Before & After Book Review: The Dark Duet, #1, #2, #3 – C.J. Roberts

This is a Before & After review post where I share the thoughts I had in the past and have in the present regarding certain books.

 

`Captured In The Dark` (book #1), `Seduced In The Dark` (book #2), and the ever surprising `Epilogue: The Dark Duet (#3)… All written by the extraordinary CJ Roberts.

 

 

I think it would also be wise, especially in the sensible and fragile time we live in, to give you all a fair warning about these books. The Dark Duet is not for the faint of heart ( and that´s coming from someone who can stomach EVERYTHING with ease and is never offended or triggered ). You´re welcome to continue reading this review to find out why.

 


 

before and after


synopsis book 1

Captive In The Dark ( Dark Duet #1 )

captive

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.

 


My Thoughts 2

29 year old me was so confused after reading `Captive In The Dark` ( book #1 ) by CJ Roberts. For the first time in ages I was stunned speechless because I´ve never read such a complex story before.

I remember feeling confused for loving this story because there was nothing to love. The male lead is a sadistic asshole. The young female protagonist is a fighter and survivor. Both struggle with the need to make it through another day of pleasure and pain, of defeat and survival. It´s a game of breaking wills and revealing truths and… I was on such a reading high from all the shocking moments.

A young girl gets kidnapped and is whisked away by a guy who´s involved in the human trafficking business.  From then on it´s his mission to train the young girl to become a sex slave.

This isn´t one of those tacky Oh – spank – me reads. Not a Let´s – play – on – the – weekends story, either. `Captive In The Dark` is a well crafted romance that´s clearly been given many days / weeks / months of good thought before a word made contact with paper. There´s a good reason for the warning labels that state that there´s disturbing situations, dubious consent, graphic violence and strong language… This book is truly painful. Mentally and physically for the Heroine and just mentally painful for a reader.

Olivia´s ( Heroine ) thoughts were realistic. Even spot on for a young lady her age. The fear she felt, the humiliation and degradation… It was understandable until she began to fall for her captor. That was the part where my confusion popped up.

So, a Stockholm Syndrome romance. Gottcha. But then again.. this book wasn´t that at all. It was more warped. Like a walk on a blurred line between sanity and insanity. And it was perfect in a weird way.

That was how I thought 7 years ago.

Has my opinion changed since then? Now that a few years have passed, am I still in love and in shock?

Yes and no. I´m not in shock anymore but I´m still in love. `Captive In The Dark` might be one twisted piece of written art but I love it. It´s deep. It´s emotional. It´s horrible and glorious. It´s intense and captivating. It´s one of those reads where you have to take a break for a much needed deep breath, followed by a visit to the liquor cabinet because there´s no way to survive this story without something strong.

The Cover – 3 stars ( Not my cup of tea )

The Story – 5 stars ( Raw, sexually charged, satisfying in a horrific way. It´s a kinky battle of wills and a proper mind fuck)

7 years haven´t changed a thing. I loved this book back then and I still love it.

5 stars



 

synopsis book 2

Seduced In The Dark ( Dark Duet #2 )

secuded

The exciting, titillating, and action-filled conclusion to Captive in the Dark.

What is the price of redemption?

Rescued from sexual slavery by a mysterious Pakistani officer, Caleb carries the weight of a debt that must be paid in blood.

The road has been long and fraught with uncertainty, but for Caleb and Livvie, it’s all coming to an end.

Can he surrender the woman he loves for the sake of vengeance? 

Or will he make the ultimate sacrifice?

Quote: 
It seemed to Caleb, the nature of human beings revolved around one empirical truth: we want what we cannot have. For Eve, it was the fruit of the forbidden tree. For Caleb, it was Livvie


 

My Thoughts 2 And the story continues…. WITH A TIME LAPS!! So, technically, the story continues, just not where it left off. 29 year old me was very annoyed about the constant back and forth between present and past. I remember not liking how more characters, in both time frames, were introduced.

We meet Olivia again, only this time in a hospital without Caleb. She´s safe. She´s protected. And what´s worse… she´s going through an emotionally painful interrogation.

Caleb, the one person who Olivia hated and loved, wasn´t with her and that brought her to the brink of insanity.

Despite everything she went through ( namely, more painful humiliation and abuse ) Olivia wasn´t capable of letting Caleb go.

While I hated the time lapse I was so enthralled by the story. The unhealthy obsession Olivia developed was truly remarkable and unsettling, even after the added cruelty she dealt with.

In the end, I was just as damaged as the Heroine. I was also on my way to move all the alcohol in my kitchen to the livingroom because I didn´t have the strength to move after reading such a genius mind screw of a story.  A Stockholm syndrome story gone to the next level and I loved it.

Those were my thoughts then. Do I still feel the same after 7 years?

 

Yes. I do. I have the exact same thoughts and feelings as I had back then. Still don´t like stories with a time lapse. I still love this twisted and cleverly written dark romance. When you read book #1 you think things can´t possibly get worse for the Heroine. You think you´ll get a sloppy and sappy happily ever after at some point and all will live on cloud nr.9  for the rest of their undying days. Fortunately, that doesn´t happen. At least not in the sense a reader would think. There´s a satisfying twist to the story.  There´s no pink hearts and fluff. There´s a nice touch of reality that´ll still leave a smile on a reader´s face.

After all these years… The Dark Duet is still a sexy, thrilling and darker than dark read.

4 stars

The Cover – 3 stars : Still not my cup of tea. But I guess it works for the story.

The Story – 4 stars: Brilliant and clever. Sexy and such a mind fuck. But those damn leaps from present to past, though…..
A total must have for dark romance lovers. I´m so glad I have these books.

 



 

synopsis book 3

Epilogue ( The Dark Duet #3 )

Epilogue

I’m writing this because you begged. You know how I love the begging. In fact, you probably know too many things and know them far too well. Who am I? Well, that’s what I’m trying to figure out. I was a whore in my youth, a killer since my adolescence, and a monster as a man. I am the man who kidnapped Livvie. I am the man who held her in a dark room for weeks. But, most importantly, I am the man she loves. She loves me. It’s quite sick, isn’t it? Of course, there’s more to our story than can be surmised in a few short sentences, but I’m at a loss for justifying my behavior back then. I assume if you’re reading this, I don’t need to make those justifications. You’ve already made your own. You’re reading this because you want to know about the rest of the story. You want to know what happened that warm summer night in September of 2010, the night I met Livvie at The Paseo. It was the night my life changed all over again. It didn’t happen exactly as Livvie said. She’s been very kind to me in the retelling of our story. The truth is far more…complicated.

 

My Thoughts 2 And just when I thought the story was over / done / finito.. the author presents us with more Caleb and Olivia.

29 year old me did a rain dance around the livingroom table when I found out the author had planned on releasing a third book.

And when word spread on book #3 being a Caleb POV… DEAR LAWD! The hyperventilation games were on. I was excited beyond words. Caleb. The bastard. The cruel and abusive POS who trained young women to become sex slaves and sold them to rich fuckers across the globe…. That fictional character was getting a chance to speak up.

To make a long story short: The book arrived. The book was read in one sitting. My feelings after I finished `Epilogue´? Indifferent, but in a positive way. I wasn´t necessarily blown out of my knickers but I wasn´t disappointed, either.

We get a reunite in `Epilogue`. Caleb and Olivia meet again but this time, they´re different. Everything is different. And both have difficulties living their new lives.

So, basically… this is a What – Happened – After – Everything – Happened  type of read. 

7 years ago, I didn´t mind buying this book. Now….

7 years later….

I don´t think this book is necessary. Yes, it was lovely to get inside Caleb´s head and see things from his POV. But I think his character lost a bit of that wow factor because a lot was revealed. When you take away the mysterious parts of a character then he / she isn´t mysterious anymore.

Also, the details of how they barely managed their normal lives didn´t exactly contribute to the story. But I guess that can be expected with an epilogue.

Personally, I believe this is a nice addition to the actual story but not a mandatory read. I´m not even sure I´d read it now anymore because I dislike POV switches. They do nothing for me.

Right now, I´d give `Epilogue` book #3 in the Dark Duet series 3 out of 5 stars.

3 stars

 

The Cover – 3 stars: Still not my type of book cover. But it definitely works for the story.

The Story – 3 stars: Nice but not really worth it as book #2 has an ending that works beautifully for the story.


 

Final Thoughts

My love for the series hasn´t changed much. I still find book #1 & #2 out of this world horrific and special but book #3 isn´t what I remembered it to be. Maybe I was blinded by the hype over this story. Pumped up with excitement and just wanting MORE.

I would still, even after 7 years, recommend this dark romance. I would still urge lovers of the genre to read this book as I believe it´s a story that can´t be missed out on. It´s deep. It´s clever. It´s everything shocking and fulfilling. A brutally painful romance that still affects me.


 

Get your copies of the Dark Duet books #1, #2 and #3 on Amazon or a bookstore near you!


 

Morgana´s Book Box Book Feature on Instagram

Standalones, Duets, Trilogies, Oh My.

Standalones. Duets. Trilogies…. Terms that are common in the literature world. These words tell a reader exactly what they´re getting themselves into before they purchase their next read.

But before we start, why not give everyone a quick reminder of what the true definition these words carry.

Standalone – A standalone is either a single book or a book from a series written by an author that doesn´t require a reader to have read the rest of the series in order to understand the plot. The book can stand on it´s own.

Duet – A 2 book story. Duo = Duet.

Trilogy – 1 connected / ongoing story available in a set of 3 books

Tetralogy – 4 books

Pentalogy – A set of 5 books

Hexalogy – 6 books

Series – A sequence of books

Novella – A long short story ( either connected to a story or a standalone )

And the list goes on and on and on….

 

There´s a wonderful large pallet of book sets ready for a reader to enjoy. But… are duets, trilogies and tetralogies really all that enjoyable? Or are author´s pushing their luck with their 5+ book series?

Here´s a little fun fact: Most book people ( bloggers and readers alike ) don´t even use certain terms when referring to a set / sequence of books. Any author that has published a connected story with 4 + books is called a series. Just as 3 books are a trilogy. No one goes out of their way to say they´ve read an awesome pentalogy.

Our book lingo is more simple. It´s either a standalone, a duet, a trilogy or a series.

Although, I have to admit that it does excite and amuse me when I see someone use ancient greek terms.

 

 

Since I lack the time to go out on the streets to do a proper book survey on the topic I´m just going to go ahead and grace you with my own personal observations regarding books, book sets and authors who beat the living daylights out of a story by stretching them into a 10 book series ( Oops, apologies for the passion I unleashed in that last sentence ).

For a reader, books and their series sizes are clearly a matter of preference. Some readers love when a story, written by their favorite author, never seems to find an end and some readers are delighted when a story stops after 3 books. It´s a split audience where no one wins or loses. There is no better or worse, right? Hmm…maybe.

For me… I´m not a fan of anything that´s blown out of proportion. I´m the type that´s totally fine with a story that finds an ending… and it stays that way.

For example: When I see a book I like and also see that it´s a standalone… I´ll not hesitate and buy it. But when I see it´s a book #1 then I feel a wave of disappointment wash over me.

  1. because it´ll usually take a year´s wait until a book #2 releases ( unless we´re talking Game of Thrones. I´ve lost all hope for the next GoT to ever be published in this century )
  2. because I have to invest more time in a story than intended.

Don´t get me started when I see a book #5. That makes me wanna cry on the spot.

Mind you, duets and trilogies aren´t off putting for me… I actually love a good ongoing story- As long as it´s well balanced and doesn´t give me the feeling of wanting to curse it to hell for not being in a single book instead of 3.

What would you think if I told you that standalones and series only work for certain genres? Okay, not really shocking news but it´s true. I´m a contemp. romance reader. Standalones are more common in the romance genre. Once in a while a trilogy trend will fly through and then us romance readers will be presented with the good ´ol standalones again.  Fantasy / Paranormal stories work differently.

A fantasy author faces world and character creations on a deeper level. It would be nearly impossible to stuff a well crafted idea into one single book and call it a day.

This is when book trilogies are born. Fantasy stories need space. They need to unfold and help a reader understand certain events. Most fantasy novels have a minimum of 3 books.

If a contemporary romance author publishes a romance trilogy then it´s usually a story that can be edited into a standalone or a duet. Because there´s no world creation. There´s only repetitive events until a climax is reached and the story ends. A contemp. romance author has to come up with one hell of a brilliant story to make it into a trilogy or else it´s just a waste of paper. What many contemp. romance author´s love to do is attach novellas to their stories ( to a standalone or series ). Something like a book # 1.5 and # 3.5. These are usually additional story info that´s not mandatory for the story itself. May this be for the dedicated fans that have been asking for MORE or the author wasn´t able to let go and move on…. some authors feel their characters need a Christmas special, an Easter hunt edition, or whatever, when there´s actually no need to continue a well ended story.

I might be shot for using this example but I´m going to risk it anyways.

For instance  – The Twilight Saga by author Stephanie Meyer.

Fantasy/Paranormal / Romance. 4 main books. ( not including exclusive fan material )

For fans of the series the author has graciously published a hardcover novella, dedicated to one of the sub characters, called `The Short Second Life Of Bree Tanner` book #3.5. Then, a little over a decade later the author presents the book world with `Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined` book # 1.75.

Were the added stories necessary? Probably not. For some die-hard Twilight fans, maybe. But to publish an almost identical story to the one that was published a decade earlier… That´s just kicking a dead horse. Looking for the payoff of a joke that´s long vanished around  the corner. Milking the cow  But hey…. as long as there´s a book # 1.75 and a book # 3.5 then all is good.

 

 

Then there are authors who don´t know when to call it quits with their stories. Let´s take a closer look at J. R. Ward´s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. A very popular 16 ( and growing ) book series that´s left it´s safe haven after book #10. Maybe even earlier.

Elite vampires fighting against evil, all while having beautiful raunchy sex in between shower and nap time breaks. I flipping loved those books until…. they went off course.

And here´s the problem: I ( incl. many other fans of the series ) love the original BDB. But with each new book more sub characters were introduced and the author felt those characters needed their own books as well. Before readers knew it, the story drifted away and focused on the new instead of sticking with the old.

For me- This is a clear sign for the author to move on. Create a new series. Say bye-bye to the BDB. But the author keeps going and going and going. The magic is gone and I´m not interested anymore. Especially not when a series has 16 + books.

And while we´re doing book mentions here… let´s throw Outlander in the mix, shall we?

A time – travel romance set in 1945 and 1743, by author Diana Gabaldon. This epic story will pull the socks right off of any readers feet with it´s historical accuracy and amazing characters. That is…. until the story becomes exhausting. That happens around book 5 or 6. Too many added characters, too much history, too much of everything and that makes this difficult to enjoy the books. A series with 8 books and I lost patience after book #5. Now I´m just waiting for the story to end.

 

Of course, I understand that authors have ideas and stories they need to tell. Some of those stories need lots of attention. Some of those ideas need to be put down on paper. I get that and would never prevent an author from doing their thing.

It´s just that often ( if not always ) overly large series are unnecessary. Trilogies are unnecessary. Book #2.5,  # 3.75, and even book # 0.75 is totally unnecessary.

(These are just my humble thoughts on the subject. I´d love to meet someone who thinks otherwise, just to show me the beauty of the flip side.)

Adding books to a perfectly completed standalone, duet, trilogy does not make a story greater than it already is. Unless you´re a die – hard fan and can´t get enough of said story…. then I´m more than happy you´re happy.

So, if anyone´s interested…. I´m this type of reader:

Love standalones. Enjoy duets. Like trilogies. Dislike anything that has more than 4+ book in a series. Hate added novellas.

 

 

What are your thoughts on Standalones, duets and Co.? Do you enjoy reading large series or do you ignore them? Let´s chat. ❤


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Book Review: What He Always Knew – Kandi Steiner

Synopsis

Left or right. 

It’s that simple, and it isn’t simple at all.

If I turn left, the road will lead me back to the man I promised my life to, the one I’d imagined building a family with, the one who’s done everything in his power to get me back.

If I turn right, the road will take me to the man I loved first, the man who brought me back to life, the man who would do anything to keep me.

I knew the fork in the road was inevitable; it was the decision I never wanted to make between choices I didn’t know I had. 

And I love them both.

My heart is destined to exist in two equal halves — one with each man. But one half beats stronger, the vein running deepest, and holds my choice in silence long before I know it for myself. 

The realization of what I have to do, of the heart I have to break, just might break mine too. 

Left or right. 

All I have to do is take a breath and turn.

 

My Thoughts

If there ever was moment when I needed a huge bottle of wine,.. it would be after reading `What He Always Knew` book #2 in the What He Doesn´t Know Duet by Kandi Steiner.

What he always knew

This book / this duet  is simply a wonderful piece of work bundled up in 304 pages.

The emotional disaster Charlie dealt with in book #1 `What He Doesn´t Know` ( review here ) finds an end.

No more hoping. No more biting fingernails or chewing on my hair. The wait is over because Charlie makes up her mind.

In book #1 Charlie had a tough decision to make: Leave her husband and build a new future with her teenage crush or stay with her husband and become more miserable than she already was.

I really REALLY loved how the author let that love triangle play out. As a reader you think you´ve got it all figured out but you really have no clue. All a reader gets are the hopes and dreams from all three characters from each of their POVs.

We KNOW how much Charlie suffers and struggles with her feelings on what is right and what´s wrong. We KNOW she loves both men and that both men adore her.

But who will win her heart in the end? Will Cameron, her caring husband, be the one who get´s to keep her or will it be Reese, the teenage crush, who´ll steal her away and finally get to have her?

The moment of truth that´ll turn any reader´s heart to mush.

 “Just… give me this time with your heart before you decide to give it all to him.”

– Kandi Steiner, What He Always Knew

Oh, what am I saying…. The whole book is capable of giving your heart a good workout.

What I loved most about the story was how there wasn´t a “bad guy”. The author went out of her way to paint each Hero in a good light and make them both great candidates for Charlie… Which made this love triangle extremely difficult because:

It´s easy to hate someone for the mistakes they´ve done. It´s easy to point out the bad despite all the good someone has done. The characters in this book have made plenty mistakes and have their faults in equal proportions. All three screwed up in their own special way yet all three stayed civilized and reacted accordingly while struggling with their goal (s).

This book is about love, trust, friendship and lust. It´s about loss and about healing. It´s about forgiveness and about moving forward. It´s about the past, present and future.

I flipping loved this story.

Would I recommend this book / this duet? Hands down – YES!

Would I re – read this book / this duet? I most certainly will.

 

The Cover – 5 stars ( I love the fact that the covers from both books match)

The Story – 5 + stars  ( Painful, relatable, wonderful, beautiful. It´s what I would call a perfect.)

The Characters – 5 + stars ( Again, I can´t mention enough how wonderful I thought they all were. Charlie for being delicate but still strong. Cameron for taking that step. Reese for his… Well, read the story and find out for yourself.)

My emotional state after finishing this read – It´s BOOK HANGOVER TIME! Let the “being in an emotional funk” games begin!

5 stars

Purchase Link What he always knew

Amazon.com