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Review: Into the Light by Aleatha Romig

 Into the Light by Aleatha Romig
 Published June 14, 2016
 Blurb: “Sara Adams awakes blind, unable to remember the most basic details of her life, but her darkness seems a blessing when she discovers the terrors of The Light.”

A few days ago, my friend Erin posted a book review. Erin, who I was blessed enough to attend college with and who is now a prolific minister and theologian, and I generally have similar views on books – if she likes it, I know there’s a pretty good chance I’ll like it too. (Except she has this weird thing about actually enjoying nonfiction books and goes out of her way to locate and read them on purpose, which is …. ew. But anyway, I digress). So I was a bit taken aback at Erin’s low-bar 1.25 star read, which I almost never see coming from her. I took a peek at the book description, and was confused – this seemed to me to be the sort of book I would absolutely love. I looked it up on Amazon, and thanked my lucky stars that my Kindle Unlimited trial was not quite over yet, as the book was free through the program. I figured “what the hell?” and downloaded it to see what all the fuss was about.

How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend

Into the Light is … not what you’d think. Looking at Ms. Romig’s GoodReads page, you’d gather that she writes very steamy, sexy books about sexy steamy things. (Those are, FYI, not my cup of tea generally and why I steer away from New Adult by and large), and while there is admittedly some of that action, there isn’t a ton, and I would consider it being a romance a secondary or maybe even tertiary genre. It’s about as sexy as this:

(In case you were wondering, I do not consider this sexy. Hilarious? Sure. Sexy? No way, Batman).

Into the Light is told in the good ol’ multiple POV style, and rotates between three main characters: Sara, Jacob, and Stella. Let me break this down a bit further for you:

 Sara Adams is gonna be your main protagonist, or at least the one you feel the need to root for the most. She is – as is typical of even semi-steamy-sexy books – skinny and beautiful, with long blonde hair. The only problem? She doesn’t know what color her hair is. This is because Sara wakes up in a hospital bed, surrounded by people who keep referring to themselves as Brother and Sister, she hurts all over, and most urgently: she can’t see, due to the bandages wrapped around her eyes. Thus begins our in media res tale: is this really Sara? Why does she have amnesia? Who are these people? They tell her that she stole her husband’s truck without his permission and wrecked it, causing a heinous accident that all but killed her, and she is going to have to undergo “correction” from “the Light” and “Father Gabriel.”

Sara’s face, probably, the entire time she is being told all of the above.

As we get deeper and deeper into these shenanigans, and we discover exactly who these people are, we begin to really feel for Sara. She remembers nothing from her life, and is being told that she is part of this church, “The Light,” where she must submit to her husband’s will and “correction,” because that’s what their presumed leader – Father Gabriel – insists upon. She deliberately disobeyed her husband’s orders by stealing this truck (which again, she does not remember), and now must be punished for it. I don’t know about you, but that is a whack way to wake up.

 Jacob Adams is Sara’s husband. “Sara’s” “husband,” if you will. We get into Jacob’s head pretty quickly, and he reveals to us what we likely suspected all along – Sara has been kidnapped from the outside world (which is referred to as “the dark,” hurr hurr hurr), and is being indoctrinated into The Light to serve as Jacob’s wife. Jacob is feeling a lot of feelings about this whole arrangement – he’s pretty high up on the ladder in The Light, and doesn’t particularly have time for such nonsense as indoctrinating his life partner and brainwashing her into their cult, he’s got planes to fly. He’s a sexy, tall pilot, damn it! But the show must go on, and in Jacob’s POV we see him falling in love with Sara, the little things that make him love her since he can’t make eye contact with her, the whole nine yards.

 Stella … Somebody is an investigative journalist who is trying to figure out why all of these women keep disappearing. Sometimes they show up later, found dead in an abandoned building, and their fingerprints are missing so they are impossible to identify. Stella’s job is to get to the bottom of this, because her BFF is missing and she is becoming increasingly terrified that something happened to her involving what she quickly comes to realize is this cult. Stella has a boyfriend, but he is so cookie cutter I can’t even remember his name, just that he’s a cop and they like to have sex but not commit because Stella ain’t ready for that, guys.

We rotate between these three POVs and slowly unravel the story of The Light – what it is, where it is, who runs it, and more importantly why. Where is Stella’s best friend? Who is Sara really? Why is Jacob so ripped when all he does is fly planes? All these questions and more will be answered, except the last one probably won’t.

Here There Be (Very Minor) Spoilers

After the first chapter of hers, I began to skim or straight-up skip the Stella chapters. She was boring and two-dimensional to me, and I wanted to read more crazy, screwed up cult stuff, not see some lady bicker with her boyfriend about “joint custody of [her] pet fish lol I’m so quirky~”. There came a point near the end where it became necessary to slow down and actually read them, but for the longest time I just gave 0 damns about Stella or her boyfriend or her investigative journalism tactics. Also, they really love to mention how The Light – located in remote Alaska – has a series of walls to keep out the polar bears, but we never saw a polar bear. 0/10, would like to see more polar bears in the future.

We hear a lot about “correction” within The Light, and so I was a bit disappointed to find that we only see Jacob “correct” Sara once, and the rest is implied or glossed over. Additionally, while they make correction out to be this harrowing, terrible thing, he spanks her with a belt. Five times. While I realize that’s still pretty dang awful, I was assuming that correction was much more intense and terrible and would involve something much worse. Hell, we see more “correction” in the god-forsaken 50 Shades books, and that barely counts as anything sexy at all. What I found more disturbing was the fact that Sara – and any other woman in The Light – was not allowed to question her husband. She could ask questions if given permission, but she couldn’t pry. It was a weird sort of dichotomy of difference between asking a question and questioning that I found very odd and hard to pick up on – I could only imagine how Sara felt.

I was going to give this book 2 stars, and consider that generous. But when Sara’s bandages were removed from her eyes, I actually felt a little excited for her, and that was when I realized, “aw damn it, I’ve begun to empathize.” That propelled me to 2 1/2 stars, and the ending is what pushed me to 3. Did I expect it? No, not at all. Was it frustrating? Absolutely it was. Do I plan to read the sequel that I had initially planned to never touch? Likely yes, just so I know what the conclusion was. This book is not what you think it will be. That is not necessarily a good thing, but it’s not a bad one either: it’s unique.

Bottom Line

If you want to read a sexy thriller, this isn’t it. If you find fiction about cults morbidly fascinating and you want to see where feminism goes to die, read this book. I can’t promise a thrill, but I can promise an ending that I did not see coming and a lot of mentions about nonexistent polar bears – that’s worth at least 2 stars, y’all.

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