Into The Light


Title: Into the Light
Author: Scarlett Blackwell
Publisher: eXtasy Books
Genre: contemporary M/M
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Length: Novella
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

A Guest Review by Feliz

Summary Review: It’s been a long time since I’ve been so unsettled by a book – and not in a good way.  In my opinion, this book shouldn’t have seen the light.

The Blurb: Sheriff Sean Keller hides a terrible secret – he watched a heinous crime committed eighteen years ago and did nothing to prevent it. Now he finds himself face to face with Eden Gray, the victim of that crime, who is now not so much the boy anymore, but the man. Eden makes Sean sit up and remember those forbidden desires he thought he had locked away forever and the guilt which has blighted his life.

The Review: When I read this book for the first time, I found myself becoming more and more uncomfortable. Something didn’t sit right with me, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. It couldn’t be the writing in and of itself. I like Scarlett Blackwell’s writing, I’ve read and enjoyed several books from her – she’s usually good at making emotions real and palpable. It couldn’t be the topic in and of itself either – the rape was heavy stuff and surely not everybody could stomach it, but I normally don’t get easily worked up. So I tried to get behind the characters by reading it a second time, and as I looked – really looked – at what bothered me so, I  found my self thrown.  I’ll explain:

The premise is a man, Eden, who returns to his hometown eighteen years after he’s been raped during his highschool years in order to confront (or take revenge, however one wants to put it) the bullies who did it to him, now all grown men. There were four of them. The three who actually did it are either dead or unreachable, and the fourth, who watched his friends commit the crime but did nothing to prevent it, is Sean, now the town’s sheriff and striving to be a good man. Since Sean is the only one left, Eden’s entire wrath unloads on Sean’s head. The rape has left Eden broken, he’s become sexually promiscuous, troubled and even suicidal because it robbed him of the last bit of self-respect.  On the other hand, Sean has agonized endlessly about his inaction that night ever since, crushed from guilt, punishing himself with denying himself emotional nearness to anybody and also, denying his true needs. Because the truth is, Sean is homosexual, and always had a crush on Eden, even when he was bullying him in highschool. Back then Sean was too afraid of being outlawed himself if he admitted his attraction to Eden. Eden, on the other hand, was also lusting after Sean back in highschool, but after that night he blamed Sean alongside the actual rapists for what was in effect the destruction of his life.

Now my problems: First, the rape happens on-page, in every cruel detail. Admittedly, the pain, violence and cruelty is not glossed over. But it’s described during a flashback from Sean’s point of view, and so it is distant, and interspersed with rationalizing how Eden had brought his doom upon himself through his slutty behaviour. How can a rape victim ever DESERVE rape? How can rape be rationalized?

Second, this reasoning and blaming of Eden weaves like a red thread through the entire book. Eden IS a broken man, behaving erratically, but in a sexualized way. All this provocative , self-destructive behaviour of Eden’s (after his return) was in my opinion meant to signify a cry for help, a sure sign that he had internalized his humiliation so deeply that he himself is convinced he didn’t deserve any better. It could have been a great psychological plot device and means for a comfort/ salvation/ redeeming tale. But instead we look at Eden through Sean’s eyes, and Sean is actually sexually aroused and titillated by Eden’s provocative behavior.   For all the belaboring of Sean’s remorse and his feelings of guilt and him trying to make it up to Eden and get his forgiveness, what he actually does is look at Eden with his own egotistical goals in mind. In fact, after Eden has a nervous breakdown and turns to Sean for comfort, Sean fucks him and then is surprised that Eden throws him out. My point is, what horrified me is that I saw the victim through the violator’s eyes, and thus Eden wasn’t a victim at all, but an object of sexual desire, fit for violating yet again, and all that he had to suffer became his own  fault.

Third, the writing is actually very good. I wished it wasn’t; if this was poorly written I could have simply picked it apart with glee and left it at that. But it seemed to me that the author had good intentions with this book, but she failed to get them across, and I was under the impression that this was mostly due to the fact that Eden doesn’t get to voice his real pain. We only see him react to it, but not deal with it. Although the author took a major effort to really make the love/ hate/ love between Sean and Eden plausible, Eden didn’t come out as healed or even just improved. He remained broken, and the only one who came out improved – healed, as it is, was Sean – the guilty one. Again, this horrified me, because how does the rapist deserve – well, he wasn’t actually the rapist but you get my point – to come out outwardly unscathed while the victim doesn’t?

I really can’t recommend this book for entertainment.

***   ******* *****

When Feliz discussed this book with me I was appalled and we could not decide whether she should go ahead and review it, or if I should write the publishers to tell them we would not review it, and why. However, we decided that we owed it to you, the readers, to review the book and leave it up to you to make up your own mind whether to buy this book or not. I think that the author was short-sighted at the very least to present the story in such a way that the victim was victimized yet again. This is exactly what the courts do to rape victims who are treated like debris and blamed for causing their attacks.

Like Feliz I, too, like Scarlet Blackwell’s other books (except for Rescue Me, also published by Silver) and I have reviewed several of them – all positively. As a matter of fact I have another book of hers to review in a few days which I’m sure will be positive as well since I have already started reading it. However, I couldn’t let this one go without at least expressing my own personal opinion and horror at the shameful treatment of a rape victim in Into The Light.

Wave

Author

Aside from owls, I love all kinds of birds, particularly the odd ones. Also dogs, Queen (the band), motorbikes and books.

79 comments

  • I just finished this book and even with the warnings about it, I was really appalled. I love Scarlett’s work. I even really liked ALl For Love, her novella set in prison. The characters in that were flawed and hard to really like, but the story worked. I went into this story knowing the warnings about how the rape was handled, and I actually thought that it wouldn’t bother me too much. I was really wrong. The whole idea of Eden “deserving” it, and the way Sam still thinks about Eden was really disturbing. I really didnt care at all for Sam, and I felt like Eden needed some real help that he never got. Overall, extremely disturbing, and I would feel terribly if any survivor of sexual assault thought that this was in any way a normalized version of life. Frankly, though I dont expect authors to speak for everyone, I do expect better than this.

    Reply
  • It’s interesting to see that on Amazon, this book is getting good reviews from people who are calling it a tear-jerker and are enjoying it (I admit I haven’t read it) — so, as has been pointed out here, readers bring their own emotional perspective to a read, and many might enjoy this angle on a controversial topic. I loved Just Desserts, but it’s obviously got a totally different tone. Life Class was good too. Even though I definitely appreciate the reviewer’s take on this one, I would be willing to read more by Scarlet.

    Reply
  • Scarlet Blackwell is a wonderful writer, with that being said, Into the Light was one of the biggest let downs. The plot just lost its train of thought. I think the “rationalization” of this rape and the brutality was trying to prove that this assault was every bit brutal and traumatic for both, Sean and Eden. We see everything through Sean’s eyes, and he seeing Eden, a broken man, in a sexual way did not bother me in the least. Maybe the author could have written a different story following this line. Eden came there for revenge, but all he seemed to do was show up wherever Sean was…could not Eden’s revenge have come through entrapping Sean who he knew desired him and then utilizing this leverage to destroy him? Its through Sean that we see Eden, but what if even Sean did not realize Eden’s intentions from the beginning. That he was a victim as much as Eden was, but what if Eden proves differently? That Sean was never a victim, but was just at fault as any of the other perpetrators that committed the actual rape. That’s one of the things that bothered me, that suddenly after the rape Sean seems to see “the light” he’s a completely a different man–a victim, and I don’t think that was fair to Eden. I was constantly bombarded that Sean had changed, that he is living with guilt, while Eden appears to be just a casualty. It became clear to me when Sean did not comfort Eden after he is shot that he could never have been a victim.

    Reply
  • Hi Julie Lynn,
    I think that’s Buda’s point exactly. It’s the book that is discussed here, not the author. How could I, as a reader, possibly know the author’s thoughts? I can only mirror what I read, and I can only refer to what I thought while reading it. Yet, since reading this book prompted certain feelings within me, I voiced those feelings. It’s my right as a reader to become upset at characters, and it’s also my right to like or dislike characters. That has nothing to do with the author as a person, only with his or her writing. It doesn’t make a book bad or good, either, it only makes a book bad or good FOR ME, and I wouldn’t consciously choose something that’s bad for me, now would I?
    As Reggie said, there’s an abundance of choices out there.

    Reply
  • The rest of it was pure trash. Hateful trash, at that. Having Paul constantly saying and thinking that Eden deserved the rape, even having Sean thinking it before he sleeps with Eden paled in comparison to Eden saying on the witness stand that he deserved it by being flirtatious.

    What confuses me about this opinion is that it’s the characters who are saying this, not the author. I don’t think anyone would say she condones rape, right? It’s truly how some people feel, that they brought on what happened to them by their own behavior, whether it’s rape, beating beaten or cheated on or whatever. So you’re mad at the characters for being who they are?

    In what way does this make this book trash when other reviewers even say that it’s well written? I think what it is is disturbing to some people, and those people cover their feelings by trashing what has disturbed them. It doesn’t make the book bad or good.

    Reply
    • There are consequences for characters offending a reader’s sensibilities. I can only speak for myself, but this story would end up in my electronic trash can!

      It’s a question of can I trust this writer enough to buy a story based on a blurb and an excerpt? The answer to that question is NO **** NO!

      The great thing about Indie press is that writers have way more freedom to create. They can write whatever they want and publish it themselves even. Great!

      But I don’t want to read or even expose myself to everything out there. There are a lot of choices out there and I will choose what I like to read and the authors I trust over authors I remember a bad experience from.(They ended up in the trash can!) I’ve never YET bought another book from an author after a trash can purchase.
      Nothing personal just about trust as a teller of stories that won’t offend me.

      Yeah Freedom! :forit:

      Reply
    • Hi Julie Lynn – Careful now, or you’ll draw me into a conversation about authorial responsibility. (Actually, you won’t, because no one wants to go there.)

      Eighteen years after the fact of the rape, there is no reason why Eden should feel or think he was to blame for what happened to me. Is there no rape counseling in his world? The man was in a mental hospital for pete’s sake, you think there wouldn’t be extensive counseling probing into the reasons for his suicide attempt?

      As for if the book was well-written, I would say it was not. That has nothing to do with the story, but rather with sentence structure, late-in-book shifting POV, etc.

      As you pointed out in your response, my reaction is an opinion. It does not make it law. I found the book appallingly bad and in extremely poor taste. Others have trashed books I adored. It’s the nature of the beast. Will I read this author again? Most likely not. Do I harbor animosity toward her? Absolutely not.

      Reply
    • I’m sorry you may be disturbed by these comments, but when a story attempts to take on rape – with the rapist and victim both being a prominent part of the story – the topic is going to garner a lot of heated reactions.

      So you’re mad at the characters for being who they are?

      If people aren’t having a reaction to the characters in the book, the writer is definitely doing something wrong. Forgettable characters = forgettable book.

      Feliz the reviewer explicitly pointed out how good a writer the author was to highlight why she took extra care in writing up her review – to fully explain why the story did not work for her. I took it to mean that the story was free from SPAG and the sentences were strung together somewhat coherently. (As an aside, considering I’ve read this author’s work before and have never liked her writing style, I disagree with Feliz, but it’s clearly a your mileage varies-type issue.)

      To get back on track, the reviewer clearly had a problem with how the characters were drawn in the story. If other readers, having read the book for themselves, express their opinion unfavorably, so be it. Using a blanket statement such as: [readers]’trashing what has disturbed them’ is unbelievably rude to readers who gave an honest opinion on the book. Their comments, however harsh, was directed at the book and its characters; yours, on the other hand, was aimed at the readers.

      Reply
      • Silly question time: what is SPAG? I’m sure it will be blindingly obvious once I know, but I (and Google) am currently at a loss.

        As for the story, I tried to read Just Desserts last night and then this one, thinking I might appreciate the angsty story more if I first enjoyed the sweet one (yes, sorry, pun intended). I mean no disrespect to the author or her fans, as everyone has different tastes (thank goodness!) but clearly her books just don’t work for me.

        I gave some real thought to why all four books I tried turned out to be DNFs, and perhaps the conclusion I reached might help explain the underlying difficulties with this book. Her characters struck me as over-the-top caricatures, not quite far enough for satire but too far to take seriously. And despite these being sold as romances, it was never clear to me why any of the couples were together beyond intense physical attraction.

        On Marie Sexton’s blog, she says that One More Soldier was originally written by Ethan Stone. While it never quite worked for him, she was inspired, and after much discussion he gave her his blessing to make it her own. She went on to change it a lot; as I understand it mostly just the seed of the original story remained. I mention this because it shows how something that might not quite work for one author can be brilliant in the hands of another. Not that one author is better or worse than another (I love both Marie Sexton and Ethan Stone), but that it’s about having the right pairing of author and story.

        I could see Into the Light being a wonderfully intense, beautiful, and cathartic story in the hands of someone like Amy Lane, ZA Maxfield, or KA Mitchell. With nuanced and realistic characters we’d be sympathetic rather than disgusted and/or contemptuous. If we saw on-page what they loved and found appealing about each other, a HEA would be believable and desirable. As has already been said several times, something this charged needs to be handled carefully; maybe Scarlet Blackwell just wasn’t quite the right author for this particular story.

        Reply
        • Jesus, Jessica, are you high? Do not let Amy Lane anywhere near this story! There aren’t enough Kleenexes in North America to get through her treatment of another story like this! (Talker was enough of an emotional roller coaster!) 😀

          Aside from that, I completely agree with your comment. Well said.

          Reply
          • Thanks, Buda. :hysterics: No, I’m not high. As I was typing ‘Amy Lane’ I was imagining the mountain (no exaggeration) of tissue I’d need to get through the story. But emotional roller coaster though it would be, I think at the end it would be as deeply satisfying as all her stories.

            Reply
        • Hi Jessica,

          Sorry for the late response. SPAG is short-hand for spelling & grammar issues. I also agree with your comment, especially this:

          With nuanced and realistic characters we’d be sympathetic rather than disgusted and/or contemptuous. If we saw on-page what they loved and found appealing about each other, a HEA would be believable and desirable.

          Reply
  • Thank you all for commenting. Reading books and discussing them is what we’re all here for, after all. I like it best if a book evokes a lively discussion, either in a good or in a bad sense. Books are simply great, aren’t they?

    Reply
  • Feliz, thank you for this very thoughtful – and obviously very difficult – review! The discussion is fascinating, and, like Buda, makes me more inclined to read the book so I can form my own opinion.

    I’ve tried to read two Scarlet Blackwell books, and both turned out to be DNFs. So I wasn’t particularly inclined to read more by her. I’m afraid this one may turn out to be another DNF for me (and if so, probably the last time I’ll try this author), but this review and discussion has me too curious not to find out for myself.

    Reply
  • This is a book I may or may not read. (It is stuck in my bottomless TBR pile.) I bought the book based on the author, cover, and the blurb. I don’t mind darker stories when I’m in the mood. If I do decide to read it, I will be reading it with my eyes open knowing what to expect.

    I am very grateful for the review. You have done what I expect from an reviewer. You told the reader, in your opinion, the good, bad and ugly and left it up to the reader to decide what to do, read or not read.

    Thank you.

    Reply

Please comment! We'd love to hear from you.

%d bloggers like this: