by Lilah Pace
“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.
I've hidden the whole review under a "read more" because this one is going to be all over the place and I can't separate the spoilers from it. This book - my gosh, this book has wrecked me. I don't know if this comes through in my writing, but I am an advocate for most causes - and issues of rape, domestic violence, and mental health are at the top of my list. IRL I work at a university counseling center, so I cannot separate from feeling passionate about these issues in particular. So, as you read my review - keep in mind that it is coming from someone who is horrified, angered, saddened at what both men and women have had to endure when it comes to sexual violence (any type of violence) and mental health.
Then Vivienne meets Jonah, a man she is sexually attracted to and who happens to have dark sexual fantasies of his own that involve simulating rape. Vivienne is, of course, wary of a man who can have such darkness in him - but remembers that her thoughts aren't so far behind. Together they explore these fantasies. Eventually, however, their emotions become entwined and they try to have a relationship, and it is through this attempt that they find out so much more about each other than they have ever shared with another person.
As horrible as it may sound that I enjoyed this book - I truly did. I don't enjoy reading about men or women being hurt - but it intrigued me how a person, any person, could have this kind of sexual fantasy. I had heard about it before, of course, but never have I heard it addressed in a book. Vivienne is such a good protagonist because she tells us exactly how she feels even when she feels ashamed for it. She feels there's something wrong with her, but she clearly knows the line between fiction and reality. She finds a relationship where she is able to set up precautions, has rules detailed beforehand, and comes to truly trust her partner after a "baby step" into her fantasy. Likewise, Jonah is a wonderful male protagonist in a story that could have made him seem very much like villain. He is respectful of Vivienne and her limits and does not ONCE attempt to push her. When she says their safe word, he stops - without question. He doesn't whine or complain about how he doesn't get what he wants. He takes what he gets and is thoroughly grateful. He takes care of Vivienne after each encounter making sure she is mentally and physically okay. This is partly the reason why Vivienne begins to feel a deeper connection with Jonah.
I feel that Pace did a wonderful job in being respectful of the rape and abuse survivors. The problems survivors usually encounter - being blamed, not believed, flashbacks, feelings of shame/guilt/anger/etc. - were mentioned and it made me feel like, yes, this author understands and is empathetic. I also very much approve and love that there is a trigger warning on the back of this book as well as inside (with a spoiler warning!). And in all of this - there is an actual story of two people who have been mistreated in their past and who have come out to be good people who have to learn what it is to truly love and understand and support another person.
One thing - I love that Vivienne goes to see a therapist and that her therapist is the closest depiction to an actual therapist that I have ever read about. My background is in counseling and I work with counselors - so this was so refreshing.
The story is not concluded at the end of the book - so I am itching to get the second part of the series, Begging for It. In the mean time, I need to let this book settle in my brain because I still keep thinking about it.
By the way - I am sure that once I am up to it, I will be writing a post about 50 Shades and Asking for It. They are two very different books, but at the center of both is a world where the idea of consent is in question. It is not merely about the stories themselves, but what they tell people of IRL situations. So, stay tuned.
And please....PLEASE....if rape, sexual violence, or any kind of abuse (child, verbal, etc.) is disturbing to you - do NOT read this book.