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Lay off the Virgins, Please
on January 6, 2016
This is a really difficult review for me, because while I found the story utterly repulsive, I had an inkling about what I was getting into when I downloaded the book. I was curious after I read all the five star reviews, wondering what was so great about a book with such a dark theme. I personally think it was a well written book. It was engaging, despite the distasteful subject matter and character development issues. I did keep reading on, which is a real credit to this book, the subject matter being what it is. I was not familiar with the dark erotica genre, and now I know it is not for me.
This book is written for people who have rape fantasies (or those who just have kinda offbeat taste in reading materials). I am not judging because fantasy is just that-not reality. No one would actually want this situation to happen to them in real life, I get that. For me, it was hard to read about rape presented as a fantasy come to life though. This book absolutely destroyed my libido for the whole time it took me to get through it. Obviously there are plenty of readers that derive sexual excitement from the fantasy of a rich, domineering man kidnapping them and forcing sex on them, but I am not one of those readers. The content of this book was extraordinarily creepy to me, but in for a penny, in for a pound.
I was perplexed by Nora's character throughout the book. In the beginning, I thought she had potential to be a tough lead and figure out a way to take Julien out or get off the island. But every time she would think, say, or act like a sane woman actually would in her situation, she backpedaled into passivity. There were so many completely unreasonable thoughts going through her brain and I really had to suspend disbelief. Julian rapes her, enjoys hurting her intentionally. She knows not to trust him. She recognizes the darkness in his eyes. But he's SO hot. Really? She finds out that he kidnapped her in the first place because she reminds him of someone from his past, physically. Instead of understanding that she is a husk to him, nothing more than a physical manifestation of someone else from the youth of this mentally damaged man, she thinks it's cute or sweet or something. She feels for him and comforts him. That part had me reeling. So while I found Nora to be an interesting character in some ways, I couldn't help but to be disappointed in her lack of critical thought overall, and how quickly she decides to abandon all thought of rescuing herself somehow. Her parents and friends are barely mentioned. She doesn't seem to think about them much while she is on the tropical island with her totally psycho hunk of a master.
I'm no expert, but I can't help but to think that Stockholm Syndrome must progress in a different way than it was presented here. Ignoring pain and rape because the perp is attractive doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I could see if the kidnapper was unusually kind and deliberately set out to gain sympathy from the victim, but just being good looking doesn't inspire loyalty or love. He had her date beat up while she watched and lorded his power to kill this boy over her to keep her in line! Why would she experience Stockholm Syndrome after that? Docking some points for disappointing and ineffectual heroine and implausibility of Stockholm Syndrome based solely on Hottie McHotpants' exterior.
I completely despised Beth's character in this story. She was my most hated character. This is a woman who has a troubled past. She was a mother of a daughter, and unfortunately had a lot of experience with bad sexual situations. And yet, she enables Julian to keep Nora penned up, totally stripped of her freedoms, and sexually and mentally abused, against her will. Her justification was that Nora doesn't know the meaning of having it bad in life. So she deserves to be a slave and a sex toy for a psychopath? Holy cow, I couldn't believe what I was reading! I thought she was way more evil than Julien could ever be. There was no redeeming this character for me. Heartless and cold, and absolutely devoid of morals or empathy. I am docking points here too with character development. I couldn't reconcile her past history with her actions. Beth was the very opposite of what I would expect her to be. Her attitude about this entire situation was so flippant, "But he is obsessed with you! Appreciate it, princess!" A woman who has had so many bad experiences with men that she doesn't want a man to touch her in any way, ever, should object when it comes to another young woman being subjected to sex and captivity against her will, IMO.
Julian was basically a flat character. I don't feel like I got to know him well. I was hoping for some more insight into his character, but there wasn't much development with him (the second book is partly from his POV from what I understand, so perhaps book 2 is where a reader will learn more about him). He's sick and twisted. The type of guy who takes what he wants instead of working for it. He faces danger every day and puts everyone close to him at risk because he likes the rush. Essentially, a narcissist, if you want to be kind. He's the absolute worst of the worst as far as possessing flawed character traits, and that doesn't change. Yes, we did get a sob story or two trying to explain away why he is such a basket case, but none of the background had me sympathizing with him at all. This is a man who thinks it's his right to have a sex slave that he can bend to his will without thought to anything but his own personal satisfaction, and that's about all the readers knows about him. Docking points for overlooking some backstory of this "hero".
The one thing that bothered me above all else in this book (the same major complaint I had about 50 Shades), is that the heroine is so young and inexperienced. As a reader, I find it cruel to use a barely 18 year old virgin in a story with this much sexual violence. It feels wrong to pair these naive girls up with predatory older men, and makes these stories even less palatable than they already are. It also enforces the gender stereotype that once a woman has been touched, she's ruined in some way. I'm sure my age and the fact that I have a daughter explain much of my distaste for the "abusing a young virgin" plot line, but really, beyond that, it's just pitiful and outdated that FEMALE writers use this lamb/lion trope over and over again, when it has been overdone since the age of the bodice rippers from the 70s and early 80s. I personally have had it with reading about these young victims! Where are the strong, confident women in these books? It's not an age thing, it's an attitude thing really. I don't care if they are 18 chronologically, but please give main female characters some backbone and mental fortitude!
This book is not for those readers looking for romance.
If violence and rape are triggers for you, please stay away.
If you enjoy rape fantasies and they turn you on, this is definitely a book for you.
If you liked FSOG, I imagine this would appeal to you.
I'd like to thank Anna Zaires for offering this book for free on Kindle to her readers.