15 June 2013

Stockholm Syndrome or Just Fracking Messed up?! Review: Captive in the Dark

Blast from the past review: Captive in the Dark (The Dark Duet #1) by CJ Roberts
What they say: Caleb is a man with a singular interest in revenge. Kidnapped as a young boy and sold into slavery by a power-hungry mobster, he has thought of nothing but vengeance. For twelve years he has immersed himself in the world of pleasure slaves searching for the one man he holds ultimately responsible. Finally, the architect of his suffering has emerged with a new identity, but not a new nature. If Caleb is to get close enough to strike, he must become the very thing he abhors and kidnap a beautiful girl to train her to be all that he once was.

Eighteen-year-old Olivia Ruiz has just woken up in a strange place. Blindfolded and bound, there is only a calm male voice to welcome her. His name is Caleb, though he demands to be called Master. Olivia is young, beautiful, naïve and wilful to a fault. She has a dark sensuality that cannot be hidden or denied, though she tries to accomplish both. Although she is frightened by the strong, sadistic, and arrogant man who holds her prisoner, what keeps Olivia awake in the dark is her unwelcome attraction to him.

WARNING: This book contains very disturbing situations, dubious consent, strong language, and graphic violence.
What I say: I should start this review by saying that even after two reads I still cannot decide whether I love or hate this book. It involves kidnap, dubious consent, violence (physical and sexual), extreme dominance and some other pretty horrific issues - so I should despise it, but in reality I don't. There are of course parts that made me angry, as well as sad and extremely confused, but others which were sweet and touching. I'm going to try to summarise the mind-frack that is Captive in the Dark...!

At it's core Captive in the Dark is a revenge story, but where as the Revenge TV show has Emily/Amanda running around the Hampton's messing with the mega rich, this book focuses on seeking revenge for murder, sexual abuse and slavery. Sounds fair enough, right? Well the hook is vengeance is sought by also using sexual slavery and sexual abuse. Does one justify the other? I think CJ Roberts is asking her readers to readdress the notion of good and bad or black and white (yep now I'm think 50 shades)!

The darkly beautiful 'monster', Caleb was faced with sexual abuse as a child. His hope for revenge (both his and that of his 'saviour', the scary and not yet present figure Rafiq) focuses on destroying the man they hold responsible. The plan is to use a pleasure slave to get close to him. Enter American teenager, Livvie. She will be one of the many girls Caleb will have trained. He abducts her with the plan to train her and sell as into sexual slavery (a beautiful American virgin is the ultimate sex slave prize apparently).

Caleb is cruel, dominant and abusive. He also has very controversial notions of consent, and is basically a predator who abducts Livvie and subjects her to his will. By his own admission Caleb is a messed up monster.

The main point I struggled with, was when Livvie 'Kitten' started to seek comfort from him. Caleb's holds her captive, being really sadistic and cruel, then offers her comfort (a Dom thing apparently). To me it was the ultimate example of a mind-fuck, where you end up depending on the person inflicting pain and suffering on you. 

At first I thought Livvie's reaction was an obvious example of the Stockholm Syndrome, but then I ended up asking - or is it?! The chapters told from Caleb's POV offer a confusing twist in the story; yes he needs Livvie for revenge, yes he's angry when she doesn't respect her 'Master', but at the same time he recognises he cares for her as more than as a trainee, but he doesn't understand feelings, nor does he want to.

As I was reading the book I found myself almost empathising with Caleb, but then wondering how far can a person's past be allowed to explain their actions? Roberts has been extremely clever, because, like Livvie, the reader is left wondering why she seeks comfort from him and asking why any of his horrific actions are justifiable.

Livvie is a strong character, who has suffered abuse in the form of neglect from an uncaring mother. I like how Caleb in unable to truly break her and she stands up to him, she never becomes a true submissive. In a strange way I even liked the love story element, although I can never fully understand those types of relationships.

It's not often we find ourselves empathising with the predator. Usually the monster is only a pretend baddie, but Caleb is extremely dark and has some major issues. I think a lot of people will find this book extremely unnerving and horrifying and rightly so. If you don't like reading stories with any sort of violence, abuse and BDSM then give this one a wide berth, but if you fancy a challenging, albeit a disturbingly different read, then give it a try. I'm reserving my final judgment on Caleb until I've read the entire series!!
At this stage (I've change my mind several times already) I'm giving Captive in the Dark
3.5 Stars in my Sky!
My fav non-spoilery quotes:
  • People often believed they were safer in the light, thinking monsters only came out at night. But safety – like light – is a façade.
  • A man wearing a white coat came into view and spoke. Mulder? I was in an episode of The X-Files. No, that didn't make sense. Scientist? Doctor? Madman with a scalpel?
  • Caleb was a strange person, cruel and inhuman; a monster, and yet, at other times, he seemed so capable of something like caring. He made me cry and scream and shake with fear and nearly a split second later he could make me almost believe he wasn't responsible for any of it. He could hold me and make me feel safe. How was that possible?
  • He was a handsome man, no one could deny that, so why? Why take women when he could obviously have them willingly? This was all very Kiss the Girls.

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