I have a confession to make.
I was so worried that there wouldn't be a HEA that I read the end first.
Then, once I knew the answer, I flipped to halfway through and read to the end, and then once that was done, I flipped back to the beginning.
I know, I know. I shouldna' done that, but I actually found it intriguing, seeing how Jeff Mann manipulated the writing to make each subsequent action plausible.
I noted one review condemned the story because of the POV's cowardice.
To understand that, it helps to have read Jeff's other works, both his fiction and his essays to gain an understanding of his fascination with the South and his championing of their cause in the Civil War and to appreciate his love for the methods they used back then to punish their captives. Methods he has applied in his own BDSM sessions (or at least dreamed of using)
The final reason I accepted the POV characters actions (not condoned or excused) was the size factor. He was a small man, an individual who could have rebelled sooner but that would have brought into question all his actions and motives to date. Loyalty to a cause, loyalty to a lost brother, loyalty to a family member who had saved his life on a number of occasions is not easy to fight, especially when underneath the love he feels for another man are all the feelings that this love is "wrong" and sinful.
I felt that any quicker determination to buck the system would have been unbelievable. Yeah, the story would have been shorter, but all too convenient.
It is a tribute to Mann's writing, that once again I coped with the present tense, and enjoyed a story which on the surface shouldn't have appealed to me. A master storyteller and wonderful writer.