Into the Light, by Althea Romig
Let me state from the start that I totally understand that books, like sexual fetishes, each have their own special calling to some people. I was raised in the sixties and am conversant with the philosophy of “whatever floats your boat.” Amazon, after all, had to put a cap on the growing genre of “dinosaur porn.” Dinosaur porn. Women humping dinosaurs. I’ve never read any but I presume the dinosaurs had understanding eyes and rock-hard abs.
So I gave Althea Romig’s Into the Light my full attention from first page to last. I quietly cheered it on but Jesus, Mary, and Joseph this is an irritating book. I gave it two stars on Amazon instead of one because it does have a narrative thread and all the words were spelled correctly. It’s possible to find books on Amazon offering neither.
Let me trace out the overall concept of the book and maybe you’ll agree. The beautiful and athletic Sara awakes in a hospital bed. She is blind and seems to have amnesia. She doesn’t know who she is or why she’s in bed with sore ribs, a cast on her leg, and bandages over her eyes. Jacob, the man with her in the room, immediately begins to tell her that she must obey him and remain silent. In a short amount of time others come into the room and begin to quiz her about recent events and Jacob says that she can’t speak but Sara will squeeze his hand once for yes and twice for no and he’ll relay her answers. But what she communicates is not the same as what Jacob tells the people in the room.
As she heals Jacob is with her nearly every moment. He continues to demand obedience, telling her that she cannot question the opinion of any man where she is. When she is especially disobedient he demands that she strip and gives her five lashes with his belt.
It develops that she is in a facility run by a group called The Light. As an aside, because of the name of the group and her blindness this makes the title a double pun. I don’t remember ever reading a book with a pun in the title that I enjoyed so this should have set off alarm bells. Sara is naturally upset by this treatment. But Jacob has his kind moments. He smells leathery. He has strong, broad shoulders. There was never a hero in books like this with a BMI above 8%. The Light is run by Father Gabriel. All men are to be called by their title of Brother. All women are in the same boat as Sara, basically hump meat with jobs. We discover that the compound is in Alaska and is one of three run by the group. The Light turns out to be a cult for post-suburban fans of Stepford Wives who demand total obedience from women and also seem to be involved in shady dealings elsewhere. Some of the wives volunteered. Others, like Sara, were drugged and then trained.
The narrative switches among three main narrators and even a fourth who gets one chapter. We see events through Sara’s eyes, through Jacob’s perspective, and through a Detroit television reporter named Stella who is investigating the disappearance of a friend (turns out to be Sara) and the deaths or disappearances of several others. She, too, has a rugged boyfriend who is a homicide detective with the Detroit Police. He, too, has excellent abs and sculpted biceps.
Most of the stories come together and then, like some Republic Pictures serial, we learn one story churning fact about Jacob in the last line … THE LAST LINE … of the book and learn we have to read another book to find out more. This was a crappy tactic 80 years ago with John Wayne and Gabby Hayes and it hasn’t improved with age. I read a lot of trilogies and a lot of series spread over multiple titles. Nearly every one of those authors (and editors) have respected me enough to provide a complete novel with perhaps an inkling of what might be found in future books. They don’t just cut a book in half and then demand my dime next Saturday for the full story.
Meanwhile I’ve had to put up with quivering anticipation and fairly mundane descriptions of sex, interspersed with lines like: “with only a kiss I knew who my husband was … he was a man who conquered unapologetically and bestowed unsparingly.” He also whips and slaps her when she’s less than perfect, as do other husbands, and participates in kidnapping, drugging, and brainwashing. But yowza those abs. This is how we ended up with Trump as president.
So if this is your brand of dinosaur porn please don’t let me stop you. Otherwise, let me stop you.