The hero in Eden Bradley's The Dark Garden reminds me of a guy I've known since college. Great guy, good looking, smart, funny but with horrible taste in women. You know the type - he always picks the "head case" girls. The girls who need a therapist. Oh sure, women have a habit of wanting to fix men - but believe me, there are more than a few guys out there who think they can "fix" women. As we all know, it never works.
Rowan Cassidy is a Domme (or thinks she is) at the exclusive Club Prive' in Los Angeles. Having wild control issues, she loves playing with the pretty sub boys. Then one night, artist Christian Thorne (such a soap opera name) walks in. Back from Europe, he's looking to reenter the scene and spies Rowan. He has to have her. He also knows that if she's a Domme, he's the King of England. So he challenges her. Be the bottom to his top for 30 days. Learn who she truly is. And in a moment of blind stupidity Rowan agrees.
The problem with this story is strictly Rowan. She once played at being a submissive with a college boyfriend who turned abusive. Naturally she sought comfort from this trauma by becoming a Domme. Understandable, but amazing that no one at the club has called her on her BS until Christian. I don't know much about BDSM, but I'm thinking it's something you don't easily "fake." Whatever. That's not really the worst of it. The worst is that she leads a discussion group at the club for new members - people new to the scene. She tells them that it's OK to be a sub. That subs aren't powerless. That subs actually have a lot of power in the relationship. So why does she spend the whole novel running scared? Because she believes subs have no power! That she'll be powerless if she surrenders to Christian! The girl is talking out of both sides of her mouth.
The reader puts up with this for the entire novel. It gets real old, real quick. The worst is that Rowan doesn't realize what a hypocrite she is until the last chapter when Christian says to her:
"How can you have spent these years in the lifestyle and still think that being submissive equals being weak? Is that what you've told April about it? The other people in your discussion group?"
Bubblehead answers: "No, of course not."
Yummy Christian answers: "It's not any different for you."
By this time I was screaming Well Duh! at the top of my lungs. I knew that the whole stinking novel - so why does it take Bubblehead almost 300 pages to figure it out? Oh yeah, she's a bubblehead.
Seriously, that's the only problem with the novel - but dang it's a doozey. The April in question is Rowan's friend and she's involved in the story's secondary romance. She's half in love with a popular Dom, who's a notorious playboy. Can she love him, then be able to leave him before he breaks her heart? I think we all know the answer to this, but it does end happily.
I really liked Christian a lot, although I had to keep reminding myself he was a Dom and therefore Alpha. He's really sweet, and more understanding than any real man alive. Really, he reminds me a lot of some of my favorite Beta heroes. His only fault was that I couldn't figure out what he saw in Rowan - but that might be because she drove me nuts.
Bradley writes well and I thought her descriptions/scenes were quite lush. I also thought those moments when she dropped the BDSM and wrote straight up love scenes were extremely well done. The tender moments in this novel are very, very good.
That said, I just couldn't wash the bad taste Rowan left out of my mouth. Besides the fact she's "faking" at being a Domme (why the author doesn't make her a switch I don't know), but also her inability to see her own BS drove me insane. I can't recommend it, but I didn't outright hate it. Also, I'd easily give Bradley another shot so Final Grade = C+.