Monday, January 12, 2015

Series Review of The Dark Side (Darkening, Darker, and Darkest) by Ashe Barker

"It's time we got Miss Byrne, Evangelica...Eva...into bed." - Nathan Darke

Series: The Dark Side #1
Author: Ashe Barker
Publisher: Totally Bound
Release Date: August 9, 2013
Source: Publisher for Review

Purchase Links: Amazon - B&N - Totally Bound
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Who knows where pain ends and pleasure begins?

The chance of a new life out in the wilds of the Yorkshire moors sounds too good to be true to shy musician Eva Byrne. Stifled and smothered within the cocoon of her brilliant academic career, Eva yearns for something different. Something real and exciting. Something she can feel.

Excitement. Passion. Pleasure. She finds that sexy, enigmatic Nathan Darke can provide all these and more when she moves into his home as violin tutor to his young daughter. But Eva’s sensual encounters with her demanding, domineering new employer quickly evoke her deepest fears, as he introduces her to the trauma of submission and marks her with his particularly dark brand of love.

But will Eva’s natural curiosity and thirst for new experiences be enough to withstand the sting of Nathan Darke’s exquisite touch? Will simple surrender be enough as he challenges her every inhibition, taking her on an erotic journey of self-discovery and liberation?

Series: The Dark Side Trilogy #2
Author: Ashe Barker
Publisher: Totally Bound
Release Date: September 13, 2013
Source: Publisher for Review

Purchase Links: Amazon - B&N - Totally Bound
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Can she outrun the secrets of her past, or is surrender her only choice?

Eva Byrne’s first encounter with the darker side of Nathan Darke’s sensuality ends in disaster. Frightened, hurt, betrayed, she struggles to regather her shattered confidence—in him, and in herself.

Desperate to continue her journey of exploration and self-discovery, Eva has to convince a sceptical Nathan that she’s worth the trouble. And that she can learn to submit to him. When she is forced to reveal elements of her past she has preferred to keep hidden, both her brilliance and her vulnerability are laid bare. Will Nathan accept Eva as she is, and help her to become the woman she longs to be, or will she face yet another rejection?

Terrified and intrigued in equal measure, Nathan has no idea how to deal with the exquisitely enigmatic Eva Byrne. Should he cut his losses and run, or allow their relationship to continue, and watch as Eva’s delicate beauty unfurls in his hands?

Fascinated and ensnared by Nathan, Eva longs to taste what he offers and her erotic journey continues. But how much will she have to surrender to him in order to liberate her own desires?

Series: The Dark Side Trilogy #3
Author: Ashe Barker
Publisher: Totally Bound
Release Date: October 18, 2013
Source: Publisher for Review

Purchase Links: Amazon - B&N - Totally Bound
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When his past destroys Eva's trust in her Master, can he win her back?

As their turbulent, complex relationship deepens, Nathan Darke is increasingly aware that Eva Byrne has become much more to him than his submissive. She's in his home, in his family. And in his heart.

Eva hasn't found it easy to trust, to believe in herself and in a relationship that can last. But happiness, once so elusive, is within her grasp. Nathan is her Master, her lover and her soulmate.

However, no sooner do they manage to find a fragile balance between them-a way of entwining both their worlds-and start to build a future, than their past comes crashing back to destroy their emerging love. Jealousy and hate brutally shatter Eva's and Nathan's delicate trust in each other, and their life together crumbles.

Can they overcome the crushing pain of betrayal and deceit to regain some sort of future together, or are some wounds just too deep to heal? Are some risks too great? Some rewards just not enough?

I am a big lover of Jane Eyre. I've always felt that it was the original dark billionaire falling in love with the innocent heroine. Edward Rochester was the first brooding hero that I swooned for and Jane was the first innocent, but strong heroine that I secretly wanted to be. Recently, this is a trend that we see in a lot of romances, especially in ones that have aspects of BDSM. Now why am I mentioning Jane Eyre in this review of Ashe Barker's The Dark Side series? There are several similarities between the classic novel and this lovely trio of novellas. The most obvious is that The Dark Side novellas primarily take place near Charlotte Bronte's home town and Ashe's heroine, Eva Byrne, often talks of how much she loves the Bronte Moors that run along Nathan Darke's Black Combe manor. There are other, more subtle similarities, one of which is how Eva first meets Nathan, that I felt added a hint of classical romance to The Dark Side series.

I fell in love with The Dark Side series from the moment Eva and Nathan first met. Eva is a genius that is stuck in a rut of her own making. When she begins to feel claustrophobic with one endeavor, Eva moves on to something else. She has what seems like a mental breakdown with her previous job and takes off with little notice. In need of new scenery, Eva quickly takes a position as a private music teacher for a young girl. She's very much out of her element, especially when she has an unfortunate meeting with her new employer, the mysterious Nathan Darke. Nathan is the dark, brooding billionaire with a taste for BDSM. He doesn't do gentle. He likes sex with pain and pleasure, but he takes it very seriously. He's dominate and possessive, but he's not a sadistic asshole that pushes women into something they are not comfortable with. He is very strict with safe words and the safety of his sub. Nathan and Eva bring out both the best and the worse out of each other. Nathan feels things for Eva that he's never felt before. He's willing to put his desires aside for Eva and that shocks the hell out of him. As for Eva, she pushes herself past the point of no return just to prove herself to Nathan. She doesn't know when to use her safe word and that terrifies him. Eva isn't afraid to question Nathan and she'll stand up to him. The attraction between them is instantaneous (once they dry off) and Nathan hopes that Eva will become his new sub, but he finds himself turned on by her spunk, especially when she pushes him. 

The three novellas that make up The Dark Side series are Darkening, Darker, and Darkest. I know I don't normally do a series review, but I felt that this set-up worked best. Without further ado, here are my mini reviews for each of the three novellas.

Darkening explores the beginning of Eva and Nathan's relationship. This is usually my favorite part of a book. The attraction between them is ignites instantly and I loved watching Nathan pull Eva towards him. It doesn't take long for him to take control of their relationship. I only wish that we had Nathan's POV in the opening novella. We know Eva's thoughts as this new chapter in her life begins, but I would have loved Nathan's perspective from meeting Eva for the first time to their fateful first sexual experience with each other.

Darker was my favorite novella of the trio. Most of the second installment is spent exploring the sexual side of Nathan and Eva's relationship. Where the first novella spends a lot of time inside Eva's head, this one has more interactions between the characters, especially between the couple. Throughout the second novella, Eva becomes more confident in herself, both as an individual and in her new found sexuality. Nathan's confusion over his feelings towards Eva starts to grow and he finds himself wanting more. 

Darkest left me with mixed feelings. We're back to spending more time inside Eva's head as the inevitable monkey wrench is thrown into her relationship with Nathan. I felt that the third novella was too short and moved too fast. Things change rapidly for Eva and we really don't get the chance to reflect before something else happens. I also felt that there were points in the story where Eva and Nathan acted out of character. It is the first time that we see this side of their characters, but I felt that they would have handled it differently. As the ending of the series, I loved it. I just wished it was longer and  explored more of the new phase in the relationship between Nathan and Eva. I loved how the ending reflected the imperfection of their relationship, but was still a happy ending with the hint of a bright future for them as a couple.

Overall, I loved this series and I can't wait to dive into the next trio of novellas from this world. If you like dark romances with strong elements of BDSM and hints of a modern version of Jane Eyre, I think you'll like this series. It is a fun and extremely sexy romance packed into three novellas.

From Ashe Barker's website...

Until 2010, Ashe was a director of a regeneration company before deciding there had to be more to life and leaving to pursue a lifetime goal of self-employment.

Ashe has been an avid reader of women's fiction for many years—erotic, historical, contemporary, fantasy, romance—you name it, as long as it's written by women, for women. Now, at last in control of her own time and working from her home in rural West Yorkshire, she has been able to realise her dream of writing erotic romance herself.

She draws on settings and anecdotes from her previous and current experience to lend colour, detail and realism to her plots and characters, but her stories of love, challenge, resilience and compassion are the conjurings of her own imagination. She loves to craft strong, enigmatic men and bright, sassy women to give them a hard time—in every sense of the word.

When she's not writing, Ashe's time is divided between her role as resident taxi driver for her teenage daughter, and caring for a menagerie of dogs, cats, rabbits, tortoises and a hamster.

Ashe's Links

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