A darkly seductive and passionate tale of secret societies, elaborate rites and sexual experimentation, in the tradition of the captivating classic Story of O and Kubrick’s film Eyes Wide Shut.
This first part of the blurb really caught my attention. It sounds a little dark, a little disturbing and like something I could really get behind. Then comes the second part:
Shy American student Alexandra Beckmann—‘X’ to her friends—arrives in Naples desperate for adventures beyond the sheltered life she has led. She is there to study the Camorra, an infamous Italian crime organization. But in the sun-soaked, ancient city streets, her research leads her to a man like no one else she has ever met.
Irresistibly handsome, Lord Marcus Roscarrick is an Italian aristocrat with a mysterious past. Yet, underneath his refined exterior, X senses a man who is well-acquainted with danger.
Soon they begin a passionate affair, and X is drawn into Roscarrick’s world—a world she never dreamed existed. But as she falls ever more deeply under Roscarrick’s spell, X must decide whether she dares to submit entirely to this shadowy realm of dark desire.
Sound familiar anyone? It does to me. It sounds like a blurb that I have seen at least 100 times in the past year or so. But because of the first part, I decided to give this book a go.
I got to about the 17% mark and almost turned it in. Marc and Alexandra, called X by her friends, were behaving in the typical young woman/billionaire form I have come to realize is standard for many books now. There was still something that kept me hanging on though and then I found out what it was.
Marc tells X that they cannot have a relationship unless she goes through the five Mysteries. The Mysteries are back of an ancient group and if you are not indoctrinated you cannot have a relationship with someone that is. Marc show X pictures of one of the Mysteries and it just happens to be a woman being beaten. Cue typical BDSM theme…..but not so much.
Marc didn’t come across as your normal dominant personality. He is a bit laid back and quiet. X refuses to go through the rituals and Marc accepts her wishes and they stop seeing each other. Of course, if that lasted for long this wouldn’t be much of a book. X really wants to be with Marc so gives in and the Mysteries begin. The Mysteries are to take place over the course of several months and go on in different locations. X will not know what she is going to asked to do each time. She is given a safe word and repeatedly reminded the reason she is doing this is so she can have an open relationship with Marc.
Intertwined with the Mysteries, X is working on a thesis about Italian history and the mob. This was also part of the book that kept me coming back for more. The history and detail are so well done. I was completely sucked by the research, descriptions of locations and famous landmarks. The history mixes beautifully with the overall story too. There is some question of whether Marc is involved in the mafia and what connection he or they have to the Mysteries.
As Marc and X go through each Mystery the wtf is upped. One thing I wasn’t sure of was the purpose of each task. I thought maybe is there was a goal or some explanation behind the reasoning for each act they performed then maybe I would understand the rationale better. X was clearly uneasy at each event and even used her safe word at one point. I will say that I was on the edge of my seat just as X was. I was a bit nervous each time a Mystery was presented because I didn’t know what was going to happen. The book is very suspenseful.
Over time Marc and X form a strong connection that goes beyond what they are doing with the Mysteries. When it comes time to do the fifth Mystery Marc mentions that he doesn’t know what it is. Apparently it is different for men and women and he has only seen/done the men’s side. Lucky for them, someone else is chosen to go first and X is able to see what the fifth Mystery involves. She is horrified but in order to be with Marc she will do anything.
Full stop. I think this is where I started to derail with the book. She will do anything. Get that? Just think of all the things that anything can be and let me tell you that they happen to X from this point to the end of the book. Marc jumps in the middle of the fifth Mystery and says he will not allow X to complete it but because they interrupted a sacred ritual they are slated for death. Death can only be avoided by performing the very, very secretive sixth Mystery. The sixth Mystery took the book straight into OH HELL NO land for me. At that point, I was done. I no longer believed in their HEA or the romance of this book. So sad.
Had this story not involved the sixth Mystery I would have enjoyed but that part was too much for me. I don’t understand why it would happen or what the purpose of it was. I know I am being vague but this would be a spoiler and I don’t want to ruin something for someone who will read all the way through. Final grade- D
Oh, Mom, meet Marc, he’s a billionaire aristocrat into prehistoric S&M who fucked me into blissful oblivion the other night; shall we have some coffee?