Kiss Me by Scarlet Blackwell

Title: Kiss Me
Author: Scarlet Blackwell
Publisher: eXtasy Books
Pages: 244
Characters: Dexter, Logan
POV: 1st
Sub-Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance
Kisses: 3


Dexter is a rent boy falling for his new client. Logan is a homicide cop falling for his rent boy. Now madly in love, Logan discovers Dexter is dangerously in thrall to a gangster whose clutches he can’t escape. When the gangster finds out about the two of them, he targets Dexter’s friend in revenge. The quickest answer is a safe house, but how long will it be safe?


I’ve read several books by Scarlet Blackwell, so I’ve learned to expect a lot of angst in her stories and her heroes have a lot of tragedy and self-growth that they have to go through before they even come close to having any kind of happiness between them. Ms. Blackwell definitely knows how to put her men through the ringer, but she also does an excellent job at writing a sizzling chemistry between them too. This is one reason why I keep coming back to her stories.

The blurb does a pretty good job at describing the story, so I won’t bore you with a lot of summarization. Dexter is a well-paid, popular prostitute whom basically enjoys what he does. He likes the money and the lifestyle he lives and basically has some returning clients that keep him living in his big home, driving his fancy car in his expensive clothes.

When he meets a new client, Logan, he is alarmed when he finds out the Logan is a police officer. But once he realizes that Logan isn’t undercover, but truly wanting to spend time together, Dexter is a little shocked. Although, Dexter is wary, he soon discovers that there is more to Logan than meets the eye. Logan has a difficult time accepting the sexual touch from others, and Dexter immediately suspects that he’s been abused in some way. Because Dexter can relate to this, he immediately has a soft spot for him. As Logan continues to buy more of Dexter’s time, Dexter begins to develop true feelings for Logan and starts to dislike the transaction they have together. But even though Dexter’s secret fantasy is for him and Logan to be more than a money transaction, Dexter finds himself pushing Logan away any time Logan starts to show tender feelings for him. Try as he may, Dexter and Logan become closer than he ever dreamed of, but a big secret that Dexter keeps from Logan will threaten to break the two men apart and change their lives forever.

Kiss Me has some incredible sex scenes between Logan and Dexter. One thing Ms. Blackwell can do is write sizzling hot scenes in the bedroom. Whew! If I had to base my rating on the sex scenes alone, I would give this book a 5 kiss review. But…

Did I mention this book had a lot of angst?

There were times when I began to wonder, what other bad thing could happen between these two men. In my opinion, there was not enough light moments to balance out all of the tragedy these men go through. Also, because the book is told in first person, Dexter’s view, we learn about Logan as Dexter does.

Logan is such a sweet character and I really wanted to know more about him. I wanted Dexter to open up and trust in him. I wanted Dexter to stop lying and communicate with Logan, instead of clamming up and causing the ‘big’ blowout that happened because of it.

Dexter was a hero that I had a hard time liking. He could be warm one moment and cold the next, so in the end, I honestly wasn’t sure if I wanted Logan to be with him or not.

I hate that I felt that way because it is very obvious Ms. Blackwell is a talented storyteller and she has the ability to draw readers into the lives of her complex characters.

Fans of stories that have a lot of angst will surely love this book.

The ending was satisfying and was honestly the only time I felt these two men could take a deep relaxing breath. It’s been a hard book to rate. I’ve gone back and forth between 2 to 3 Kisses. I settled on 3 Kisses because of the sexual chemistry between Logan and Dexter and the fact that despite everything the characters go through, I still wanted them to have a happy ending…and they did.

If you like heavy angst, Kiss Me is definitely for you! Ms. Blackwell is definitely the master at writing heavy angst, hot men and sex scenes that will smoke up your computer screen.

Reviewed By: Gabbi


Beached Hearts by Scarlet Blackwell

Title: Beached Hearts
Author: Scarlet Blackwell
Publisher: Totally Bound
Pages: 164
Kisses: 3.5
Genre: Contemporary Romance


Lightning can’t strike twice for unlucky-in-love Conor, can it?
Local chief of police Conor Kelly has a major headache when a U.S. film crew arrive to record the autopsy of a beached whale in the picturesque seaside town of Kinroe, West Ireland.

It’s seven years since Conor was dumped by marine biologist Liam and he’s been alone ever since.

Now lightning might strike twice when head of the project Eli Sanders makes his admiration for Conor plain. Conor tries to ignore his attentions. He nearly lost his family to his first homosexual experience and isn’t willing to risk it all a second time, no matter how much Eli has captured his imagination, but Eli’s not playing games. He wants Conor and he’ll do whatever it takes to show him he’s serious.

Eli enchants him, seduces him and soon Conor can’t keep his mind on the job…


I am a big fan of Scarlet Blackwell, having said that this is not one of my favorites. The story started with angst and continued with it throughout.

I liked Conor and Eli together, and the sex between them was great… but Conor has a big chip on his shoulder, and is often very cruel to Eli.

Eli fell in love with Conor the first time he saw him and takes Conor’s cruel treatment of him and leaves for America twice in this story because Conor kept sending him away.

A little more loving and a lot less angst would have made this book a lot more likable. I do hope they do find their way to a happily ever after….

Reviewed by: Cheryl


Come celebrate Storm Moon Press 4th Anniversary Blog Tour featuring Scarlet Blackwell!

We’re thrilled to host Scarlet Blackwell today, who is here for the Storm Moon Press 4th Anniversary blog tour! Be sure to read to the bottom of the post for the Rafflecopter giveaways. You have a chance to win a copy of “Playing With the Big Boys” OR free e-books for a year from Storm Moon Press! Awesome! Without futher ado, here’s Scarlet!


As Storm Moon Press celebrates diversity in their fiction for their 4th Anniversary and beyond, the UK appears on the verge of granting full marriage rights to LGBT couples. The UK has had a civil partnership bill since 2004 but has somewhat lagged behind other countries by failing to pass a same-sex marriage bill through parliament. That changed this year when the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 received a Royal Assent and is likely to be passed in England and Wales in mid-2014. The UK will be added to a list of other countries flying the flag for equality like Australia and France, and one can only hope that the number of states in the US allowing gay marriage will soon be expanded.

It is a good time to be a UK-based writer of m/m fiction and the new legislation opens further creative doors.

In Playing with the Big Boys, my contribution to the Weight of a Gun II anthology, I write about two cops stumbling upon a couple of thieves in a warehouse. Caleb’s partner (read: fellow-cop) soon disappears, and he is left at the mercy of Leon and Riley, the two thieves, who restrain Caleb and proceed to show him the time of his life. The story pushes boundaries. It rides an edge of non-consensual sex close to the wind and illustrates just how fearless and uncompromising Storm Moon Press is when it comes to taking on work that other publishers may baulk from.

While some publishers have a list of do and don’ts and are afraid to take a chance on controversial work, Storm Moon Press doesn’t have this problem. They let the author have free rein over their creativity and don’t try to stifle it. This is why Storm Moon Press celebrates diversity in life and in QUILTBAG fiction with every book they publish and why authors see the publishing house as a breath of fresh air in the often restrictive market of m/m romance.

To finish this brief piece, I’d like to offer a sample of Playing with the Big Boys, which now has its own short story release at Storm Moon Press. Thanks for having me, and I hope you enjoy my work and that of other authors who are given the opportunity to embrace their creativity at Storm Moon Press!


(Warnings for NC-17 content, gun-play, and non-con themes.)

Caleb came back to consciousness slowly with his head ringing. He opened his eyes groggily with his vision spinning and pulled hard when he felt steel shackling his wrists. What the hell? He closed his eyes again until the room stopped moving and took a deep breath before he examined his surroundings. He was sitting on a big chair with long arms, his wrists pulled behind his back, legs splayed and ankles tethered to each leg of the sturdy wooden chair. To add insult to injury, he was gagged by a scrap of material that smelled of masculine cologne. The only thing he had left was his eyes. He squinted at the scene in front of him, shivering in the cold air. Where was Dennis? Caleb hoped he was about to burst in at any moment with back-up.

Two men, one blond and one dark, stood in front of him regarding him in amusement as he strained at his bonds. They both wore jeans and T-shirts. They were both built like brick shithouses. The blond had a gun shoved into the waist of his jeans.

The brunet, attractive with startling green eyes, was holding something familiar: Caleb’s gun.

“Welcome, Officer…” The man leaned closer and read the gold nametag on Caleb’s khaki uniform. “Caleb Baker.”

Caleb spat a curse behind his gag. The blond guy folded his massive arms and laughed. Caleb’s gaze drifted to the small table between the two men. On it, beside a tube of lube, a pack of condoms, and some sex toys, lay his own utility belt with each item neatly extracted – the radio, nightstick, and Taser. Of course, the cuffs were missing because they were around his own wrists. Caleb looked around, eyes rolling in wild despair.

“So,” the brunet drew his attention, examining Caleb’s piece. “Smith and Wesson 4006 TSW tactical semi-automatic handgun. Heavy. Bitch of a recoil. Needs twelve pounds of pressure on the double action first shot, four and a half pounds on the subsequent shots.” His gaze dropped indecently down Caleb’s muscular frame. “You don’t seem like you’d have much trouble with that.”

Caleb glared at him by way of reply.

“Seven and a half inches long.” The man smirked. “Not bad.” He stepped forward. “Tired of you not contributing to the conversation, dude.” He yanked Caleb’s gag free.

“Fuck you,” Caleb declared.

His captor whacked him on the temple with the butt of the gun, hard enough to sting. “Wrong answer.” As Caleb hissed, the man ran his hand up the four inch barrel, circling it, imitating masturbation. “I like guns. They make me hot. I like a man carrying a gun, ergo I like cops. I particularly like to fuck cops.”

“You’re not fucking me!” Caleb cried. Christ, he needed Dennis now. This was his worst nightmare.

“Wasn’t aware you had a choice,” the blond chipped in.

“Riley’s right,” the brunet said. “I’m Leon by the way. Let’s be on first name terms when we’re all going to be intimate together.”

Caleb jerked his head away as Leon stepped between his thighs, pressed the gun against his left cheek, caressing the curve of Caleb’s jaw almost lovingly, finger hovering over the trigger. “The things I’ve done with guns, Officer Baker, they’d make your hair curl. I knew this one guy who loved to be fucked by a .44 Magnum. Cocked, you understand. Thought he was Dirty Harry. I had to ask him if he was feeling lucky, punk, while I fucked him.” Leon grinned, teeth bright as Caleb rolled his eyes. “I know, right? There’re some crazy motherfuckers out there but hey, different strokes for different folks. All I know is cops make me so hard I can barely think.”

Caleb automatically dropped his gaze down Leon’s brawny body and saw the erection tenting his jeans. He gulped, and then lifted his eyes to those above him. Leon looked down at him with a smile on his face, that gun still learning his face. He pressed the pistol against Caleb’s jammed-shut lips.

“Open,” he commanded, green eyes flashing.

Caleb shook his head.

“Don’t be a silly boy and open.”

Christ, was the safety on? Caleb was too scared to look. He opened his mouth and stainless steel clicked against his teeth as Leon inserted the handgun.


Caleb closed his mouth over the cold barrel. He did as he was told, eyes shut. He liked his gun – despite what Leon had said about its flaws. At least, he had liked it until it had been turned upon him.

“Nice action. Now lick.” Leon withdrew the gun.

Caleb put his tongue out and licked the tip of the barrel. He looked up and found his tormentor’s gaze fixed on his, Leon’s pupils hugely dilated. “This is going to be an absolute pleasure,” Leon murmured.


This post is part of Storm Moon Press’ 4th Anniversary Blog Tour! Thank you for joining us, and please take a moment to enter Scarlet Blackwell’s giveaway for “Playing With the Big Boys” as well as our blog-tour-wide giveaway! The prize is receiving an ebook each month from SMP for 12 months! We hope to see you around the Internet and at RainbowCon in 2014! Happy New Year!

SMP’s 4th Anniversary Rafflecopter Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Inferno by Scarlet Blackwell-Now In Print

In Inferno, passion burns hotter than hell…

After the murder of a notorious rent boy in the relatively new gay nightclub Inferno, Moonlight Cove cop Zack Stewart and his partner Claire Keaton are presented with a bewildering array of suspects, all with links to the dead man.

Zack’s chief suspect is arrogant club owner Dante Jardine, a man not so easy to unravel, and even more difficult to pin down. Soon the cops are knee-deep in bodies and Zack’s priorities become more muddled the longer he is around Dante.

When his professional and personal lives begin to merge, Zack finds himself walking a dangerous road between being a good cop and giving in to his growing desire…


Heat Index: Heat IndexHeat IndexHeat IndexHeat Index Release Date: 08/17/2013

Genres: Contemporary, Crime (police/detectives/PI), Gay, Menage, Romance

ISBN: 978-1-61495-784-3

Word Count: 93800

Page Count: 454

Cover Artist: Reese Dante; Photo credit: DWS Photography

List Price: $14.99

Club Price: $12.49

Savings: $2.50 (20%)

You Earn: 13 reward points

Protecting Kaden by Scarlet Blackwell

Title: Protecting Kayden
Author: Scarlet Blackwell
Publisher: Total E-Bound Books
Pages: 140
Characters: Mason Pearce and Kayden Cole
POV: 3rd Person
Sub-Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Kisses: 4.5


When falling in love with the man he’s trying to protect is taboo, what’s a desperate man supposed to do?

When narcotics detective Mason Pearce is assigned to protect federal witness Kayden Cole at a top-secret location, they are instantly drawn to each other. Shy, geeky Kayden likes bird watching and has an unsavoury past. He’s really not Mason’s type, so Mason can’t explain why the chemistry between them soon rages out of control.

But any relationship is doomed. Kayden’s a wanted man and Mason can’t risk the witness’ life by getting close. Can they find a way to be together, despite the federal red tape and danger surrounding them?


If you love to read romances with a little mystery thrown in then Protecting Kayden is the book for you. From the beginning the author will pull you into the story of Mason and Kayden. Once you find yourself pulled in, the author continues to hold your interest with a mixture of romance and mystery.

The author did a good job writing these two strong, yet totally different characters. Kayden has trouble written all over him, which of course draws Mason like a moth to a flame. The young man has had a rough time of it and the author does not gloss over the lifestyle in which Kayden found himself living. While the author is not overly graphic, the subject matter may be a little tough for some to read.

Mason’s pulled in to help guard Kayden, but can’t help being attracted to the younger man. This causes some major conflict in the officer’s life. Ms. Blackwell does a great job bringing the different emotions Mason goes through across realistically. Even though the reader may want to yell at Mason to step away before his life goes to hell, they will have a hard time not hoping everything will work out okay for him.

The attraction between the men is strong and the sex hot, yet the author does not make this a clear cut hearts and flowers romance. At first I was not sure I liked the turn the story took. Yet, as I continued to read, I realized that this was the only way the author could have gone with the story as it gave Protecting Kayden a richer, more believable feel.

Protecting Kayden
was a story that I could not put down until the last page and is one book I will read again. Both fans of the author or those just curious about her stories should give this book a chance.

Reviewed By: Lydia


Homeless at Christmas by Scarlet Blackwell

Title: Homeless at Christmas
Author: Scarlet Blackwell
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Pages: 33
Characters: Neil, Kai
POV: 1st
Sub-Genre: Holiday Romance
Kisses: 2


Lonely office worker Neil finishes at work for three days. Wandering around Manchester in the last-minute Christmas crush, he spots Kai soliciting for money. After buying him a sandwich, he invites Kai home, looking for company.

Kai tells him he’s doing it for the money, but the sex is great and suddenly he is in no rush to leave. Do they have a future?


I love books written by Scarlet Blackwell. She writes angst wonderfully and usually mixes it with just enough sweetness and romance in her stories that really balances it out. I admit I was excited to read Homeless at Christmas because I’ve come to expect a well-written and well-rounded story from her. Unfortunately for me, I was disappointed in this book.

The story starts off strong. Neil is a forty year old man who is lonely. He works an office job, has no friends and plans on spending his Christmas alone with his microwave dinner and his cheap bottle of wine. When he comes across a handsome, homeless man with gorgeous eyes, Neil is immediately captivated by him. Neil offers the man, Kai, a sandwich instead of money, in which Kai immediately agrees. Neil returns to Kai with the meal and leaves, but as he walks away something calls him back to Kai and he asks him if he wants to come home with him.

I’m stopping my description of the story at this point. I will say there is some very well-written and steamy sex between the two heroes. As far as the sex scene is concerned, it was great. The two men definitely had good physical chemistry together, but when it came to actually talking and communicating other than in the bedroom, there really isn’t a lot to go with. I missed finding out about Kai and what his story was and why he ended up being in the situation he was in. I never truly felt real affection between the two men, just hot sex. I think if the story had been longer, this would have been different. But, being only thirty pages or so, in the end it felt too rushed and I was left with feeling of emptiness and wanting more from these characters. Also, the ending is extremely abrupt. It almost seemed as if Ms. Blackwell ran out of time writing the book. It felt like out of nowhere it ended with a quick HEA paragraph and just like that, it had ended.

In the end I wanted so much more from these two heroes. I will say if you are looking for an erotic story with a quick HEA, then this book is definitely something for you to consider. Ms. Blackwell still remains one of my favorite authors and I’m looking forward to reading more books by her. This one just wasn’t for me.

Reviewed By: Gabbi


Blind Blondie by Scarlet Blackwell

Title: Blind Blondie
Author: Scarlet Blackwell
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Pages: 104
Characters: Sam, Kieran
POV: 1st
Sub-Genre: Contemporary Romance
Kisses: 4.5


Sam Campbell is a struggling artist and playboy beach bum who pretends to be a taxi driver to take a good-looking blind man home. Blondie is not impressed and calls the cops on Sam…

Artist and playboy beach bum Sam’s life is turned around when he meets blind Kieran and falls hard for him. Kieran is fiercely independent and doesn’t need a man like Sam in his life. But Sam needs a man like Kieran and it’s up to him to persuade Kieran he’s worth a shot.


I love a well-written, sexy ‘opposites attract’ storyline, so I was very excited to read and review Blind Blondie by Scarlet Blackwell. I knew from the other books that I’ve read by Ms. Blackwell in the past, she writes interesting, unique heroes that really live and breathe off of the written page. I’ve also noticed she also can write books with a lot of angst, so I wondered if Blind Blondie would fit into the darker tone of her stories, but I was pleasantly surprised that this book had just the right amount of angst and romance to keep this reader happily satisfied.

When it comes to love and commitment, Sam has a love ‘em and leave ‘em attitude toward romance. He likes variety and loves men, so the more the merrier is a philosophy that Sam likes to live by. So when he spots a handsome, blind man standing on a street corner, trying to flag down a taxi, he impulsively decides to impersonate a cab driver and picks him up. What Sam is not prepared for is how smart his passenger is and how fascinated he becomes of him. When ‘Blondie’ calls Sam out for his deception, Sam finds himself in an unchartered territory. ‘Blondie’ hasn’t fallen for Sam’s charms and quickly puts him in his place, and when he returns home and a police officer soon confronts him about what he did, the usually confident Sam is once again thrown for a loop.

Try as he might, Sam can’t get ‘Blondie’ off of his mind. Soon he seeks him out and begins to watch the handsome man live an independent, self-assured life. Sam becomes more and more fascinated with him and soon becomes determined to have ‘Blondie’ in his life. For the first time, Sam is losing his heart to someone and for once has to really prove himself and fight for the person he wants most in his life and bed.

This was a very smoothly written story. Once I started it, before I knew it, I had read the entire book in one sitting. I really enjoyed the cat and mouse play between the two heroes and loved watching Sam’s character really evolve from a careless player to a man who wants love and a commitment from Kieran. I also enjoyed the rapport between the two men. Kieran is a firecracker! He’s spunky, determined, intelligent and never allows his blindness keep him from what he wants. I loved him and adored watching him bring Sam to his knees!

Although there is some angst in this story, it’s definitely not overdone. There is a sweet and romantic tone to the book that I really enjoyed as well as the sizzling chemistry the two men had between them. Blind Blondie is a sexy, well-written read that captured my heart and made me wish for more once I finished the book. If you are looking for a unique and sexy romance, Blind Blondie is definitely a good choice for you! Highly Recommended!

Reviewed By: Gabbi


Blind Blondie by Scarlet Blackwell


Release Date:


Cover Artist: Reese Dante

Genres: Contemporary, Gay, Romance

ISBN: 9781614958277


Pages: 103 pp.

Word Count: 19855



Artist and playboy beach bum Sam’s life is turned around when he meets blind Kieran and falls hard for him. Kieran is fiercely independent and doesn’t need a man like Sam in his life. But Sam needs a man like Kieran and it’s up to him to persuade Kieran he’s worth a shot.

Poetry In Motion by Scarlet Blackwell

Title: Poetry in Motion
Author: Scarlet Blackwell
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Pages: 94
Characters: Paul, Adam
POV: 3rd
Sub-Genre: May/December, Contemporary Romance
Kisses: 4


Travelling salesman Paul is only in the historic English town of Lincoln for one night and looking to pick up a spicy little something to take back to his hotel. Twenty-year old student Adam though, is off limits — he’s too young, and Paul should know better. But Adam’s too keen, and Paul has limited will power…


Paul is just looking for a good time. As a traveling salesman, he’s only in the small town of Lincoln for a day, so he’s not looking for anything but a short hook-up with a hot man. When he spots a sexy, younger man checking him out, he’s intrigued, but Paul immediately believes he’s too old for the pretty twink. When he’s approached by the sexy young man, Adam, his first instinct is to push him away. Paul has a feeling Adam is inexperienced and although he’s attracted to him, he’s not interested in being with the innocently smitten Adam and possibly destroying the young man’s hope for something more meaningful than just sex.

As the night goes on, Paul can’t help but become enamored with Adam, and against his better judgment, they soon fall into each others arms and Paul’s bed. As soon as Paul awakens, he knows he’s made a huge mistake and despite the feelings he has for Adam, he pushes Adam and against his better judgment, they soon fall into each others’ arms and Paul’s bed. As the days goes by, Paul can’t get Adam out of his mind and decides he must do what he can to get Adam back. But will Adam be able to forgive Paul’s indifferent, almost callous behavior and give the feelings they have for each other a fighting chance?

Poetry in Motion has just the right amount of angst and romance to keep this reader enthralled with the storyline and its characters. I love a good May/December romance, and I thought Ms. Blackwell did a great job showing both the differences and the life experiences the characters had because of their age difference. I admit, at first I wondered if Paul and Adam would really connect well together. Paul is seemingly set in his ways and has no intention of ever having anybody meaningful in his life and Adam is the poetry loving, dreamer who craves romance and a loving relationship. But as the story progresses, I loved how Paul’s character in particular, started evolving and seeing his lonely life as it really was. I also enjoyed watching Paul fight for a second chance with Adam, and I loved the poetry Paul came to love and respect as Paul’s feelings for Adam grew into something special. I thought both of these characters were made for each other and I thought the chemistry they had together was intensely lovely.

Ms. Blackwell is known for writing a lot of angst in her stories. Although, there is some angst, it’s not overdone, and the romance between Paul and Adam is the driving force of this story. If you are not a fan of love at first sight stories, then I’m not sure if this book is for you, because the feelings the two characters have for one another becomes quickly intense between them. Personally, I believe in love at first sight, so I love these types of stories. My only gripe about the book is: I wish it had been longer. I would have loved to watch these characters really work for their relationship to become a success. Otherwise, it’s a lovely, romantic story with uniquely written heroes and plenty of romantic poetry that warmed up my heart. I’m looking forward to reading more by Ms. Blackwell in the future.

Reviewed By: Gabbi


Into the Light (Clear Water Creek Chronicles #1) by Scarlet Blackwell

Title: Into the Light (Clear Water Creek Chronicles #1)
Author: Scarlet Blackwell
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Pages: 151
Characters: Sean Keller, Eden Gray
POV: 3rd person
Setting: Contemporary
Sub-Genre: Drama
Cover Rating: 3
Kisses: 2.5


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.


At the age of seventeen, Sherriff Sean Keller was the witness to a horrific crime, one he didn’t participate in, but one in which he was just as complicit because of his inaction. Sean could’ve intervened, he could’ve gone to get help, he could’ve reported the crime afterward, but he didn’t. His cowardice and silence were every bit as much a defilement of Eden Gray’s humanity as the physical violation was an abuse of Eden’s body.

Sean was a teenage bully who, along with three of his buddies, repeatedly made Eden the target of their hatred. Sean instigated the taunting and the violence every bit as much as his gang did, but his reasons for doing so were very different. Sean’s aggression and anger were the things he used to hide his true feelings. The violence was Sean’s way of denying his other physical needs, desires Eden inspired but that Sean wanted very much to refuse.

For eighteen years, Eden went missing, his family disappearing from Clear Water Creek, and in that time, Sean, though tormented by his feelings of guilt, managed to carve a life for himself out of the remains of that one tragic night. His terrible secret kept safely between him and the one other person left in Clear Water Creek who knows exactly what happened that night—Sean’s best friend Paul—but then secrets do have a way of finding their way out of the shadows. When Eden returns to exact vengeance, Sean’s life as he knows it will end.

I have to give Into the Light full marks for its premise. Rape and its devastating after effects are not easy topics to address. This story begins in typical Scarlet Blackwell fashion, drawing the reader immediately into the promise of a potentially explosive confrontation between victim and abuser, introducing compelling, yet dysfunctional and emotionally damaged characters, something Ms. Blackwell does so well. But what began so provocatively soon declined into a story that overshot its plausibility for me.

Ms. Blackwell bravely chose to make her victim an unsympathetic character, which in turn made it very difficult to connect with him, or feel any sort of empathy for him. His abrasive and aggressive behavior is designed to mask his pain, of course, but his psychological damage didn’t translate well in his actions. Eden continues to be victimized throughout the story, this time more due to his own actions and behaviors than by anything Sean does to him. Eden plays like the bully against the respectable and virtuous Sean, turning the tables on their roles. There is no insight introduced to illustrate for the reader the way Eden’s life has played out over the years of his absence, so when Eden returns to town driving a Porsche, the picture of physical perfection, it’s difficult to make that necessary connection between his past trauma and his present.

In turn, Sean then becomes the sympathetic character, and in doing so, he becomes the victim. And to an extent, that worked for me. I liked Sean, but the problem with that is I didn’t want to like Sean. I wanted to feel for Eden, the true victim in the story, and that just didn’t happen. I love a good redemption story. I’m a firm believer in atonement and second chances. How much should the man suffer for the crimes of the boy? Ultimately, Sean does end up trying to make amends for his actions all those years ago, but the issue for me is that he doesn’t. He does suffer from the guilt and anxiety of his actions (or inaction) all those years ago, but the reader doesn’t get the picture that it has hindered Sean in any way. Sean gets his happily-ever-after, or at least, his happy-for-now, out of a situation that just doesn’t feel acceptable. Sean gets exactly what he’s always wanted, which feels very much like he’s being rewarded for his transgression.

The love story between these characters was ultimately unbelievable for me because of its disturbing dysfunction. The relationship between Sean and Eden made me squeamish, there’s no other way to describe it. I wasn’t invested in the two men, nor was I invested in their connection to each other. Simply put, it all just felt terribly wrong. Add to that Sean’s friend Paul, whose motivations and actions were nothing less than puzzling, and I was lost.

I’m such a big fan of Scarlet Blackwell, which makes this review particularly difficult to write. I give the author the utmost respect for always pushing the emotional envelope with her characters. But this one, unfortunately, only worked for me to the extent that the premise held so much potential. There’s no doubt this is a controversial story, it simply lost me in translation, which is a complete and total anomaly where Ms. Blackwell is concerned.

Reviewed By: Lisa