Seduced in the Dark (The Dark Duet – book #2)
An incredible, well-paced sequel to book #1 (Captive in the Dark), and sorely needed. In fact, I think it made book #1 that much better. If you haven’t read the first one yet, avoid this review for now. These are very “dark” reads, so I suggest reading my review of book #1 to get a feel for it. As I was discussing these (and especially this one) with a friend, I described them pretty much like this:
“… these are not romance novels, but more like psychological thrillers (horror?) with a huge focus on evolving emotions, and heartrending situations…”
And love? Well, If you decide to dive in, I’ll let you decide. 😉
At first I was slightly disarmed by the change of pace. While it’s still a “dark” read, it feels almost more human, and more like watching a movie with multiple characters. Olivia describes her experience, in detail (and I mean detail!) but there are others there with her, listening to it, and multiple perspectives as the different characters come to life and propel the story forward.
I think it was perhaps easier to read, in the long run. Don’t get me wrong, there are still moments of absolute horror (in terms of the slave trade and many detailed events). Moments of utter humiliation, pain and times where I absolutely remembered why I first hesitated recommending book #1 way back when I read it.
Moments where I… yes… *felt* for Caleb, and… I dunno. Innately? (somewhere on a more primal level and deep inside of me) understood or maybe just felt, albeit reluctantly, her attraction and affection for him. At times Caleb is… human.
“What happened?” The whisper was so soft, Caleb might have missed it if he didn’t know it was coming.
“F%&ked up childhood,” he said tonelessly.
Livvie’s breath skated across his skin. She kissed his scars.
You can see him open up, temporarily (<—key word) let go of his monster persona and really connect to her. And in turn, we connect to him.
She kisses my scars and I create new ones for her.
And there are just as many moments where Caleb is a monster. Degrading, heartless, abusive. After all, he is a “Master” training people to become actual slaves for a human trafficking ring, soooo…. you know. Goal-oriented on revenge at any cost. Mind over heart – always. Control over submission. But of course! It’s why he kidnapped Livvie in the first place.
And each time I encountered that Caleb in this book, I was abashed at my previous inclination towards him. Inclination? Okay let’s call it what it was. My developing (albeit slightly squashed) crush on him. Because yes, sometimes, even though my mind rebelled at the thought, my emotional side still wanted him to be good. Still wanted to recognize his potential, and give me a real reason for my darned crush in the first place. I always held on to hope. And this author is really good at… no she’s GREAT at causing the reader to internally struggle with their feelings of loving and hating the hero/villain. Because he’s one and the same.
He had told her he wasn’t her Prince Charming, but what he hadn’t said, was he wished he could be. Once upon a time, he may have been… normal.
I’m telling you. At certain times, I was so upset and disgusted by the situation, by him, by his “people” (ugghhh you guys, really… they are mostly just evil! EVIL!). I was physically affected and thoroughly ticked off that I even contemplated liking Caleb, because deep down, I would think to myself… “there was NOTHING about him to like!” Stop crushing!!!
He had to stop being soft with her. He had to make her tough, make her hard, and he knew better than most how the coldness of reality would sober any wide-eyed hopeful.
Ohhh the lessons she had to learn, and the reasons she had to learn them. At 13% I made a note that just said “Oh wow!”. Usually “wow” is a good note, but in this one, it was more of a realization. I got it. *discouraged sigh* Often, in the book, THAT was where I was at. Mad at the book, mad at myself, mad as I envisioned the women (and there is a degraded male, too).
If I let my mind go there, if I “saw” what was happening and let it sink in properly (and I did, many times), I was… appalled. No that doesn’t come close to conveying how I felt. There are no words. Vehemently ashamed, heartbroken, incensed and embarrassed that humans can treat other humans that way. To sit there and envision it, soak in it… an eye-opener.
I mean we get our reading thrills (and even some get the real thing) by the BDSM club books, the “alternative romance genre (even for those who don’t subscribe to the lifestyle) well… the dynamic between the Master/sub relationship can be just so fun and exciting to read about!
But this is so different. There are no safe words here. There is no choice, no perfect D/s match that come together out of need, and want and love.
And even though Caleb occasionally (often) shows a human side, there were many times that I truly TRULY didn’t care an ounce for him. I was adamant and angry, and a bit disappointed in myself for thinking of him as redeemable, and for allowing myself to soften that way. I even noted, as I was reading this that I couldn’t care less about his character, and whatever happens to him, happens.
And then, there I was… back there again, where I didn’t want to be. Because Caleb’s “human” side is a huge part of this story. He is two characters, and there is as much (maybe even more) “good-Caleb” as there is “bad-Caleb” to experience. ‘Cause he’s struggling, too. No matter how much you want to hate him…. *shakes head*. And there I was… Stockholm-syndrome-ing away. Hoping. *shrug* UGH!!! What was wrong with me?! heheheheh
“I’ve been doing this a long time – manipulating people to get my way. That’s why you think you love me. Because I’ve broken you down and built you back up to believe it. It wasn’t an accident. Once you leave this behind… you’ll see that.”
Such a great ride. At times, a bit slow, as you get involved in one part of the story and are ripped away for another part. Another perspective, and you’ll find yourself going… “Nooo I wanna know more!!”, but overall, I actually appreciated that. Playing out every situation. The different viewpoints, the investigation, the puzzle that is Caleb, the mystery of this trafficking ring and it’s players that have such a hold on Caleb, turns this into a book that reads like a movie. Every scene, every detail, every conversation, plays out perfectly in your head. As I re-read the bad parts, I hate him!!! As I re-read the good parts…. well you know. Don’t make me say it.
Okay so what’s this one about? I’m keeping it short and sweet because if you enjoyed the first book, (even reluctantly), you’ll need this one. Absolutely. And I want you to experience this in all of it’s complexity, and enjoy the surprises along the way.
Olivia is now in the hospital, healing from her physical woulds, and struggling to heal from her mental torture. She is anguished. Suffering deeply (and you’ll feel it) from Stockholm Syndrome, she is alone without her Master, and practically dying inside.
Nothing really matters. She asks me my name as though her kindness and gentleness will move me to speak. I never answer. I never eat.
My name is Kitten and my master is gone. What could possibly be more important?
Unfortunately, she is under investigation for her part in the murders/crazy stuff that happened at the end of book #1 (that whole Mexican border standoff etc etc..). But considering she was kidnapped, they see the potential to a whole other side of her story, and assign her a therapist. And as she recounts her story to the therapist and FBI, we relive it with her, through her heart and mind, and through their eyes.
Do things come full circle? Do we finally get to “understand” this whole crazy thing? Is there a reason? Does anyone heal? Does anyone get what they deserve or what they don’t deserve (depending on how you look at it)? Do we get relief? An HEA?
I’ll never tell. 😛
Just know that I think it was an exhilarating (albeit somewhat exhausting) reading experience and I LOVED it. And… I appreciated it even more once I was done. I felt mostly… complete. Crazy right? Ahhh but sometimes, it just is what it is. It was rich, well rounded, uncomfortable, exciting and scary (in multiple ways). Emotionally affecting. I lived it, I didn’t just read it, although I was VERY happy to be on this side of the book. *phew* I may enjoy the fictional thrill and I may like it crazy at times, but I’m very content on the “safe” side of life.
haha! Look at that. ↑ I just spent a huge part of the review arguing with myself over Caleb. I wonder which side of me wins? 😉
4.5 stars (maybe even 5 stars). You know me, it takes me a few days to mull it over and absorb it to make a final decision.
P.S. the author sent me a copy for an honest review! Thank you C.J. I was looking forward to it, and even though I didn’t know where it could go, where it would go, it went where it needed to, and I loved it.
Oh and, I know that you call this a “dark duet” and said it would only be two books, but you know… C.J.? There could totally be a third book. *hint hint*. Just sayin’ (and asking) hehe.