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Dark Guardian by Rebecca King

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Good lord. Where to even start? Rebecca King certainly knows how to start her book with shock tactics: a “ravishment” (to put it mildly) of the 17-year-old heroine by the 30-something hero, in the dark, when neither of them can even see one another.

She’s stealing a garden ornament for a dare, he catches her, and his reaction to a trespasser is to shag them. As you do.

It’s a brilliantly WTF spectacularly only-in-HP/Mills & Boon-land beginning. Unfortunately things go downhill from there. In a nutshell: the heroine Fliss spends the next few years blaming herself and being too ashamed to let Grant recognise her. Meanwhile he ends up her legal guardian and spends all the time raging at her and controlling her and accusing her of being a slut (even though she’s clearly being sexually assaulted) on several occasions.

He eventually locks her up in his house, then an island. But never lays a finger on her.

I mean what’s the point of this? We’ve already had the full-on, ultra edgy starting scene. V-card is long vanished. And then we’ve got less sex OR romance than the tamest Barbara Cartland.

At the end of course we discover he actually did recognise her, was horrified that he shagged a schoolgirl (maybe next time turn the lights on and introduce yourself before literally plunging straight in?) and treating her like shit is his way of assuaging his guilt. Or something.

This could have been such a great, sexy, tense, steamy, over-the-top piece of vintage fun. But it feels like the author lost her bottle after the first scene.