If you haven’t already, you should dash over to my review of Darkening, the first book in Ashe Barker’s trilogy. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Clicking the link opens a new window, so you won’t lose your place here.
Finished? Wonderful, welcome back!
Now, let’s talk about Darker, the second book in the trilogy. Holy freaking balls of painful ass-whipping fire, Batman. I loved it.
Shall we deconstruct the why with my favorite form of how-do-I-love-thee? Yes, lets.
Get ready to turn on the air con. Ms. Barker ratcheted up the heat factor in Darker. We’ve got caning, spanking, bondage, sex toys, masturbation, blow jobs, bondage, anal play, bondage, and anal sex. Oh, and did I mention bondage? Even with Nathan’s version of “just gentle sex,” there’s bondage. And *this* reader couldn’t get enough.
The first book ended on a cliff hanger. If you haven’t read it, you’ll want to before you read Darker. This isn’t a standalone. This book begins with…
***Spoiler alert*** : She’s okay.
I mean, sort of okay. Her ass is on fire. She’s pissed at him, he’s pissed at her, and they have a rip-roaring fight and Nathan tries to break up with her because she wouldn’t use her safeword and can I just say Ms. Barker is talented as fuck at writing?
I wanted to throw my e-reader across the floor in frustration.
Why wouldn’t Eva just *talk* to him?
Of course because Eva is sharing with us little bits and pieces of her life, the way people actually do in the real world, we build our picture of her a frame at a time. And every time you think you understand her? Every time you think you have her pegged?
A new layer is revealed.
Sometimes I felt bad for Nathan Darke. He just wanted a subbie with spirit who’d let him spank her ass and, well, Eva tries but she’s not really cut out for the hard stuff.
One of the reasons I wanted to yell at my e-reader? Nathan keeps going straight to the hard stuff.
And, I mean, I get that the cane is his fave spanking implement, and he’s got the raving hots for her. And Eva, well, for such a smart cookie she doesn’t. say. no. to. any-fucking-thing. She just keeps saying sure, okay, let’s try that. Spank my ass until I pass out.
But she’s a little bitty thing with asthma who never even let anyone touch her until Nathan got her panties in a twist.
And he’s a Dom. He’s had lots of subs. He should have known to warm her up with his hand, or a lovely soft flogger, or even a crop with that sweet little spanking tongue on the end.
That right there – that human, messed-up interaction – that’s one of the reasons I loved this book so much. So often, literary Doms are portrayed as perfect sex gods who know exactly what to do with a sub.
Doms are humans. They fuck up. Nathan is very human. He has faults, like a quick temper and jumping to conclusions. And when he screws up, he admits it, then goes overboard buying lovely prezzies and lavishing her with multiple Os.
I also loved that he pried secrets out of Eva, cracking open that tough oyster shell and not letting her hide her past. He’s protective of his daughter, and their angstiest moments are those times he thinks Eva might not be a good influence for her.
That’s something else I loved about this book. Eva and Nathan have to build their budding relationship in front of his daughter…
Oh, oops! Did I say the “R” word? Yeah, I know in the last review I said this wasn’t a sweet romance, it was all about the sexual awakening. That’s top of the list here, too, but they’re realizing that each may be something special for the other. So, even though we still don’t have hearts and flowers, we can’t help but make encouraging clucking noises toward them. “Come on, that’s a good boy, sidle closer, isn’t she cute?”
And now back to Rosie. Nathan is all about acting appropriately vanilla in front of the kid. Which makes the heat RISE UP and combust when they catch a few mos alone. That scene in her bedroom, ohhhh. Loved it. And that time in the barn? <pant, pant>
Ms. Barker, you did it again. You crafted a book I love, with characters I love, and a plot I love. And you ended it on another cliff-hanger, you sneaky woman.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys quirky, smart female characters, Doms who spank hard and deliver tender after-care with lots of Os, gorgeous settings, great dialogue, and incredibly hot non-vanilla sex. It ends on a cliff-hanger but book 3 is already out, and thanks to a bit of judicious negotiation…Just kidding. I begged. Totally Bound kindly provided complimentary copies of book 2 and 3, in return for an honest review. Now I’m off like a swift winged thing to read Darkest. Stay tuned, my peeps.