I know is that one day my day will come and that will be it. Death is a part of life, it happens and we all know it, so why try to control something that isn’t in my power to control.
What I do fear is living, living a life that isn’t quite what I expected, and knowing that while I walk around living this “bland” life, (it really isn’t as bad as I make it sound, but I’m trying to make a point), I'm not fulfilling my dreams because we are not here to fulfill our dreams we are here to be good girls and boys and do what is expected. (And no, I didn’t have overly harsh parent, on the contrary, my parents, especially, my mother encouraged me to go out there and experience life. The cliche: If I known what I know now about myself back when I was 20 a lot of things would have been different.) Reading books such as Grif’s Toy, and even learning a thing or two about the author himself, makes those bells of unfulfilled dreams rings mighty high right about now, but also make you understand, well at least makes me get why people come to the point and say screw the world I'm going to live my life for me no matter what other people think because I need to be happy. That's what Grif's Toy is about, being happy and doing everything you can to live a rich fulfilled life. So, while the rest of us (again not everyone of course) putter around and only do what is expected of us, there are those who go after their dreams and live them.
When I started reading Grif’s Toy, I’d read the blurb, seen some reviews and I believe I had a fair idea of what I was getting myself into. Well, boy was I wrong, about halfway through, at what I call the piercing part I was ready to chuck my kindle into the wall, even though, up to that point I’d really liked the book even if there were elements in it that I couldn’t grasp and fully understand.
First of all, Joseph has created main characters such as Weston Wes De Luca, Tate Diaz, and lets not forget about Marcus Grif Griffin that are real, and as for Grif he is accomplished, smart and has great confidence about his person and know very well what he wants and needs (even if I didn’t see it at first), he’s no victim or a person with a rotten self-esteem, not at all. He’s the ultimate force and drive in this story and a positive one of those. Even secondary characters, such as Matthew Smithton and Pavel Alexander are not just some filler roles, they are fleshed out and bring their own set of quirks, stories and facts to the book to why they are there, without them the story wouldn’t have been complete.
Secondly, Joseph is a damn good storyteller, he has a way with words that just magically pull you in and then bam the world as you know it is translated into the world he has created. I know for a fact, that I told my kids at one point to hush it because I was reading and I usually don't do that. Also, this story is told in a way that it sort of brings you from the past into the present and that is a tricky thing to do so it turns out well. I is important that you tell enough to get the reader to keep going and also understand what happens, when and with who, so when the end comes it makes sense. There was no issues with that here, Joseph rounded it off at then end really well and there weren't any loose ends left dangling, and the the light-bulb went on and I was home so to speak.
So, there I was ready to chuck my kindle in the wall and it took me forever to get through that chapter because I could only read a couple pages and then I had to let it rest for a bit and then go back to it. I didn’t understand, and I always have to understand where a person come from, it is a driving need in me, to understand why and to understand where people come from. It has nothing to do with me, that I have to want or need the same things, it has to do with understanding others and knowing that ultimately they are happy, ok, getting what they need, no matter what that is, maybe that I’m not turning my back to someone who needs my help, whatever. And usually, mind you now when I read BDSM books even if they are good books they always leave one thing unclear, or where I go “OK, I see what you are saying and I’m sure he/she’s happy but…” there’s always a but, a but containing that the submissive is portrayed as the person who has to be convinced by the more dominant part of what they need, like a child that needs a parent to explain why they need to brush their teeth. There’s always that aspect of hint of “parent, child” behavior (for the lack of a better comparison) and that drives me absolutely bonkers. I don't claim to be an expert on anything, especially not BDSM, but you don't convince someone to "do" BDSM you agree to do it together because you both want to and then discuss the do's and don't's.
This isn’t the case with Grif’s Toy, yes, I will admit you do have to read the whole story, from first word to last word to get the full feel of this, to understand it all and see this, but Grif is in no way shape or form not in control, or unsure of what he wants, needs or elsewhere confused. As a young man, he’s like any other young person, not fully fleshed out and 100 % secured in himself, but who is at that point, but as the book grows so does Grif and he’s kick ass. No doubt about it and here is the icing on the cake, Wes, he is not perfect! I’ve only read books by one other author that manages to do this, Wes, who’s the dominant part (if that is really how you can describe him because Joseph Lance Tonlet all through the book have Wes/Grif and Tate/Grif as equals and never strays from it) has insecurities of his own and this is also shown in a very soft and gentle way. I would even go so far to say that Weston doesn’t find his full confidence until he meets Grif, meeting Grif is what makes Wes blossom and fully believe he’s not “the freak” (to use Grif words) he think he is but that there’s a yin to his yang out there and more importantly, Grif is his yin.
Grif’s Toy, has given me a lot to reflection on, and that the best part about reading certain types of stories, even if I agree with the author that fiction is to be read as fiction, I still think a good book of fiction has so much truth in it that a good fiction book can help change lives. Grif’s Toy is such a story, it's about self discovery, about accepting yourself for who you are and in that acceptance maybe even learn to love yourself because of those “flaws”. That no matter what we all have our faults, our limits, but more so what may first come off as the most horrendous, unfair and dreadful thing in the world might be the one thing that later on takes you on the most valuable journey you could ever have taken, and without that one “flaw” you would have missed out on the one thing that helped changed your life, for the better.
You can find Joseph Lance Tonlet on the following:
Joseph Lance Tonlet's website
Dreamer, Writer, Reader and Metal Head.