So, what's in the water?
Okay, I will admit that erotic literature will not always be to everyone's taste, because it can cater to fetishes of only so many. This one happened to hit all of my squick points and none of "hot". I don't really understand what makes me dislike this when I tolerated more dubconny parts of Jaid Black's opus.
Oh, wait, I think I might know.
To parapharase Jen Armintrout: This scene. This fucking scene.
(Spoiler more for NSFW-ness than plot. Emphasis mine.)
Yeah. Okay, he did pull out when she indicated discomfort, but the fact that she keeps comparing what's happening to rape does not make it any more pleasant.
Comparisons of acts to rape persist throughout the whole book. I think that's author trying out to point out that's all consensual...and shooting herself in the foot by forcing us to compare. The two MCs observe a girl suddenly being pounced on and author goes in detail to explain how "it looked like a rape, but wasn't because she wasn't struggling, and she could". (BTW, the scene was pointless.)
But the worst offender is the main premise of the plot. Horse wants to date Marie. Marie just ran out of a very abusive relationship and is, understandably, wary of entering another one. Horse doesn't really look like someone who could help her heal. She is attracted to him, but wants to play safe. Horse is offended. And the tone of the book seems to imply that her initial refusal was a bad choice, even though it's perfectly understandable. Her husband was a very violent hitter. If she doesn't want to touch a man with a ten-foot pole again, you have no right to judge. It takes more that a few rounds of rough sex to fix that. On the top of that, she doesn't seem traumatized. At all.
But I digress. How is the problem solved? By Marie's brother being caught stealing from the gang. He should be shot. But Horse offers to pay, PROVIDED THAT MARIE BECOMES HIS SEX TOY. You know, the good ol' "if I can't have you forever, I'll at least have sex with you, whether you like it or not".
But...it's not rape! Because she has a choice! So it's not! It's totally not!
(And this is not me going too far, Horse actually says "this won't be rape, because you can choose".)
I read a novel with a similar concept before. In it, a man was a protegee of a business magnate for a while - because of his talent, not out of affection. He fell in love with his patron's daughter, but the evil corporate dictator wouldn't let him have her and tossed him out. Then, he returns after a while. Father is dead and she is the sole heir. Her company is in problems and he threatens to take it over and ruin it - unless she signs a contract to marry him and obey him for a certain time period. Yes, it's just as problematic. But...she didn't have to say yes. She probably had expensive things she could have sold and she could have found some kind of job. She would have given up a life of luxury, but no one's very existence depended on it. Unlike here. What Horse offers isn't a choice, particularly since we established Marie genuinely likes her brother. Your insistent denial just makes it sound even worse, author.
Even if it's maybe not rape in some narrow sense of the word, it's not much better.
Back to the abusive husband. You know what purpose he serves? Not for our Marie to show how to get out of abusive relationship, to establish her as strong woman, a role model. It's not even a ploy for sympathy. He's there to make Horse look good. Like Gaston was put in Disney's Beauty and the Beast so Beast would seem like a good choice. That's the only reason it was thrown in there. And the portrayal of the entire situation is appalling. It might sound like I love to see suffering, but a person who has been constantly battered and didn't undergo any kind of healing in the meantime would not take well to being manhandled or even intimidated - particularly by a man as physically imposing as Horse is.
Again, I know this is erotica and suspense of disbelief and strange kinks are a thing. But this book stretches my ability to suspend disbelief too far and I really think that author's frantic and constant attempts to excuse the dubious consent had backfired spectacularly. I also wanted to toss out a warning since I see people raving about it.
Even if we ignore squicks, it's not that great. Sometimes, it almost feels like "male gaze". (Maybe Horse's POV contributes to it.) Sex hasn't much going for it beyond roughness. For EC product, there aren't even that many sex scenes. Yes, believe it or not, there are books that could benefit from less plot because when they attempt to tell a story, it's laughable at best. And the story here isn't even the kind of cheesy story you can find endearing. If it was limited to gang action, it would be okay. But we have the abusive husband and...Afghanistan.
It's like the author wants to be naughty but is too afraid to offend. So she goes out of her way to prove dubious consent is not rape (and ends up fouling things by making us think of rape when we might have just ignored the implications, used as we are to such setups in erotica) and then that wasn't enough, they are gang members and kill people but aren't evil, they are brave soldiers who went to save us all in Middle East, they just got screwed over by the system. I think this actually ruined the book for me. It might have been better off if there was no abusive husband and no Afghanistan, just a woman getting tangled with a gang leader. People who are into really bad men (as opposed to (faux) "bad boys") are used to black and grey morality and don't really need excuses. They pick this up for a taste of forbidden fruit. Giving us excuses why it's okay to like it even if it's not acceptable IRL does not help us - it just makes us uncomfortable. Yeah, I admit I might have let the setup slide if author didn't go out of her way to excuse it. I still probably wouldn't have liked it much, but I wouldn't have been this much offended. Lack of abusive husband could have definitely made me stomach it better - because even though the situation in real-life circumstances would be completely unacceptable no matter what the profile of the woman is, I can still say there is a difference between healthy woman accepting such an arrangement and a woman who has undergone years of systematic heavy abuse accepting such an arrangement.
I will admit this is my first taste of biker "subgenre", and "Property" in title should have set off the warning bells, particularly since the summary doesn't imply there will be any D/s going on. But there was so much praise, I figured this might be a good place to start. And I was underwhelmed. Again, it's not just the problematic parts; sex is sparse, considering the label, and there are way too many subplots for a work this short and that is supposed to focus on romance and sex.