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Taming the Beast by Emily Maguire

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This is a very well-written and intense book, that will disturb and likely disappoint readers looking for a happy romance. Those looking for a challenging and engrossing read, with interesting and complex characters, will find much to absorb them.

Sarah is only 14 when she embarks on a sado-masochistic sexual relationship with her 38-year-old English teacher Daniel Carr. (Bear in mind that the book is set in Australia, where the age of consent is 16 and perspectives on underage sex are considerably different than in the US). Daniel Carr then deserts her and her life goes to pieces for the next seven years, when they finally reunite. He is arguably more destroyed by the relationship than she is but it is highly destructive on both sides.

Taming the Beast is about the forbidden and the destructive power of love and sex. It features complicated and illegal relationships and mature activity. If you are of a sensitive disposition or easily offended, just skip it, it’s not for you.

If you can cope with an interesting and harrowing read, and one that is also very gritty and realistic compared to many coming-of-age and “student teacher” novels, then there is much of interest here.

It’s an enthralling read and will leave you as conflicted as Nabokov’s Lolita may do. The heroine clearly starts out as a victim, but what is she by the end of the book? Has she reclaimed her agency?