Captive in the Dark - C.J. Roberts I picked up The Dark Duet worried for my “comfort zone.” The premise of a girl being kidnapped to be sold in the sex trade by a clearly damaged male with a nefarious revenge plan pushed my limits. A part of me didn’t want to like this book and another part said, “Read it. It has a four plus star rating.” But once I decided to jump down the rabbit hole to find that disturbed part of me that a book in this vein appeals to, I sprinted through both Captive in the Dark and it’s sequel, Seduced in the Dark, in a matter of three days.

So why does a book with this premise work? It certainly isn’t because of the forced sex trade setting - the fact that the author didn’t have to make up it’s existence and that numerable victims suffer in this illegal industry horrifies me. Tackling a love story between a barely legal girl and her assailant nearly had me pass on this book. And it certainly wasn’t the non and dubious consent warnings that accompany the publisher’s blurb. It was the fact that I am a sucker for stories that breed love from hate. Understanding from what lies at the core of a human and how relating to that core can make the difference in the connection. Fellow reviewers, the publisher and the author all promised I would witness this progression in The Dark Duet. And I did.

Livvie is a good girl. A pretty girl. A poor girl with a family, that we’ll say, doesn’t offer the “positive reinforcement” and unconditional love found in American families living behind a white picket fence. Livvie is young, naïve, unfulfilled, shaky on her self confidence and with an undefined sense of self, and most importantly - in need of acceptance and the desire to be loved. But Livvie isn’t a good girl who goes bad. Nor does being a good girl mean she is a weak girl. In her grapple for control over her own body, life and choices, Livvie discovers the hidden side to herself - which she refers to as “Ruthless Me.”

“Make him love you,” Ruthless Me whispered. “Make it so he can’t live without you. The Devil you know.”

In this disturbing tale of a girl who desires her captor to love her, the man who will sell her as a sex slave, she finds her strength and the part of herself that will orchestrate her escape, her fight, her survival - and perhaps the love that she desires deep down.

Caleb. Caleb is seriously damaged goods. Seriously damaged goods that drive this story. A veteran to the sex trade industry, who was also kidnapped and enslaved as a child, his situation and past torments garner sympathy - yet his character doesn’t. He is not particularly likeable, but you know there is more to him and he is intriguing enough that you want to find out, “Why is Caleb alluring?” The whole time you read, your fingers are crossed that you will find that the “more to him” will be relatable, an understanding on a human level will be found and his character will prove to be worthy of Livvie’s love. Despite being so arrogantly confident in his cause and abilities, he shares a lack of self worth with Livvie. He acts like a piece of scum. He believes himself to be such scum. But he doesn’t want to be. Roberts keeps the reader’s intrigue with Caleb by giving little glimpses of his desire to be Livvie’s knight in shining armor.

For the first time in recent memory, Caleb wanted something other than revenge. He wanted the girl. He wanted Livvie.

Caleb was stunned for a moment. What an interesting turn of events. Was he the hero of this scenario? He nearly smiled.

What Roberts does well in The Dark Duet, isn’t in presenting a twisted romance with some tawdry kink that is soaked in captivity and Stockholm Syndrome. Those dark elements are a dime a dozen, and though they might be the draw to the book, they won’t make it stand out. What makes it stand out is Roberts posing the question to the reader, “Are we complete products of our environment or is there something intrinsic to a human’s persona that will persevere when confronted?“ Is Livvie the good, pretty girl lacking in self esteem, who was profiled well by Caleb, who will meekly accept
being enslaved to be a game piece in a nefarious plot … or will “Ruthless Me” throw a wrench in the plans? Is Caleb so brainwashed from growing up in the sex trade, that who he could have been, who he is by nature, was foregone the day he was kidnapped himself? Whatever the case may be, it is clear that Caleb and Livvie are both captive in the dark to who they really are - and off to be seduced by who they might be.

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