♥ SYNOPSIS ♥
“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.
♥ my review ♥
WARNING: Some minor spoilers ahead.
This book is one of the most—if not the most thought-provoking book I’ve read this year. Even if you end up not loving the book or even if it makes you uncomfortable, I guarantee it’ll still make you think. It’s definitely not for everybody. It deals with a very sensitive subject. But what sets this apart from the dark romance books that it’s in the market right now is that everything that happened is consensual.
Vivienne is an art graduate student and teaching assistant at the University of Texas-Austin. She’s also an artist who creates unique etchings. On the outside, she’s like any other normal young woman. But Vivienne is keeping a dark fantasy. Her fantasy? Rape. She can’t get off during sex without imagining herself being raped. Then she meets Jonah Marks at a friend’s party. He was also the mysterious stranger who helped her with her car late one night. When Vivienne’s ex-boyfriend let the cat out of the bag at that party, she was embarrassed and humiliated. But guess who comes up with a proposition? Jonah Marks.
Jonah is a natural sciences professor at the same university Vivienne works in. His aloof and very private with skeletons in his closet he’s desperate to hide from the world. Like Vivienne, he also has a dark secret fantasy. His fantasy is at the opposite extreme of Vivienne’s. His proposition was simple: he will be her rapist during their play. She sets the boundaries and he gives her the freedom to stop anytime if she feels threatened or uncomfortable with any of it.
Both of their fantasies come from a very dark place. Vivienne was raped by her sister’s boyfriend when she was 14. She had been innocent. Jonah’s fantasies is as fucked up as Vivienne’s. And the two of them finding each other and fulfilling each other’s fantasy scares the crap out of Vivienne.
This wasn’t an easy read to be sure but Lilah Pace did a great job of handling a very tough subject with sensitivity. She gave Vivienne’s character a lot of agency in this book. She was the one in control of her fantasy. I could feel her struggle, her shame, her guilt and her vulnerability of giving someone permission to fulfill her fantasy. She was also one of the most self-aware heroines I’ve read in a while.
One of the things that always made me leery of reading a dark book involving rape, fantasy or otherwise, is that the heroines are not the ones in control. They are always at the mercy of some guy. It didn’t happen here. Yes, Vivienne had to be vulnerable. There were times when she got scared (and for good reason) but the power lies with her. She had the power to stop at anytime. You have no idea how that made a big difference to me as reader.
Jonah is also an excellent character. He’s broken, intelligent, mysterious and sensitive. I loved how he took his time putting Vivienne at ease. Clearly, his fantasies, like I said, come from a very dark place but I liked how the author juxtaposed his violent fantasy with the sensitive and caring guy who went out of his way to make Vivienne feel safe. He knows and respected Vivienne’s limits.
I wouldn’t call Asking For It straight up romance, at least not yet. But the connection between Jonah and Vivienne is palpable throughout the book. I have a bit of a problem with the pacing towards the end but it’s a small hiccup in my opinion. In terms of the storytelling, I thought this was very well done. And while there are a lot of brutally sexy scenes, it didn’t feel gratuitous. It’s clear that the author really put a lot of thought into this sensitive subject and I, for one, am looking forward to where Ms. Pace is taking this story.
This book does end in a cliffhanger. It’s not a brutal one, and I think it’s a good call because you really need to process this book first before starting the next chapter of Vivienne and Jonah’s story. I am anxiously waiting for the second book, Begging For It. It will probably be even more brutal than this one because the choices they made in this book will have huge repercussions in the next book.
So if you’re like me who likes their dark reads with clear boundaries and limits, I highly recommend this book.
ARC provided by Berkeley via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.