This was a hard book to get through. I think it took me about five days of picking it up, putting it back down and taking regular breathers for me to finally finish it. The subject matter is what was difficult. I read the blurb and have read these authors before, so I had an idea of what I was getting into by picking it up, I just didn’t realize how difficult it would be to have such content set against such a bleak, depressing futuristic world. I’m not sure if I would even call this a romance, although there was a HEA ending for our main protagonists. There is non consensual sex, dubious consensual sex, torture and sexual slavery. If you have any triggers what so ever, this is not the book for you. If you are venturing into this type of dark erotica for the first time, this might scare you a bit.
The King of Dublin is set in a post apocalyptic, post-plague Ireland. After a virus wipes out most of the population the people left are still trying to figure out how to survive. Darragh Fergus travels to Dublin in the hopes that he can find medicine and bring it back to his village. What he encounters instead are a big group of bullying men who call themselves the King of Dublin’s guards. When he is brought back to the main compound he meets the supposed King. A mad, cruel, sadistic man who seems to have terrorized his way into power. And then he meets his Boy. Darragh is immediately pressed into service, forced to do the King’s bidding, and that means keeping the crazy, loony-toons little man happy. He will do pretty much anything to survive the hell that is Dublin and get the promised medicine back to his family, but that includes murder and rape and harassing a beaten down man who is already being tortured by everyone around him.
Boy, or Ciaran Daly, only traveled to Dublin in the hopes that he and his friends could do what their prominent families in the North refused to, help those in Dublin in need. They began their journey with food, water purification tablets and medicine. All of that was soon lost when their group was discovered by the King of Dublin, a man named Boru, and his men. Now Ciaran is the only one left and his life is nothing but time spent in chains, being degraded by every man around him and being forced to having his body used and abused repeatedly. He is called whore, and slut and bed-slave. He services not only the king, but anyone who the king offers him to. He is passed around, mouth raped, ass raped, and deprived of food and clothes. He says what ever Boru wants him too, does whatever he has to in order to live another day. Then he meets the newcomer named Darragh and he sees a small ray of sunshine.
Dublin was a violent, twisted place, a ruined city at war, and at last, Darragh waded right into it. Became a part of it. Finished the transformation he’d begun last night.
Darragh arrives in Dublin a naïve, sheltered man, but is soon forced to become someone he never, ever thought he would. He is forced to do things to Ciaran that had me wondering how in the world he would not only forgive himself, but be forgiven. I will admit the first half of this book is so dark and violent that I really wondered how I would get through it. Ciaran is so beaten down both mentally and physically that I thought he could never allow himself to be saved, much less save him self. Despite the violence forced by Boru between them ,there are moments where Darragh and Ciaran connect. Sweet, sensual times where they reach for each other in spite of their surroundings and the threat of being caught, and in those moments I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. But damn it, it was hard.
As the second part of the book begins, even with the same terrible backdrop, things do get easier to read. I think because there is a sense that Darragh will do anything to make sure Ciaran survives. If there is any hero in this book it’s him. Underneath his naivety and unschooled ways there lies the heart of a good man who falls in love with Ciaran and never sees him as everyone else does. He only sees the beautiful man who he wants to set free from a terrible life. He does everything he possibly can to do the right thing for Ciaran, even when he knows he will fight him on it. I wondered at Ciaran a few times, questioned his decisions, then decided that he was so defeated and traumatized that there was no rhyme or reason to some of his thoughts and actions. Boru is a true villain. So evil and despicable that I became kind of indifferent to him after a while, almost numb, then I started wondering how this crazy as shit little man even became the King of Dublin. And why hasn’t someone offed him already? No joke.
There is an underlying love story that was kind of remarkable beneath all the violence and bleakness. Just when you think Darragh and Ciaran won’t ever find their way to each other, and the trauma of everything they’ve been through will never allow them to break through their own horror and emotional pain, they have moments of gentleness and compassion. That is why I kept reading. Because I knew that there just had to be something good at the end. And there was. It was small, and this couple weren’t the most lovey-dovey, but they do find a measure of happiness and contentment as they look to what future they might have. Despite the horror and darkness that permeated almost every single thing in this story, there was a sense of hope at the end.
Lisa Henry and Heidi Belleau have created a well written, but disturbing post-plague world where survival is the ultimate game and anything goes. If you are a fan of very dark erotica this just might be for you. Final Grade- C
“The things we do in this place, they’re not the sum of us.