Saturday, March 4, 2017

Review of "Into the Light" by Aleatha Romig

After a terrible traffic accident Sara wakes up in a clinic - bruised, battered, eyes covered with bandages....with no memories. Her husband, Jacob Adams - whom she doesn't recall - seems to be very solicitous but Sara is bewildered by things he says and does. Before long Sara learns that she and Jacob live in a religious community called The Light, run by Father Gabriel, who has rigid rules and regulations for his followers. Moreover, Jacob is is an Assemblyman in the organization, a high official with important responsibilities. As an Assemblyman's wife, Sara must also set an example for members of The Light.

Turns out The Light is a fundamendalist cult where men rule. Wives have to kowtow to their husbands and get their permission for EVERYTHING including speaking, asking a question, seeing a friend, styling their hair...whatever. Worse yet, wifely infractions are 'corrected' physically, with slaps and beatings. Sara remembers nothing at all from before her accident and finds it hard to (re)adjust to life in The Light, but - with Jacob's encouragement - (re)learns Father Gabriel's teachings and strives to become an upstanding member of the community.

Meanwhile, in the real world, investigative journalist Stella Montgomery - who works for WCJB in Detroit - is looking into drug-running activity between the U.S. and Canada. Stella is also looking into the recent disappearance of her best friend Mindy, a fellow employee at WCJB. Stella's various investigations take her into dangerous parts of Detroit where, it turns out, women have been vanishing and dead bodies have been turning up. Stella's cop boyfriend, Dylan Richards, insists Stella stay out of rough areas but she pays no attention. Before long Stella's inquiries lead her to investigate some buildings and activities connected to an organization called The Light. So the story lines start to converge.

The story is told from the rotating points of view of Sara, Jacob, and Stella.

Sara is confused about her situation; meets fellow members of The Light - some kind, some cruel; and comes to rely on and care for Jacob despite his physical abuse. From my point of view the story verges on sadomasochism and erotica as Sara and Jacob's (renewed) relationship develops. I wasn't nuts about these parts.

Jacob is anxious to be a successful and respected Assemblyman; thinks some members of The Light resent him and want him to fail; is concerned about Sara; and worries they'll both be 'banished' if his wife doesn't adjust properly.

Stella is desperate to find out what happened to her friend Mindy and wants to do a good job for her boss Bernard, which means finding out about those drug movements. Thus, she pays too little attention to dangerous situations.

As the story unfolds we learn that The Light has more going on than religious works and making jelly, which they sell to support themselves. I won't say more except that the book's climax has a twist and a cliffhanger that leads to book two in the series. I had an idea about certain aspects of the book's end and I was correct.

I'm in the minority of readers/reviewers because I didn't love this book. First, I found it hard to buy a basic premise of the book but won't say more because of spoilers. Moreover, the cult of male dominace is offensive to me; I was annoyed with the women's subservience and some of Sara's behavior - especially the way she 'bit her lip' about a thousand times, fearing Jacob's reaction to somehing or other. In fact, I'd rather be eaten by a polar bear (a supposed danger in this story) than live in The Light.

I might read the second book in the series to see what happens but it's not a sure thing.

Thanks to Netgalley, the author, and the publisher for a copy of this book.

Rating: 3 stars

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