A Glimpse of The Dark Side…

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What’s fiction for? Why do we read it? Or write it? Why do we love story-telling? For enjoyment, definitely. To learn, possibly. To escape our everyday lives? To explore new ideas, to stand in someone else’s shoes occasionally and to see the world through their eyes.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me I love reading, and now writing, for all these reasons and more. A good, well-written story is a window into another world, a glimpse into another reality. For a while at least I can be there too. And afterwards I can add what I saw, and felt, and experienced, to all that I already am. And I’m all the richer for it.
But what about when someone else’s world is not such a nice place. Bad things happen in stories, people can be hurt, injured, become ill. When a character is in pain, and we watch, listen, participate vicariously – is that entertainment? Should it be?

The-Dark-SideThe Dark Side trilogy is big on pain and the flip-side, pleasure, as you might expect from a story with a central theme of BDSM. But life has a way of being more complex than that. Underlying the delicate Dom-sub relationship between Eva and Nathan, is Eva’s constant battle with depression, her own ‘dark side’ which on occasions threatens to overwhelm her. But more destructive than her, at times, fragile mental health are Eva’s frantic efforts to deny the problem, to hide it, to avoid being labelled or judged. And it’s this struggle to maintain her façade that drives Eva to make quirky, destructive, and sometimes bizarre choices, risking her career, her blossoming relationship with her enigmatic but Dominant lover, and even her life.

But that’s not what Eva will be remembered for. Despite her struggles, Eva is a strong heroine with a lot going for her. With an IQ at the upper end of brilliant and a stunning range of talents she’s resilient, courageous, intelligent. She’s respected, admired, independent. She’s a long, long way from being a helpless victim. She knows it lies within her own power to change her life, ultimately, it’s down to her. She just has to make the right choices. Eventually. And she comes through it. There is a happy ever after, and she wins hers by facing her demons and dealing with them, and by accepting the help that’s all around her.

A lot of readers would recognize the difficulties Eva faces as she grapples with post-natal depression, the pain and grief of loss and betrayal, and the constant struggle to fit in. Mental health issues impact on most of us at some time, and whilst The Dark Side is first and foremost an enjoyable, sexy read, Eva’s story is designed to inspire and encourage people to think about it and talk about it. There’s a lot of empathy out there, just as there are lots of opportunities to find joy if you look out for them and expect to find them.
Eva finds hers in the form of the sexy and dominant Nathan Darke who challenges her to face her fears and move beyond them, who shows her the real meaning of pain, and the glittering reality of mind-numbing pleasure. And it’s Nathan who is there to pick up the pieces and keep her safe when she most needs him.
The Dark Side charts their turbulent journey together as Eva and Nathan each peel away their protective layers to expose the vulnerabilities beneath. It takes courage, and trust, and more than a few leaps of faith. It’s a sensual story, with its fair share of steamy sex scenes dripping with kink, romantic but with a sharp sting in the tail.
And finally – sometimes I’m asked if The Dark Side is autobiographical. Well, it is in parts. But I’m definitely not saying which parts those are!

Here’s an excerpt from the book:
“Evangelica—now that’s a name to grow into…” He looks at me, his eyes raking up and down my admittedly small frame, his gaze distinctly derisive.
“Yes. I was named after my grandmother.” Why tell him that? He’s not interested in my family history. Stop babbling, fool.
“What’s she like?”
“Who?”
“Evangelica the First, your grandmother. Do you take after her?”
“I don’t know. She died before I was born. And my dad died when I was seven, so he didn’t tell me that much about her either. I don’t think my mother knew her that well. She played the piano…” I trail off, realising he probably didn’t mean for me to provide my entire life story. “Anyway, it’s Eva. Or Miss Byrne when I’m teaching.”
He grins sardonically, obviously less than impressed at my attempt to establish some degree of authority and seriousness despite my unpromising first impression. Sarcastic bastard!

He goes on, still clearly intent on putting me down at any and every opportunity. I feel myself start to bristle. Who the hell does he think he is? He’s your new employer, and you need this job, so keep it civil.

“So that’s where your alleged musical talent came from then, I daresay. I’m looking forward to seeing whether the lovely Evangelica the First had her name wasted on you.”
He doesn’t wait for me to reply, probably fortunate for me, as I suspect my response would not have been calculated to endear me to my new boss. He shoves my precious papers back into his jacket pocket before yelling down the corridor leading away from the front door, towards the rear of the house. “Grace, are you still up? It’s me.”
There is a staircase right in front of us, and on either side are closed doors, painted a smart, bright white, obviously leading to the front reception rooms. I hear a door open and shut somewhere at the back of the house, behind the staircase, then pandemonium breaks loose as what appears to be a small pony hurtles down the corridor and launches itself at my companion. Raising one magic, powerful, authoritative finger, my new employer stops the headlong dash and the pony drops into a sit at his feet.

Now I see that the huge black and brown blur is in fact the largest and woolliest dog I think I’ve ever seen, and the huge tail thumping the floor suggests it is very pleased to see my companion. It ignores me totally, its adoring eyes riveted on its master.

By way of acknowledgement, he makes a clicking noise with his tongue and reaches down to tug the dog’s ears. “Hello, Barney. How goes it, mate? Pleased to see me?”
By way of answer, the dog thumps its tail faster, harder as it shuffles closer to my companion and rubs its massive head against his thigh.

I am shocked to find myself harbouring the unfamiliar notion that snuggling up to this man could be an interesting idea. Christ, where did that come from? I’ve never had the least inclination to snuggle up to any man in my life. Never! And just because this one might be the most attractive example I’ve ever come across as far as I can recall—and I do have perfect recall—that doesn’t change the fact that he’s also grumpy, sneering and plain unpleasant. I don’t even like him, so I can’t possibly be attracted to him.

Written by Ashe Barker, author of Darkening by Total-E-Bound Publishing.

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