Welcome back to the Book Club! What does a romance story mean when it takes multiple decades to tell? Are we getting in too deep, or can we see a relationship with a new level of positive depth? I’m excited to find out. A long journey over time is going to mean a long novel so let’s not waste any more of it chatting here. It’s MM love…across the decades y’all!
Our Darkest Hour by Sarah Bailey begins from one of the most unusual of places for a dark romance, a Primary School. One of the main characters, young Rhys is a bit of a loner. Living in low income housing, not making any friends, being raised by a horrible father and tragically disabled mother…life is pretty much shit (and it’s barely even started) for this seven year old. Right as the school bully is about to make life even worse, Rhys is suddenly bailed out and saved by a boy from a different place in life. Aaron is chatty, sociable, and hails from an infinitely wealthy family. Those differences might matter to Rhys, but Aaron couldn’t get Rhys out of his mind even if he wanted to. What proceeds is a love story told across 20 years that’s the most unique approach to a dark romance I’ve ever read.
Dark romance is a bit of a vague idea, but if you’re familiar with this particular author, it’s usually about some very heavy scenarios. To be true, Rhys’ home life as a child is tear jerkingly horrible, and Aaron’s story yields some sympathy as well, but what helps sell this romance is its relatability. There’s an artistic quality that shines in a new light in this story’s context. Seeing love budding without some sort of intense sexually based (or at least perceived) criminal element displays an innocent beauty to watching these two growing together. There’s love, there’s lust, there’s joy, there’s pain, but we can all imagine it happening to ourselves no matter what kind of love we’re about.
While the framework of the story would have worked with any variant of lover(s), the MM flavor was brilliantly executed. Naturally as the pair matures there’s eventually the want and need for more physical affection. The sex scenes were very enjoyable, and appropriately intense for a couple of young men exploring the very best of themselves. Tragedy of course will strike this couple eventually and the particulars of the response to this moment is one of the more heart breaking experiences I’ve read in this genre. It’s still romance, so we get our HEA, but the rebuilding of their relationship is equal parts satisfying and rewarding.
Verdict: Our Darkest Hour by Sarah Bailey breathes new life into the MM dark romance stable. Starting with a surprisingly detailed origin at seven years of age, Rhys and Aaron grow as people and as lovers through their teen years and into adulthood with an amazing interpretation of mirror image romance. This is love birthed from friendship. This is an emotion derived before you even understand its meaning, beautiful and relatable when described in this way. Avoiding the cliche of over-the-top masculine lust while still packing the heat, the sexual elements will satisfy exclusive MM readers as well as those newer to the sub-genre. While the novel avoids cliches, I have to supply you some of my own. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll kiss your previous perceptions of male dark romance goodbye. It’s quite the journey, but to the reader, I say bon voyage!