Review: 24/7 (The Subs Club #4) by J.A.Rock

We started the Subs Club to make the kink community safer for subs. Except now the others are so busy chasing their happy endings, it's like they've forgotten what Bill did to Hal and the fact that he got away with it. They used to think I was betraying Hal's memory by hooking up with the owners of the club where he died. Now they don't seem to care about any of it anymore.

Maybe I am sometimes angry with GK and Kel for giving Bill a second chance, but they've been mentoring me for a year now, and whatever else they've done, they make me feel incredibly safe. So I want to try something: I want to offer them my complete submission, 24/7. To serve the people who forgave Bill. That's the way I want to hurt.

Except I'm starting to care about them in a way I never meant to-and I think they feel the same way. But after Hal, I don't know if I want to be in love again. Because what I really need, more than anything, is to see Bill brought to justice. Even if I have to do it myself. Even if it means losing GK and Kel.


tl;dr: Compelling book with a metric ton of feels. A book about grief and love and all its incarnations.

I don't really know what to say here, so I'm just going to wing it instead of... whatever the fuck it is I usually do and hope someone out there gets it.

"Gould is magical and gives everyone happiness and dangerous confidence, like cocaine made from unicorn dandruff."

I knew early on in this series that Gould's book would be grueling which is why I put it off; I knew it was going to hurt. J.A.'s done an exceptional job of matching the tone of each book to the character and Gould is an iceberg.

So much more is just beneath the surface. To most he looks placid, but it's all a façade. Inside he's begging for someone to see him, to really see him and maybe love him. But who would? Why would they? He's chubby, struggles with mental illness, is painfully shy... nothing. So he should be treated as such, right?

As Gould's character has evolved the more this niggling in the back of my head started to getting louder that he had somehow twisted Hal's death into being his fault and by choosing to play with Kel and GK he was self-immolating. Who better to make him suffer than the people ultimately responsible for Hal's death? I'm still not sure whether or not he's cognizant of it, though, nor if it was purposeful. Regardless of his motivations it's clear he's extremely attracted to Kel.

He wants to belong to her, to be owned, to serve, but he doesn't want to be in love again. The last time he was the fucker left him all alone and that hurt so much 3 yrs later it still feels like he'll show up any minute-at the drug store or the grocery store or the duplex. Hal's this constant shadow that Gould can't stop looking for the source. He's resentful of all his friends who have seemingly moved on and baffled that some have even forgiven Bill. But if he lets go and moves on then does that mean the love goes away too? If he lets go then won't he really be all alone?

I'd grown up shy. Hearing from my mom that the squeaky wheel got the oil, but knowing I'd rather fall off the fucking wagon than make a sound.

Gould is such a layered and complex character that I couldn't stop myself from dissecting him. The way he clings to Hal's memory and the hallucinations of him prove just how pervasive his grief is. Gould has zero coping skills. He externalizes nothing. He verbalizes less than nothing. And trying to cope with grief in solitude can fuck you up. And he is. He is still so fucked up over Hal's death that's it's crippling him.

Often in the series I've thought Hal was kind of a dick and I half wonder if maybe he didn't commit suicide on that bench which... *sigh* never mind. I briefly wondered why Gould continues to hang on to him. But since when do we fall in love with the "right" person? Love is messy and sometimes ugly. Sometimes we fall in love with the "wrong" person. How much Gould still loves him is palpable.

His form of coping is to retreat inside himself, creating elaborate scenarios so he can drop out, but it's a prison and he really REALLY needs someone to come in there and find him. Make it stop since he can't ask for help or flat out refuses it. So he keeps asking for more, more humiliation, more degradation, more dehumanization to find the quiet, and I have to tell you this was hard for me. It is so not my kink. I've read a couple dehumanization/objectification things and I always come back to why? Why would someone want that? There are too many psychological landmines to enter into that sort of scene without having a wealth of information.

I found myself frustrated with Kel for not asking why, for trusting Gould to be truthful and honest without him having set a precedent for that and I found myself frustrated with Gould for not saying anything and not safing out. Then the watershed moment happened.

People make mistakes.

Mistakes are made every single day and most of the time it really will be OK. Sure, it might suck for a time, but this too shall pass and all that. I know I've learned far more from my mistakes than I've ever learned from by successes. And I think that's the brilliance of this series-all of these people have been portrayed as human and fallible, even the dominants which is a rarity in a BDSM romance read.

For me, submission wasn't a game, wasn't temporary, wasn't some bonus facet of my identity. It was the way I kept a promise alive, it was the way I let myself need. It was my voice.

With the love and support of his friends and lovers, persistence and bravery, encouragement to seek professional help for his grief and a couple of colossal missteps something really profound and significant forms in the aftermath which was very gratifying to read.

Would I recommend this to everyone? No. It's brutal at times and I can completely understand people not enjoying it because it is a 180º departure from the lightheartedness of the rest of the series. Gould's self image issues are severe and watching him denigrate himself repeatedly was difficult. There are bubbles of levity mostly provided by Kamen. *heart eyes* And Greg, who by the way, reminds both Gould and myself of Kamen. I am just saying! And, in all seriousness, if J.A. were to decide to write some short stories like "Rymen goes to Triple B" or "Kamen goes to Petco" or "Grillin' with Kamen" or really anything I would read it. True story.

I should also point out that while this is a ménage story both Gould and Greg love and worship Kel far more than each other. Greg and Gould do love each other, but Greg prefers to identify as heteroflexible. They actually have a wonderfully frank discussion about race, religion, gender identity, expectations and sexual politics that is authentic without being heavy or stilted. The romance aspect is not as strong in 24/7 as the others. I'd say it's far more about Gould's internal battle against his own psyche than anything else, but I still found myself believing that he'd found something worthwhile with Kel and Greg at the end.

Would I read this again? I honestly don't know. Not any time soon, I'll tell you that. If you haven't already figured it out I couldn't say that I "enjoyed" this book, but J.A.'s crafting of this story affected me in unexpected ways. It wasn't easy but it is a story that will stick with me for a long long time and for that I can't give it any less than 5 Hearts.

As always, your mileage may vary.

An ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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