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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 willful 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.


BOOK REVIEW: The Dark Duet

C.J. Roberts

BOOK SERIES: 

RATING:

“I wasn’t born a monster, Livvie.”

This is not a fairy tale. This is not a horror story either. This is an atypical love story born out of an unimaginable nightmare and held together by all that is positive in a human soul. You’ll be shocked, saddened, nauseated at times, revolted by the apparent cruelty that can mar a human heart, but you’ll also learn to find unexpected beauty in the most horrific of situations, to hold onto slivers of hope when none appear to exist. This is a story that will challenge every single preconception you might have about what constitutes love. And then slowly redefine it.

A girl is kidnapped. Taken far away from her home. Held captive in a dark room with no hope of escape. She is treated as an object, degraded, debased, held in a constant state of fear and anxiety. Her body is used, abused and treated as no longer her own to command. Her captor wishes to break her emotionally, make her inherently obedient and malleable to his every whim. But her captor is no ordinary monster. He was an abused child himself, hungry for vengeance and wishing to use his captive as a means to that very end.

“There was only one obstacle remaining between him and vengeance. The last true test of his soullessness – willfully stripping someone of their freedom.”

Caleb is a monster in every possible way, his actions make our skin crawl and make us wish we could punch his face repeatedly, but the more we learn about him, the more human he becomes in our eyes and the less of a monster. We begin to understand his motivations, sympathise with them, find justification for his actions, but we still hate him for every single thing he does to our heroine.

“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.”

Livvie is perhaps one of the most exceptional and surprising female characters I have ever encountered. She is presented with every woman’s worse nightmare, but instead of allowing it to break her, shatter her inner strength and make her lose the will to live, it somehow only makes her stronger. While being a frightened and resigned young girl in her previous life, adversity only seems to awaken the brave woman in her, the woman that never allows her captor to change who she is. She fights him, defies him, shows bouts of obedience and willingness to comply with his orders, but they are always short-lived. She is a young woman starving to be loved, who was never shown real affection by those who were meant to love her unconditionally, but who somehow has an endless capacity to love. She can always see the goodness in those around her, even when it is disguised under the mask of a monster, and that is why she can see the man that Caleb is and should be rather than the one that he presents himself as being.

“I was always seeking shelter in the people who hurt me the most. My mother. My father. Caleb. Like a battered dog begging for love from a malicious master. It was all I knew.”

What comes most unexpectedly in this story is the mutual bond that is created between Caleb and Livvie. While it initially appears as a classic case of Stockholm syndrome, where Livvie starts perceiving moments of lack of abuse from Caleb as acts of kindness, and bonds with him as an innate response to the trauma in becoming a victim, their relationship slowly becomes not so easy to define. Born out of ugliness, a unique bond is forged between them and it is completely bilateral. It’s a bond that should not be. A bond that scares us, makes us uneasy, but it also manages to arouse us, stir the romantic in us, make us hope that something beautiful could be born out of such utter evil. The more the story develops, the more their bond grows and becomes unbreakable. These characters are stripped to their barest, most primal qualities; they fall in love with each other in the dark, when nothing else around them is visible or present. They fall in love by choice and they allow it to happen knowing all the odds are against them.

“In the dark, my master let down his guard and he was Caleb again. He didn’t correct me. He didn’t punish me. He didn’t push me away emotionally. Caleb was there to hold me until the nightmares passed. He was there to tell me I was beautiful. He was there to tell me I was going to be okay. In the dark, he seduced me. I didn’t want the seduction to end.”

While this story is unique in its own right, it is not the story itself that makes it so overwhelmingly incredible. It’s genius rests entirely in the effect it has on the reader. Ms Roberts took a monstrous act of violence against a helpless human being and somehow turned it into one of the most beautiful romances I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Just as Livvie fights against her own feelings towards her captor, we fight against our own, unable to reconcile what our brain is telling us to think and what our heart is making us feel. The more the story unfolds, the further redemption seems like a valid and credible outcome. But we keep hoping – our brain tells us that we shouldn’t, mustn’t, and yet we do, wholeheartedly. The hero tortures our beloved heroine and we keep hoping. He shows her no mercy and we keep hoping. He suddenly shows a hint of humanity and we want to have his babies. The author manages to manipulate our emotions so skilfully that once we reach the end of this journey, she has us exactly where she wants us – gasping for air, with a brain that is so confused that it does not know what to believe in anymore, but with a heart that has somehow grown twice in size from all the intense emotions that are twirling inside it.

“This isn’t a romance. You’re not a damsel in distress and I’m not the handsome prince come to save you.”

This story addresses the unresolvable question of whether monsters are born or made, and whether cruelty justifies further cruelty. Are certain aspects of a person’s personality entrenched in them from birth or are they learnt? We are given a hero that is in equal parts monster and victim. We learn his story and our heart breaks for him, but we struggle to justify his actions towards the heroine in light of his horrific past. And yet we want to do so, desperately. You will walk out from these books shaken to the core – this is a story that you’ll become incredibly protective of and so very grateful to have read it. Its pace will tear at your heart, its themes will leave you distraught, shell-shocked, slightly traumatised, but its greatness will leave you speechless for days. Epic does not even begin to describe the story of Livvie and Caleb.

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“During the course of our time together, I’d fallen in love with my captor. I’d fallen in love with his smell and his taste; his smile, kindness, and yes, even his cruelty because I knew it was a part of him.”

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The Dark Duet - Recommended Reading Order

Natasha

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18 Comments Hide Comments

Amazing review as always! You’ve made me want to read it!!
The whole slavery thing reminds me of Sempre… A book that I LOVE! I’m sure this one is very different, but apparently worth reading and suffering for!

This is one of the best book reviews I have ever read and I have been following yours for a while!! You captured everything I felt as I was reading the series. You described the story perfectly!! I don’t see how anyone wouldn’t want to read this series after reading this review!

Great review. I have been so nervous about reading these books but your post makes me want to start them ASAP! Congrats you got me to put on my big girl panties! Lol (:

Have a great weekend!

I’m not entering the giveaway but I had to comment on this post. I read both of these books along with the Epilogue. I was addicted (still am). I loved them!!! I even recommended them to several friends letting them know it was my favorite disturbing book addiction. The story of Livvie and Caleb is one that I will have to re-read again…and maybe again….

That review has me speechless! All I can say is, WOW! Natasha, you are great at what you do! Thank you for sharing your amazing insight and helping us to see why we should give a book with a topic that isn’t palatable to most a chance. Truly Amazing Review! Great job Natasha!!!

These books are incredible, i love the strong emotions throughout both books. Books like this are my secret love, dark, emotional, psycological and twisted but still with romance inside. If you haven’t already you should read Consequences and Truth by Aleatha Romig, i read them very recently and they are great :)

Whatever you do, don’t stop reading this duet! I made it through the first book fairly well. The one beating with the belt was a little raw for me and way out of my comfort zone but it was brief and I gritted my teeth and kept going. Then the second book comes along and is almost more than I can take about midway through. I almost put it down and gave in. Just too much for my “Beaver Cleaver” upbringing to take. His willingness to go ahead and sell her into sexual slavery after seemingly caring for her was bad enough but the basement scene and the party were just almost more than I could take! Again, with gritted teeth, I made myself soldier on. Can’t tell you how glad I am that I finished and how much I am looking forward to the upcoming epilogue from Caleb’s POV. This book is gut wrenching, gripping, and terrifying. And it’s all of those things because it is SO real. My husband spent 22 years in law enforcement less than 100 miles from the Mexican border………..this really happens folks……..this book is so close to the real thing it’s scarey!! I was so afraid CJ was just going to let Livvie’s escape back to the US be the salve for the open wounds this book caused me and had that been the case, I would have been devastated. By the end, I was craving some kind of love and comfort and she did an excellent job of providing that. Excellent read……….but put your “big girl” panties on…..your gonna need ’em.

I can’t agree more with Pf (above). Natasha how and where do you find all these amazing books??? I’m in love with Caleb and Livvie!! Please don’t quit this job!!! Thank you!

Lucky me! I saw that this series is one of your all-time favorites on Goodreads, and voilà — I just downloaded it FOR FREE on iBooks! What’s up with all these free faves??? (Maybe I should stop asking and just read … ) I’ll admit, based on your review, I’m fearful of what I’ll find here in the dark, but because I trust you — Natasha is our HEA North Star! — I’m opening the door and wandering in …

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