The Dark Duet Review

The Dark Duet series, C.J. Roberts

He was my tormentor and my solace;
The creator of the dark and the light within.

This one is a very very dark story. It took me a long time to decide how and what to write.

I can definitely say that it left me emotionally disturbed for a while, due to my strong feelings and shocked reactions, both during and after reading it.

The Dark Duet series includes 3 books — Captive in the Dark, Seduced in the Dark, and Epilogue — and is tagged as a BDSM/erotic romance. OH GOD! It is so much more than that!!!

Very few books play with the mind the way these books do. BDSM is not really my style, and I never considered it more than a diversion created to get us girls off. The lure of violence, humiliation, and pain did not entice me to read this series, because these do not titillate or in any way entertain me. Nevertheless, I found myself captivated and seduced in the darkness of my living room (forgot to turn on the lights, I was so absorbed!), imploring my Kindle batteries to hold out a little longer so I could remain completely and utterly immersed in the bizarre world to which I’d been transported. Alas, they left me hanging with a frantic message about going into a temporary coma from overuse. (Maybe Kindle needed some time to contemplate these books, too.)

Please continue to read at your own risk after the jump. There are a few unavoidable spoilers ahead that I couldn’t do without.

First, I’d like to share with you my take on a few general guidelines about the structure of romance and chick lit stories. They ALL are based on a fundamental and simple recipe:
  1. A good girl and a bad boy meet.
  2. There is an undeniable attraction that goes both ways. The good girl usually denies it, the bad boy states his intentions very crudely, if he admits them at all.
  3. The good girl tries to stay away.
  4. They meet again a few times by coincidence or not, he stalks her, she stalks him with what she believes is a reason that is not connected to the twist in her panties, but they meet every two chapters or so without fail to keep us panting.
  5. Those meetings must be charged with attraction, venom, lust, and confusion growing for both parties.
  6. Thoughts are flowing into the mix, revealing the anxiety of both parties, something along the lines of: “I felt my resolve washing away at his/her words but what would I be if I give in to my emotions? I stared at him/her trying to appear nonchalant when I said – ‘leave me alone. You know nothing about my world or me so just stay away from me’.”
  7. A desperate try at moving away (sleeping or being seen with someone else), causing distrust, jealousy, and eventually begging (the bad boy), or sobbing uncontrollably (bad boy again?), or both.
  8. Time goes by, epiphany is found while separated: “I realized that I fell deeply, totally and idiotically in love with him/her”.
  9. Accidental or not-so-accidental meeting after what seems like forever, kissing, hot sex, love declarations, tears, followed by some friendly or motherly hugs and comforts (good girl practicing for eventual nesting).
  10. Happily ever after or not, depending on popularity. If the book is very popular, prepare sequel and start the process again from either the bad boy’s POV or from point # 6.

Dark Duet has the same story line basically, but this is where the plot diverges from the predictable romance and chick lit fare.

Stockholm syndrome is something almost everyone has heard about, and even though not all of us are psychologists or experts of the human behavior, we can all understand why a captive might feel attached/attracted to the captor. We humans are social animals: we need the touch, voice, care, sympathy, and approval of our fellow men and women constantly, and we are driven by emotions from birth to death. It is very easy to understand how a young woman, still a girl really, finds herself developing feelings for her captor.

The first book in the series, Captive in the Dark introduces us to Caleb and Livvie. Caleb kidnapped Livvie to train her as a pleasure slave and sell her to the highest bidder, that is his profession. But he also has revenge on his mind, a plan he dedicates his life to.

Olivia, or Livvie, is a young woman, quiet and demure, poor and beautiful, but nonetheless a survivor!
Could she sense her life as she knew it hanging precariously in the balance? Could she feel his eyes on her? Did she have a sixth sense for monsters? The thought of it made him smile.

While being alone with her for a long period of time, Caleb starts to question his own motives and feelings toward the whole revenge plan, and this is exactly where Livvie and we, the readers, start to develop a strong case of Stockholm syndrome. Suddenly I found myself trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. Suddenly I started justifying his motives. Soon after, I started to see his actions from Livvie’s point of view, and found myself desperately trying to convince myself that being spanked or whipped or anally raped is not so horrible.

Actually, this is exactly what Livvie does and is part of the reason I just love her. She gives in to Caleb’s demands and commands because she does not have a choice, but both of them know that she never gives him her mind. He could never control her completely, and even the submission he gets from her is temporary as she keeps calling him by name, trying to kiss him, and ever plotting to seduce him in order to make him fall in love with her.

Well, sorry pet, I don’t want to be fixed. Whatever your little schoolgirl brain told you about men is absurdly wrong. This isn’t a romance. You’re not a damsel-in-distress and I’m not the handsome prince come to save you.

More than once she deceives herself as to her situation or the humiliation she suffers by what Caleb is doing to her. She is aware of the situation all the time. She is one of the very rare heroines I’ve met who is not only believable and strong, but actually makes me understand everything she does to survive.

While Livvie has no idea why Caleb is doing this to her and what he plans for her future, she is well aware of the need to survive and keeps a realistic perspective on her situation. The most important thing for her survival is to get to know Caleb and understand what makes him tick, and she does that remarkably well.
I told him I was sorry. He sighed and held me closer, his lips against the shell of my ear, "You will be, Kitten." 

Caleb, on the other hand, knows that he needs to train her, to subdue her, and to get his revenge, but his actions lack understanding; he simply follows orders without questioning the motives behind them. Thus he is vulnerable to Livvie in a way he does not understand or admit until it is too late. All the former women he abducted were meant to be sold as slaves, and he was content with that lifestyle because of his horrific upbringing. But the more he gets to know Livvie, selling her to a person he considers to be the devil himself starts to gnaw on his nerves.

For an experienced woman who had known love or affection in a relationship of equals, this could easily be the first step into madness, as happens to a woman named Nancy at some point in the story. The concept of one’s wants, needs, and freedom goes very deep, and the lack of them creates a feeling of humiliation that is the first step toward losing one’s self. For Livvie though, as hard as it is, it’s her first sexual experience. Her survival instinct, combined with her lack of experience and her basic attraction to Caleb, saves not only her life but her soul.

The further I read, the deeper I got into the story, living inside Livvie’s head and going through the motions and emotions with her as well as the physical pain and torture she endured.

The cracks in Caleb’s emotional defenses are very small initially, but as the plot thickens they grow bigger. The thing is, Caleb notices the changes in his emotions and attitude, but so does Livvie. She never misses a blink, hesitation, hint of compassion, or crack in resolve, and she never hesitates to exploit them to her advantage.
I was as real to him as he was to me and it struck me just then that I meant something to him. In whatever capacity he was able, I meant something. The irony of that epiphany made my gut twist. 

So we have a bad boy who knows the girl’s body through and through but not her mind, and a good girl who sees his soul equally naked.

The situation goes from bad to unimaginably horrible in the second book, Seduced in the Dark. Caleb and Livvie are no longer alone; they’re in a secluded house with many people. By then Caleb is aware of his feeling toward her, but too weak to act upon them or resist the orders he receives, and some of the things he does are plainly horrific. But:
  1. The cracks in Caleb’s soul became cracks in my own soul as I found myself, along with Livvie, trying to understand him. It made him less a monster and more a man. It made me cringe with disgust at my own gullibility more than once, as I found myself thinking that there must be a good explanation to his actions because I felt compassion toward him.
  2. I started thinking like a survivor in the same way Livvie did, reasoning in my head that: Hey! They are all perverts here so the humiliation is not as terrible as it would be in a crowd of normal people.
  3. Being led around by a chain attached to the nipples and forced to endure and perform explicit, perverse, and often painful sexual acts while a bunch of dirtbags watch and cheer might be tolerable because of the last point, as well as for the chance to make Caleb jealous.

  4. The fact that during these scenes Livvie was able to think about making Caleb jealous so she could use that to her advantage made me understand her and admire her strength. My mind followed a very disturbing line of reasoning, and I was thinking: Yep! This is the right thing to do! Way to go, Livvie!
What mattered is I was different. The naive girl in me had been bitch-slapped into womanhood.

The Third book, Epilogue, is Caleb story, from his POV as if he is sitting with me and telling me everything, baring his soul.
I’m writing this because you begged. You know how I love the begging.

This is a journey to his past and future. It’s also about Livvie’s future; she has a journey of her own and I am so proud of her!
I know it’s odd between us. How could it not be? We don’t know each other in this world, but I’ve seen you at your worst, and what I know is that you’d do anything to protect me. That’s enough for now. The rest will come. 

As I read these books, I felt a kind of “resentment” towards the author and asked myself some troubling questions:
  • How could she do that to me?
  • How could she just take my “innocent” mind and play with it as if I were her slave?
  • Why do I keep reading? It is SO disturbing!
  • What is it about Caleb that makes me want to talk to him (while he is safely tied to a chair, of course) and wipe the sweat from his beautiful forehead after he whipped the hell out of me Livvie?
  • What does my understanding of the monster’s motives make me?
  • Am I weird or just abnormal?

One thing I knew for sure: “hate” the author or not, she must be a genius to write a confusing and infuriating mind game like this.

The games she played with my head were so thorough that, when I got to the third book, I never even questioned the logic and sanity of my captor (yep, not a mistake, by that time it was ME going through all this) — who raped me, whipped me, spanked me, and fucked other women (while I was on the same bed with them) — being my boyfriend.

In other words, a grown, experienced woman who knows love, affection, and normal relationships was reading the last book and wishing with all her brainwashed heart and mind that Caleb would get the girl and that there would be a happy ending to this.

Happy ending!?! The heroine was abducted by him, her first kiss was when he demanded it, and her abused backside looks like a chess board. She has never experienced normal sweet lovemaking and is conditioned (thanks to him) to think of spanking and being hanged upside down as a proof of love! What happy ending? The boyfriend material we are talking about gets off when a woman is on her knees begging and crying!

And still, I was wishing for a happy ending.

Suddenly, he is not a monster any more to me; he is a different man with a different name, he has a terrible past. He wants a different future (point # 7 in the list of chick lit conventions, above).

I am so pissed off and impressed it is actually mind boggling.

This is a story about evil and good, about choices in life. It’s about survival and the lengths to which people will go to endure. It is about the human nature, our strengths and weaknesses as human beings. It is also about love, in all colors and shapes.

If you are going to read this series, be warned: This book contains very disturbing situations, dubious consent, strong language, and graphic violence. It is also a  fanfuckingtastic, mind-blowing story!!!

This Wench rates the Dark Duet series...


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