In the beginning, it was all about finding sexual gratification through giving/receiving pain. I'm in my 40's, been married for 22 years, and have two kids. I'm not a prude by any stretch of the imagination, but I found it incredibly hard to understand, much less appreciate, such an intense need for pain. Somewhere along the way though, I started hurting for Rase. And that is where the book turned around for me....the moment I understood his pain.
Rase is rich and powerful, yet incredibly broken. He has become the person his father wanted him to be at the cost of hiding who he is for 20 years. After his first couple of encounters with Gabriel, he realizes he can't hide any more and the metamorphosis begins. Unfortunately, Gabriel is untrusting, passes judgment quickly and moves on. Rase is left confused, frustrated, and really just a shell of a man. This is the point where the book changed for me. And honestly, as a reader, once I became emotionally attached, the scenes no longer felt as "out there" although still brutal.
My only complaint is that I wish I had been able to get to know Gabriel better. I found no real attachment to him outside of his relationship with Rase. He remained an enigma of sorts. I was never really able to figure him out. I loved the ending though and being able to see the bits of romance and affection. Thanks for the recommendation, Bree!