Series: Asking For It #1
Published by Berkley
Publication Date: June 2nd, 2014
I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
“This is who I am. This is what I want. Now I need a man dangerous enough to give it to me.”
Graduate student Vivienne Charles is afraid of her own desires—ashamed to admit that she fantasizes about being taken by force, by a man who will claim her completely and without mercy. When the magnetic, mysterious Jonah Marks learns her secret, he makes an offer that stuns her: they will remain near-strangers to each other, and meet in secret so that he can fulfill her fantasy.
Their arrangement is twisted. The sex is incredible. And—despite their attempts to stay apart—soon their emotions are bound together as tightly as the rope around Vivienne’s wrists. But the secrets in their pasts threaten to turn their affair even darker...
Reader Advisory: Asking for It deals explicitly with fantasies of non-consensual sex. Readers sensitive to portrayals of non-consensual sex should be advised.
“And something about my secret feeds the darkness inside him in ways neither of us can bear.”
O.M.G. This book kind of blew my mind. I know part of it is because I have never really read anything that centers around this predilection before despite how common of a fantasy it is. I’m talking about rape play. Now this is a subject that is very controversial. How can something that is so barbaric and evil be used as a tool of pleasure? There is a balancing act between fantasy and reality; hurt and harm (<—thank you Mistress Nora for that lesson!). But the biggest balancing act for me, as a reader, is to find sensuality in a situation (consensual; I cannot stress that enough!) of depraved perversion.
“How can those two parts of him coexist? How can I yearn for Jonah while I continue to fear the darkness inside him?”
As a reader I was worried about the feelings I experienced reading these erotic situations between Vivienne and Jonah play out. I was equal parts aroused as I was ashamed and that conflict was not only at play for me but for the characters as well. Asking For It really put me in a constant state of empathy for Vivienne, who is battling not only her mind but her body for what it wants. It was such a subtle mind-fuck because you can understand why Vivienne is the way she is and yet be saddened and enraged by how she got there. I hate to use the word angst because angst implies unnecessary drama but there is this layer of emotional conflict that leaves you feeling a bit angsty. Angst for feeling turned on by something so wrong. Angst for empathizing it. Especially angst towards Jonah. Because how can a man be into this role and not be a rapist? I mean there is this conflict underlying every experience that really makes this such an intense and gripping story.
“We are both too good at our games.”
The biggest reason why I gave Asking For It 5 stars (besides the writing) was because it really opened my eyes to this sort of taboo and how something that is wrong (rape) can be used to empower. This has set the bar for any future books I might read that deals with this type of subject. It’s so easy for erotica to be reduced as smut and I found this anything but that. Sure it has it’s for share of eroticism but Vivienne and Jonah, their relationship, their past, and where they are going in the future, elevated this from erotic to an emotionally driven story.
It’s all delightful fun until you have to explain your life choices to your shrink.
“To say I have mixed feelings about this,” Doreen said, “would be putting it lightly.”
“You’re not supposed to give opinions about my life. That’s not what therapists do, right? They listen.”
Doreen shoots me a look. “Have we ever had a traditional patient-therapist relationship?”
“No,” I admit.
“And I doubt we’re going to start now. Besides, I gave you my opinion when you asked whether or not I could ‘believe this.’ If you weren’t uncertain about your decision, you wouldn’t have asked.”
She just poked through the bubble of giddiness I’ve floated in since Jonah and I spoke two nights earlier. All the concerns I had – that I still have – become clear once more.
She says, “I have to admit, I feared your meetings with Jonah would prove destructive, and they haven’t. The shame you’ve carried about your rape fantasy has diminished to some degree. Both he and you took precautions to ensure your safety. Best-case scenario, I’d say. But you need to be aware what you’re doing now – merging your fantasy life and your emotional life – that’s about a thousand times more complicated.”
“What’s going to be so different?” I snap.
“You tell me.”
I hate it when Doreen makes me answer my own questions, mostly because I usually do know the answers. They’re just answers I don’t like. For a moment I fidget on the couch – pushing up the arms of my white cardigan, curling my feet beneath me. But I can’t postpone replying for long. “… I still wonder what kind of a man has such powerful fantasies about rape. When we play our games, he knows exactly what would scare me. He knows how to be cruel. He’s thought about that a lot.”
“That’s a valid consideration.”
“How can I judge him for that when I have rape fantasies too?”
“You know why you’re so fixated on them. You don’t know why he is.”
I want to tell Doreen my theories about his family – about his anger with his mother, the way her threats might have taught him about violence. However, I remain quiet. Doreen would simply say that it’s only a theory, with absolutely no proof to support it. She would be correct.
More gently, Doreen says, “Have you ever considered telling Jonah the truth about your rape?”
“No.” The word comes out more sharply than I intended.
“You’ve still never told anyone besides your mother and me, have you?”
I shake my head. “Nobody else.”
One time, years later, I tried to tell Chloe the truth about that night. But she shut me down before I’d even revealed the whole story, telling me I’d always been jealous of her, asking whether I’d come on to any of her other boyfriends. It wasn’t exactly a moment for the Sisterly Bonding Hall of Fame. So Chloe still doesn’t know. “Refusing to believe” is the same as “not knowing,” right? For my sister, it might as well be.
“It’s your secret. A piece of your life that’s yours to share or not to share, as you see fit. You never have to tell a soul if you don’t want to.” Doreen has never tried to make me feel ashamed of my own silence, for which I’m deeply grateful. Sometimes I see courageous rape survivors on television or the internet, braving clueless commentators or vicious trolls to speak out about their experiences, and my admiration of them is mirrored by my own sense of cowardice. She continues, “But keeping this secret from Jonah – giving him that kind of power, without knowing how deep your wounds lie –”
“I’ve handled it so far,” I say. Which is true.
So far, though, Jonah and I have played “softer” games. Ones where I could easily reassert myself at any second. I want more than that from him, though. I want him to tie me up. I want him to fight me, to defeat me.
I want him to own me.
When the sex between Jonah and me turned out to be so freaking amazing, I thought maybe I’d disarmed Anthony’s power over me, for good. What if I only buried the bomb deeper? As Jonah and I dig further into my darkest fantasies, we might be getting closer to the fuse.