Warning: Today’s Book Club selection deals with matters of questionable levels of consent and topics of personal physical abuse. Reader discretion is advised
(gee I wonder which author is back with us today)
Time once again to buckle your seat belts as things are about to get super crazy here at the Book Club. Sarah Bailey has provided us with a brand-spanking new dark romance that continues the universe of some stories that really rustled our Jimmies. Let’s put our predispositions to the side for a moment and try to take on a story that’s going to challenge our morals. My pearls are clutched and my fainting couch is on standby, so let’s take in Sarah’s new adventure!
Provoked by Sarah Bailey takes place in the same universe as the trio of novels: Betrayal, Sacrifice, and Revenge that make up the Corrupt Empire series. I don’t want to call this a successor, as the dark romance elements work a bit different for this installment, which also features two brand new characters. Liora is a beautiful young girl with a lot going for her. She has just graduated at the top of her class with a desire to pursue a career in zoology, and things are looking promising. Her future looks as bright as it can be, except that everything changes for her in the blink of an eye. Immediately after the graduation ceremony, Liora’s father suddenly instructs her to leave with a mysterious man dressed in black that looks full of bad intentions. There’s no drama, no fight scene, just a depressing realization that something’s gone horribly wrong as Liora leaves with this man, with no pretension that this isn’t goodbye forever. Liora isn’t abducted in the traditional sense, but when she gets to her supposed “new home” it doesn’t appear that there’s a reasonable way out as she eyes a man approaching her that she’s clearly seen before. The man not yet known to her as Dante makes the situation disturbingly obvious: Liora belongs to him now…Dante is her owner.
As per usual with a Sarah Bailey dark romance, my knickers are in a twist from the end of the first chapter. It never ceases to grind into me that this Corrupt Empire universe is NOT paranormal, but in fact, teeth-grittingly realistic. Liora isn’t in imminent perceived physical danger like being chained up in a dungeon, but her life is changing whether she likes it or not. While the collateral damage to the people of her former life are tough to read (like her now ex-boyfriend for instance), Dante’s perspective is the hardest to swallow. Before we dig too deep, yes there is a “reason” for Dante to now have ownership of Liora, and if you try really really hard you can find a bit of justification for it…but that doesn’t mean that I have to like Dante very much. He’s doing more for his own benefit than for the greater good, and his mental state is simply shit.
OH BUT THANK GOD HE DOESN’T RAPE. CALL THE VATICAN, WE’VE GOT A CARDINAL SPOT FOR THIS CHAPPY!!
Dante and Liora switch prospective with each chapter as they slowly find some common ground between the both of them. Dante doesn’t need Liora for any particular reason from the outset, she is just the person that he’s desired to fulfill his needs. Dante is trash, but he is also damaged. For all my personal criticisms about Dante, all of the blame can be placed squarely on that of his own father. Zach is pure evil, even by standards of this universe, and no disclaimer can fully encompass what he’s done to Dante, his siblings, and to a lesser extent Liora’s family which helps to explain the whole crazy scenario. Let’s just keep it simple for this review: Dante’s inherited a need to bring pain to others. Thankfully, Dante does have some semblance of a soul as he’s slowly learned that this sort of trait can and should be used to bring pleasure, not savage pain to people he cares about. It’s not the most straightforward road to take, but as you boil it all down, Dante and Liora’s love story is that of a BDSM romance. Despite the emotional turbulence (to put it lightly), Liora is never taken too far outside of her comfort zone, as she’s grown a need to please and serve Dante. It’s not the model standard or even a particularly good idea to try, but this eventually works for them as the goals shift from “training” Liora to settling the family conflict once and for all. While I don’t condone these methods, I can always appreciate the author’s writing mechanics and the ability to draw emotion.
Verdict: Provoked by Sarah Bailey is a bone-chilling dark romance that pushes the absolute limit of where a novel can go while still staying realistic in content. These characters are not to be admired, or loved by anyone outside of a vacuum, but the pain they feel and inflict is real, and delivered remarkably well through the author’s writing style. If you can accept that BDSM elements (including the collateral damage) have to be different for different people, there’s limitless conversations to be had about the lifestyle and how it applies to these characters. There’s always love in a dystopia, but I still don’t think it can be bought.
Special thanks to Sarah Bailey for providing an advance review copy of Provoked to TehBen.com for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Author’s Website: SarahBaileyWriter.com
Author’s Twitter: @sbaileyauthor
Pre-order/Purchase Link: Amazon