Title: Into the Light
Author: Scarlett Blackwell
Publisher: eXtasy Books
Genre: contemporary M/M
Buy Link: Amazon.com
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.