Ashling, Mickie B. “Vessel”, Dreamspinner Press, 2011.
Facing Problems and Dealing with Them
Sloan Driscoll and Cole Fujiwara have been partners for five years and Cole wants them to have a child. He tells Sloan that either he agrees to surrogate birth or the relationship is over. Cole’s father has chosen beautiful Noriko Evans, a Japanese/American geisha, to carry the child. While this was going on, Sloan discovers that he has an admirer in Trent Hamilton, a model, who can give him a different choice in life.
Sloan thought that the idea of he and going having children was a moot issue and this new discussion is like having his stomach punched. Through genetic testing it was learned that Cole carries retinitis pigmenta, a disease which eventually leads to blindness but now there are treatments to reduce the threat. This is probably why the discussion of having a child has resurfaced. Then as Noriko makes an appearance and Sloan suddenly feels attracted to Trent and his S&M lifestyle especially because it is a world that he never considered thinking about. Sloan is faced with difficult decisions.
Cole and Sloan had been part of a beautiful relationship and Cole was always there for his partner. If you remember, we followed their lives together in “Cutting Cords” (which I cannot locate my review of) and saw how they came together first as roommates and then as lovers. Sloan was involved with drugs and he often cut himself as a way (he thought) of dealing with the problems that he faced. Cole, at the same time, knew that the problems with his eyes were going to cause him to lose his sight. He also has family issues and knows that his attraction to men was something his family would not easily accept.
Cole was neither able nor willing to accept himself as a gay man and he is a man of vacillating emotions. Sloan has problems with self-esteem and the two men, even with their own issues, complement each other and love develops between them. Sloan enters the world of male modeling and Cole accepts the fact that he will become blind.
“Vessel” begins some five years after Cole and Sloan have been together and Cole is blind and has a position in academia and really wants a child. Sloan has left cutting behind and has become a successful and popular male model and the two men are very happy until…Cole’s father finds a woman to carry his son’s child and Sloan finds himself out of the picture. The Cole we met in the previous book has changed and I am sure that his blindness has caused him to be quite bitter, impatient and unreasonable. He worries about losing Sloan and he really seems to be at loose ends.
Sloan, on the other hand, has matured and he learns that Cole has not always been honest with him and he walks—straight to Trent. Trent knew of Cole but that does not stop him and he begins to initiate Sloan into the world of S&M. The author has created in Trent a character that is unlikeable and sly and he is certainly not the savior that Sloan needs. I realized early on that I was not reading a love story but a dark look at the machinations of men. Ashling creates a different world here as we enter the mind of Sloan as a cutter and read about the changes he faces in life. Sloan is our narrator and we see everything from his point of view. Cole’s betrayals were painful for him and Sloan realizes that he must make some changes to the way he has been living.
I had no idea what to expect when I began to read and before I knew it, I felt a kinship with Sloan. I am sure that those who have been involved with partners that lie will feel the same. It is not easy to see Sloan deal with heartbreak and I was on his side the entire way. Sloan is a wonderfully drawn character and that is to the credit of the writer. So that we can identify with him, Ashling had to make the other characters appear as undesirable and this is done with beautiful prose. The story is not emotionally easy to read but it is rewarding. I certainly hope that there will be a sequel as I am not sure I want Sloan to continue living without my knowing what is going on in his life.